"If everyone who fell asleep in church was laid end to end they'd be a lot more comfortable" - Abraham Lincoln.
When I was younger, my memories of church were sitting on wooden pews, listening to a man talk about stuff which happened thousands of years ago, and putting my hands together for a recital of the Lords Prayer, with a man (who's face was never visible) playing an old organ, in a cold church in the middle of winter. This is, I would imagine, the experience of many millions of people who have yet to rediscover Jesus.
I was talking to one man earlier today, who describes his childhood church experiences as meaningless, irrelevant, before going on to say 'The church never left the building'.
Of course, the recent events at St Pauls, involving the church seemingly shutting its doors to exactly those people whom it should be supporting, have done very little for the Church's public image.
I remember someone being suprised that I didn't know a particular hymn, and the amount of times people have appeared shocked when I have informed them that I don't spend Sunday services singing 'All things bright and beautifull', or 'Shine Jesus Shine'.
Since rediscovering my faith, one of the most frustraiting things has been seeing how different the public perception of Church is, compared to my own experience of it. This Sunday at trinity Cheltenham, we had just the most incredible baptism service. 15 people of all backgrounds were baptised in front of a full church, there was laughter, cheering, clips of comedians sending up Christian prayer positions, the message from the preacher was tied together nicely with a Lilly Allen video, people were singing and cheering with joy and dancing around to contemporary christian music. It felt like an amazing journey, It all meant something.
Trinity have just converted an old garage, and built showers, a kitchen, and a lounge area for homeless and vulnerable people. Tell me that this is irrelevent? I was there tonight, and everyone had a glint in there eye, the people I was talking to, who were either volunteers or service users, had all been positively influenced by this service - people who had got back off their feet from drugs problems, people who had experienced the lowest lows in life, and were now helping there.
I feel truly blessed to be at Trinity Cheltenham. It seems to me that there is a real buzz of excitement around the place at the moment, and that God has big plans for the place. They are doing exactly what the church should be doing; reaching out into the community, changing communities. They have also managed to remain relevant; able to speak into the lives of it's congregation, as well as giving them ample oppertunities to serve.