Going To Church

What Goes On In There? Churches in Central Auckland. by Valerie J Grant was reviewed by Andrew Meek in SofNZ Newletter 33, September 1999

. I have to confess that the subject of this book did not really inspire me when I first picked it up. But after reading the Foreword and the three Introductions I was hooked.

Here is a delightful account of the author's visits to 25 Auckland inner-city churches. Each church was visited once at what was assumed to be the main Sunday morning service and each chapter is a summary of what took place, together with a few personal comments.

Given the wide range of styles and theological positions encountered, the writing is interesting and informative and generally without bias. Personal views do come through from time to time however and this is exactly as it should be from someone who says she is committed to seeing the church survive. Many will see echoes within themselves of her experience of 50 years regular church attendance followed by a period of complete non-attendance and now a period of rethinking what church is really about and how to interpret all the various stories, traditions and beliefs.

Introduction One (for those who don't go to church) suggests that there is room for a range of belief from 'a vast and brilliant metaphor to 'other world spirituality' and that people do not have to suspend their intellect before attending.

Introduction Two (For church- goers) encourages people to have a look at what other churches are doing and that this will produce some very positive results. This wonderful collection of buildings, traditions, music and of course the people should be treasured and encouraged.

The last Introduction is for everyone else and argues that there is still a need for a sacred place to think about one's highest values. What form this takes, what language is used etc, can vary widely but should include a building which expresses awe, mystery, light, beauty, peace. Inspiring music and the opportunity to sing, a time to think about others' needs and a simple basic message.

A number of additional notes conclude the book, allowing the author to comment more generally on the 'time, length and format of services', 'exchanging the peace', 'the collection', 'children' and 'hymns'.

Andrew Meek