Church services and the London Transport Museum

8 August, 2014 — 3 Comments

This week Emma the children’s pastor who I work with was commenting on bringing a child to our Sunday church service for the first time and how overwhelming the place seemed for this child. It reminded me of my visit to the London Transport Museum last year, not because it was overwhelming, but because I was having problems figuring out what they wanted me to do.

London-Transport-Museum-underground-model-570

I visited the London Transport Museum for a few reasons:

  1. I love technology
  2. The London Tube fascinates me
  3. I am especially fascinated by the fact that the London Tube was 150 years old last year (one indicator of the naivety of a New Zealander visiting a big city)
  4. Large cities fascinate me

Some fun historical facts

  • An omnibus pulled by horses needed the horses changed 6 times a day.
  • Around the year 1900 there were 50,000 horses serving the London public transport network, producing 1000 tons of horse poo every day!

Curation

I wasn’t disappointed with the content of the museum. I learnt a lot about the evolution of London from when it was a town where everyone could walk everywhere, to the megalopolis it is today.

I was disappointed with the curation of the space: I was continually in the wrong place in terms of the chronological flow of information. This meant I was often thinking:

“why am I reading about this, when I’ve already read about that?”

This meant I was often looking around thinking:

“have I missed a cue? Should I have walked down some other path first?”

I would end up looking around the space trying to work out if I should be moving up and down the row, or if I should be zig-zagging across it. I was often back-tracking in order to see everything.

I admit I’m a fairly ordered person and my expectations of museums are that the layout enhances the content rather than distract from it. And that is one of the roles of the curator. And this is the segue into making this post about the church, specifically church gatherings (services) and church spaces (buildings).

Who comes to church services?

There are probably two main types of people outside of normal regulars that might enter church spaces and services:

  1. People who know the system and are new because of reasons such as shifting to a new city and looking for a church to be part of, or a local who for some reason is wanting to visit another church community.
  2. People who don’t know the church system, perhaps never been Christianised, perhaps first time explorers.

Church services and the London Transport Museum

My point of connecting my London Transport Museum experience to church service experiences, is this:

  • Is it easy for new people to find their way around your physical space?
  • Are you giving clear signals to enable them to negotiate around the spiritual space?

These are import aspects of hospitality.

During my experience of the London Transport Museum, I thought they were post-modern without trying to be. What might visitors think of your church services and buildings – without you trying to be?

Image: Model of London Street and Underground approx 1900, London Transport Museum, Mike Crudge.
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  • Thanks for your reflections Mike. I often ask the same questions about worship services – I know what I went. I am much less sure of what I am supposed to go away with or why various elements of the event are placed where they are – seemingly with no regard for what the expected outcome of any part or the whole is supposed to achieve. But its usually “nice”!

    • Hi Mark. Maybe the process of flying could be used as an analogy of a worship service: there’s some predicability, you have to arrive at the airport, check-in, go to a certain gate, etc, you get on the plane and follow a certain routine, there’s almost a pleasant familiarity… While there’s so much the same about every flight we go on, there’s also always difference: the seat, the people we sit next to, the destination, the time of day, what we read or hear, or participate in… All these differences are packaged within clear expected outcomes, and they hardly ever crash.

  • loren

    good thoughts for church leaders.