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Amenities we can’t live without!

Interesting to read in the i paper about local amenities we can’t do without.

The post office comes in at number one and the church sneaks in at seventh place, less important than the bakery (sixth) but more popular than the café, library and butcher at eight, nine and ten.

I guess that the post offices people thought of were not the ones that have the automated queuing system: “Go to counter number 9”.

I imagine we are talking about the places where you’re likely to meet and see the same friendly faces behind the counter on each visit. These one-stop shops where it is possible to buy stamps, send a parcel, get the morning paper, a fresh loaf of bread and other provisions can be lifeline for a local community. Maybe there is also a resurgence of “snail mail” in an age when more people are working from home and the daily visit from the postman is a welcome punctuation to a day without much interaction? A hand-written letter in a stamped addressed envelope is very welcome at a time where the human touch is more rarely felt.

The international church in Riga has been working its way through the Book of Revelation. One of the features of Revelation Chapters 1–3 is Jesus sending letters to seven churches. It is striking that the order that the churches are listed corresponds to the normal postal route.

Reading the text conjures up the image of Jesus sorting his seven personalized letters into perfect geographical order before sending them out. Here is the experience of a personal connection from the post office of heaven.

I was surprised by the café being below the church on the list. If I were a betting man, I would have put money on people’s daily caffeine pit-stop being near the top of the list. Maybe lockdown has changed people’s priorities and timetables? Len Sweet says in his book The Gospel According to Starbucks, that Starbucks does not sell coffee, it sells an experience. If cafés trade on creating and selling an experience, that experience is not quite the same when served in a paper cup that needs to be drunk seated at a cold metal table on a wind-swept street. It is strange really because it has the same ingredients but clearly how they are experienced does have an impact on how we feel about it.

I expect that many people feel like this about online or socially distanced church.

All of the ingredients are there, but the experience feels a little bit like spending £2.50 on a coffee that comes in a paper cup.

There are two main ways of responding to this: conning people to pay the same price for a reduced experience or using some creativity.

Some churches have been experimenting with a variety of menu options for their church goers. The most effective of these seem to be combination of face-to-face and online church. One church has face-to-face church with a live sermon on a Thursday and Sunday Morning combined with the option of hearing the same sermon via a You Tube channel.

Everyone has an opinion of what is best. Even the most creative preachers might find it difficult to replicate what is best for everyone, yet it is possible to find ways for things to be better for most.

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