I sat, a few minutes ago, in our pocket church praying the Office when I came over all Quakeresque. From the church's position, we hear the buses moving to and from Hounslow, the in-bound planes about to touch down at Heathrow, the clatter of the city-bound trains or else the ones moving out west. When the time and wind is right, we can hear the noise of the kids at the local school and at certain moments that bump-thump of the Zumba class' music in the Hall next door. Above we are blessed by birds - some squawky and green - and the ever present movement of the big tress that are in high number around the church (and indeed the Vicarage).
So much noise.
And I have walked back to the house, the noise louder - not necessarily intrusive noise - but noise none the less. I have yet to turn my music on, but almost certainly will, and join the world that is ever immersed in sound of one sort or another. Radio, stereo, TV, telephone, liturgy, traffic, animals, family, interwebs, the noise of internal busy-ness (perhaps the loudest unheard noise of all), and so many other sources of decibels in one form or another.
We took the recent and courageous step to open the church building during the day. So far (after six or more months) so good - no trouble, no damage, and visitors - lots of passers-by. It struck me, full in the mush, this morning, that our God Shop provides something quite unique in the world - silence. Nothing. Nowt. Even where our homes are quiet, their needs speak to us in the silence of our hearts - but in our little open church, you can find near perfect silence.
Church folk, good and true, are used to gathering for services. Sunday 10am is a regular and treasured slot in their lives (or its equivalent). Never to be missed - for the weekly dose of prayer and noise. In our tiny church on a Wednesday at 10.42am any Christian who chooses to enter (or the passers-by who actually do) will find stillness and calm. They will discover no radios, no liturgies, no chit-chat, and the noise of life at an appreciable distance. Oddly, they seem not to come in.
It has struck me in these last few months how few 'regulars' visit the church outside of service times. They pay a fair whack of money for the place but seem ill-equipped to use it beyond those times when a be-cassocked buffoon stands at the pointy end. I am beginning to wonder if this is the next important thing I need to consider - how to encourage those who are members of the community to use their church more. They can only gain from the experience - unless of course silence is too fearful to consider.
To use the language of the Apprentice and the locales of business - we have our USP and specialised product: silence. Price: taking the time to come in and grab some.
USP = Unique Selling Point