An interesting aspect to this is not just the answer to the question, but how comfortable they feel using the Internet as part of their ministry. For example, do they actually check for email?
I will update this post with the results of my enquiries.
1. Ladywell Baptist Church
Emailed: 6th June 2005
Using: Email address published on the Baptist Union web site.
Results: Email address was not valid, so I got nowhere with this one.
----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors -----
Update: I found a different email address on another web site so I sent the message there instead. Lets see what happens.
email@example.com Unrouteable address
Looks like this one is a dead duck.
2. Almondvale Community Church
Emailed: 6th June 2005
Using: Form on their web site.
Results: Received a reply on the 12th from someone (I think the minister) .
His reply was that if I was a proper christian I would not be asking these questions, but he did say that fellowship and enjoyment had to come secondary to being there. This left me feeling that perhaps going to Church is like going to the dentist (not enjoyable, but necessary for your health).
I sent him this reply:
I see what you are saying, but my objection is not to worshipping God (I hope I do that in all areas of my life, although i would use the word honouring rather than worshipping) but to being involved in regular attendance at a church or a member of a church.
In many ways I do miss church, which is why I am asking these questions, but there are just too many barriers for me.
1. Why should I do something that I personally do not enjoy?
Yes, the same could be said about a trip to the dentist, but I personally find church services boring, and I have had experience of a fair range of them.
Unless there is some over riding reason why it is a requirement of being a Christian.
2. Why does God require worship, and in particular public worship by a group of people?
I can't see any biblical reason for public worship or meeting together in the way that churches do.
You seem to be saying that I owe it to Jesus to attend church because he died for me. That is an odd transaction (if its what you mean) because the whole relationship of a believer with God is supposed to be based on love rather than duty.
I don't grasp or fully understand what God derives from worship or why he should require it.
Sorry, I just don't understand.
3. Church politics. Life is just too short for all of that.
What I do know is that Christians should associate with each other and that this is clearly scriptural, but its a big jump from that to attending church for an hour on a Sunday, which in my experience does not involve a lot of associating anyway.
I think probably I am just too free thinking and not enough of a group person to fit into a church.
Its probably just me, except I have actually met a few people over the past few years who are Christians but don't attend church regularly, so maybe I am not alone.
Update 17th June: I have had no reply so it looks like the communication is now closed.
3. Livingston Elim Church
Emailed: 7th June 2005
Using : Form on their site (which submitted via email and forced me to use my work email address...)
Results: Still no reply at 14th June, I don't expect to get one now, but anything is possible.
Update October 2007
I actually ended up attending this church for over a year starting in July 2006 click here for further information.
4. Livingston Ecumenical Parish
Emailed: No email address on their web site so couldn't contact them.
Conclusion: I had genuine questions that were only partially answered by one of the churches. The others either did not reply or had no means of contact by email. The church that did respond was not willing to engage in what was (for me) an important discussion. I remain still not attending church.
I decided to go out to Ladywell Baptist Church tonight. I got there at 6:30 for the evening service and although that time was listed on the board the building was locked and gave every impression of being abandoned. As it was only 6:25 I headed over to Dedridge Baptist Church.
The church was open but in silence. Everyone sitting in rows possibly praying. I went in and sat down. This went on for a long time. I got the impression they were all very upset about something so maybe there had been a death in the congregation. I never found out. It felt like walking into a room and everyone suddenly going silent as a few of them did look at me. I nearly walked straight back out. It turned out to be the middle of the service so it must start at 6pm. It was communion. I found the person leading the service did not really make much sense. He seemed to lack knowledge or experience. He must have been standing in for the normal minister.
Overall it felt like there had been a death or something very bad had happened that everyone knew about. Noone spoke to me. By this time I was so scared by the funny looks I had been getting I bolted for the door and got home as soon as I could.
I am now truly immunised against going to church for the next few years. I don't think Dedridge Baptist is used to having visitors. It felt more like a private club than a church. The thing is that if they can't appeal to people like me they have no chance of reaching the average local person.
Update October 2007
I actually ended up attending Livingston Elim Church for over a year starting in July 2006 click here for further information.