I sometimes struggled with the moments of church services that are spoken of that ‘God is in this place’, or ‘welcoming God here’ – and then a song is sung, or someone speaks. Dont get me wrong undoubtedly God is in those spaces, but often i struggle with finding God in these spaces, God almost feels to manufactured in the space, or predicted, or ‘scientific’ – ie if the song is sung, or the something happens then God is present. Maybe that lost feeling started for me at the wembley event with noel richards (and others) as an all afternoon worship event, in 1997 standing slightly bemused at a large crowd of people thinking ‘what does the God of the Bible think of all this?’ and ‘where are you , if you are here?’ , however in the last 10 years its been more apparent to me, as God in the conversation with young people on the streets has been where he has been found is such a contrast to the gathering.
To compound this feeling, day to day working with young people causes me and others like to me to regard the spaces with young people as places where God is present, like the emmaus road conversation, the surprising moment when God is revealed unexpectedly. God the artist. Maybe Vanhoozer is onto something when he suggests that theatre needs to be the handmaiden of theology not science ( 2014), the performance not the predictability.
Until last week, when i was at Central Methodist in Hartlepool i came across a moment in a service, in which a song told the story of personal anguish, of searching, of trying to find God in the spaces outside of a church, trying to find God in the questions itself. Maybe God is after the questions and the wrestling, and the finding of him in the spaces of darkness.
Responding to the call, where can we find you?
God in the uncertainty, God in the question
God in the walk, God in the conversation
God in the drama awaiting and unfolding
God in the margins, painting a story.