Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Churches in Livingston, West Lothian

I decided to contact some churches in Livingston to see if they could give me a reason why I should go to church. I find going to church not only boring but quite depressing, with the constant exhortations to try harder, when most people are already at full stretch.

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 -----
xxxxxxxx@aol.com>

Update: I found a different email address on another web site so I sent the message there instead. Lets see what happens.






Oh dear:
xxxxx@xxxxxx.fsnet.co.uk 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.





Update 31/07/05

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.

17 comments:

  1. Hi Gordon

    Really sorry you had such a duff deal. Iwent to Ladywell BC for a few years in the 80's (before moving south) and it was one of the nicest churches I had ever been in (I've been in a few).

    Just a suggestion - if you're really interested in answers (and you're brave enough) ask God himself. He has a tendency to answer!

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  2. Unfortunately what you are saying is so true. I used to be in a church where I felt constantly under judgement for not doing enough or being enough to everyone. One day I checked out a church in Motherwell - travelled the 40 mins from Glasgow just to visit and see what it was like. In that one day I found myself in a church hearing a sermon that wasn't full of judgement which had such an effect on me that I moved church. Within a couple of years I had also moved home! Before the service there is always a buzz of communication. However, I haven't come across a church quite like it anywhere else in Scotland.

    I got to the place many times asking myself what the point was of even going to church if all I was getting was a weekly dose of condemnation. I wondered if I was reading the same bible - for instance verses which pointed constantly to God's kindness and tenderness would bring His people back to Him. I understood the point about discipline, that God disciplines those He loves, but I didn't see where that fitted in to a weekly sermon where I came out feeling as though I was a naughty child. In fact I got my hands on Classic Christianity by Bob George and read that, a book which only served to confirm my argument. I prayed for a church where I would be taught, where the sermons would be refreshing - check out the audio sermons on www.calvarymotherwell.org if you want to hear the kind of stuff I'm listening to now. Now I find that my bible seems to be the same one that this church reads. Now I go to church because I believe first and foremost that God has called me to this church and these are the people I feel most 'at home' with. When I look back I didn't feel 'at home' in most of the other churches I attended so I wonder if things would have been different if I had searched out this church earlier. Usually from around 10 minutes before each service when people start arriving there seems to be a buzz about the place.

    I did check out the two email addresses for Ladywell Baptist Church and find that the Baptist Union seem to have updated their page recently and there is a different email address there.

    Sorry this has been so long.

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  3. hello i am trying to find a church in west lothian too any luck?

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  4. Hello Gordon blogg I am looking for a church for me and my fiancee to attend have you had any luck in answering you question. My email address is wdvs.bennett@btopenworld.com. I am kind of rubbish at chat rooms but will have a look to see if you reply

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  5. alright Gordon
    i never know whether its me thats the cynic or church people, clearly something has made you very cynical/uncomfertable with the whole 'going to church' thing. The fact is that people stopped asking the church these questions a long time ago, so much so that they dont know the answer, they are not equiped, infact prob most rev's and despirate to retire and remove themselves from this institution that has almost put them to sleep prematurly.
    I have no doubt that christ is the answer for life, it is He who gives me breath, but like you, i find preaching today dull, uninspiring and powerless, pehaps God has 'left the building' I pray that he wont leave my heart, i pray like that great man of prayer David Brainerd "no poor creature stands in need of grace more than I" Go to church somwhere Gordon, and realise that mankind has fallen into a whole deep enough to bury an elephant that the only hope of getting out of it might just be hidden on the cold seat on a church hall, sitting by some wee lady that has the treasures of heaven in her heart, and is desperate to tell some young man about her wonderful saviour..

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  6. I think you misunderstand.
    I am already a Christian so I don't need to discover anything.

    You don't have to go to church to be a Christian. The two things are entirely seperate.

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  7. Hi Gordon,

    I was very interested to read your blogg, and I'd be pleased to meet up with you sometime to chat or correspond with you?
    I have just started YESTERDAY (Aug. 1st) as the new senior pastor at Livingston Baptist (Dedridge). From your comments - I have begun to investigate the progress of a website for our church and firmly believe this is something we need in place soon.
    I look forward to church being a place where people want to be and feel they can belong. I am a great believer that church should be an enjoyable and positive experience and so your comments are very helpful. God intends us to enjoy life (while He gives us clear guidelines also on how we should live) and I look forward to my time in Dedridge and know that there are many wonderful people in this church whose lives have been transformed by coming to know Christ. I look forward to hearing from you.
    George

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  8. I actually tried to go back to Dedridge for a while but it just didn't work for me as it was a strictly Sunday meeting situation and they seemed a bit suspicious/judgmental about me. It was too difficult to make friends or even find any common ground. I have been going to the Elim church recently and have been made to feel very welcome (and I say tthat as the person voted least likely to ever attend a pentecostal church).

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  9. Hi Gordon hope you have found a church now!! If you havent then please try Ladywell again as i am a regular attender there and find the church to be such a friendly and refreshing place to be. When you attended and found it locked up i presume it was during the holiday season of july when the deacons took the decision to stop the evening service for that month due to most people being on holiday. With the exception of this week the church services are back on at the usual times 11am and 630pm. this week we are having a Family Fellowship tea which is taking the place of the eveing service. This starts at 530pm. Its a type of bring your own tea night where we share tea together then have a time of worrship in an unformal setting. So if you want to be there then ask for myself. I will be the one leading the worship.
    I agree with yourself about the confusion of attending and finding the place closed that is the problem with web sites that need constant updating.

    anyway see you on sunday at 530pm or the following week at 630pm.

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  10. Gordon,

    How refreshing and interesting to read about you. My late father was Rev Prof Hugh Anderson, New Testament, Edinburgh -one of the more liberal-minded theologians and possibly one of the biggest doubters and questioners himself. I just wished he was around because he would have loved to have talked with you and debated and discussed and pondered (likely with a wee dram too)

    Yes I too have been in Livingston for 4 years now and have not found a place to "worship" regularly. Howard Haslett my dad's former student is the liveliest and most upbeat minister I know -drop him a line. Minister at East Linton, former chaplain of Edinburgh Academy and he speaks regularly at rugby functions. Great fella. I would be interested to know his comments. He certainly isn't your traditonal "holy roller"

    Going to the Kirk these days can be a grim affair! Let me know if you find any church that you (as the Americans say) "enthuse" about. I have been to RC services too in West Lothian.

    Kind Regards,

    The Reverends Daughter -Louise

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  11. Gordon,

    Glad to read your blog. Your honesty is refreshing and position clear. Jim McNaughton is the new pastor at Ladywell Baptist Church (LBC) as of two months ago. I was recently visiting my folks in late October - I now live and work in the US (Virginia) - and it was a pleasure to attend the service and meet Jim for a coffee and a chat midweek. We have a lot in common. Jim is a man of vision, forward-thinking (formerly an Engineer). No doubt there are many changes coming to the current fellowship, some already implemented at LBC. I pastor a church here in Lynchburg, VA and also teach theology through online courses.

    Jim is very approachable, listens well, and I believe he would take your thoughts on church, changes, and expansion of the Kingdom of God very seriously. If I am reading correctly from your 'bio' I imagine you have much to contribute with your skill set. Give him a bell.

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  12. Hey there, Irene. Glad to read that you found a good place to worship and fellowship in community with people of shared interests. What is CalvaryMotherwell like?

    I have lived in the US now for 19 years. I pastor and teach theology through university online courses.

    Blessings,
    Alistair

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  13. Hello Alistair

    I ended up discovering that I no longer believe in God.

    You can read about this in this posting:

    http://www.hudson.nu/blog/2008/01/from-christian-to-atheist.html

    With further information here:

    http://www.hudson.nu/blog/2008/01/further-background-to-my-deconversion.html

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  14. Hello Gordon,

    I am a little behind the times with your blog. Thank you for your email notifying of your statement no longer believing in God. That might be the right starting place in the search for ideas and answers.

    I must confess at this juncture that I am a fellow learner. As I really do not know you, I will refrain from any comments on your journey from theism to atheism - even your blog does not tell everything, I am sure. Perhaps it is better to scrap an idea and start again - indeed, if that is what one calls the Judeo-Christian message?

    Last year, I had the privilege of attending a meeting where Richard Dawkins was speaking. I marvelled at his eloquence. Differences aside, I thought his talk was good. From there I looked at three books, one by Dawkins - 'The God Delusion', and two others by Alister McGrath: 'The Dawkins Delusion' and 'The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World.'

    In the current and continuing war over ideas that influence men and women, these books are fascinating, and contribute greatly to both personal knowledge (Polanyi) and even perhaps 'illuminative reason', for those who have entered into a search for personal meaning (or "well-being" as you put it).

    I find it interesting, for example, that those who suffer the most inhumane treatment in this modern world have two opposite responses. Take for instance Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Harvard Address, where commenting on real evil says:
    “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts.”

    With many Jews in the death camps we read that they abandoned their belief in their God. Some retained it, as Elie Weisel noted in his book, 'Night.' Like a psychic pain, the reality of suffering by fellow human beings could likened as (let me put it this way) a 'Kristallnacht' to the soul.

    Michael D. Aeschliman notes, "Second things suffer, as [C. S.] Lewis was fond of repeating, when put first. Science is a good servant but a bad master, a good method for investigating and manipulating the material world, but no method at all for deciding what to do with the knowledge and power acquired thereby." (p.33, The Restitution of Man: C. S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism)

    I find Lewis' mind monumental in the matter of reason and 'truth.' I wonder what help Pilate could have given the world had he recorded his answer to his sardonic question posed to Jesus of Nazareth, 'What is truth?!"

    The late Malcolm Muggeridge noted, "He [Lewis] bowed to the constraint of truth and thus climbed its ladder." (preface to Aeschliman's book)

    Might I ask if you are currently reading anything related to your thoughts, that I might follow along?

    Regards,
    Alistair

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  15. Thats all philosophical theology though and assumes the existence of God as a possibility.

    The problem I have is that there is no objective, empirical evidence for the existence of God.

    The examples you give are of people who have chosen to believe something without evidence and within a framework where belief in God is the norm.

    If I told you I had fairies at the bottom of my garden you would expect me to provide objective evidence for my claim. The same burden of proof is required for any claim that God exists.

    I can truly say that I have found more purpose to my life without belief than with belief, and although I thought the bottom might drop out of the world, it didn't.

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  16. Hi Gordon,

    Thanks for your blog. I came across it by chance last week and have found it extremely interesting and refreshingly honest.

    My attention was caught by the “Churches in Livingston” post and as a Christian I was outraged and frustrated by the response you got when you were seeking a church to visit. Subsequently the way you were treated on your visits to various churches and the experiences outlined in your honest “churches, depression and metal illness” post all serve to stoke my frustration!

    Christianity is described 29 times in the New Testament as “good news” and I'm sad that many peoples experience of contact with the church is one that is quite the opposite. Christianity is a message of love, forgiveness, peace, restoration, reconciliation, and acceptance. It's gutting to me that the news shared is often condemnatory, and churches often full of cliches and politics. I go to a church where visitors of all kinds and welcomed and accepted, questions encouraged and I've experienced something of God. I wish this was more common and I wish this had been your experience. I'm sorry it wasn't.

    Dave

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  17. Hi Gordon,I came across you article "by accident",but feel I was meant to read it.I am,like some of the other commenters,a Christian,or as I prefer to say,I'm a follower of Jesus.
    I'm saddened that your experiences of attending churches hasn't been,well as joyful as it should be.
    The one thing I'd like to say,is please don't be put off.
    I could give you evidenc of God in my life,and how he s worked miracles in my life,saved me from mental health issues,due to an abusive childhood,saved me from serious hard drug addiction,and has brought me out of situations I shouldn't have escaped from.im now terminally ill with a lung condition,at 38 with a young family,and I'm certain my faith in God has helped me survive as long as I have.
    We had the same issues of finding a nice,warm friendly loving church,and thankfully we have,we attend a church in Bathgate,the family church,and that's exactly what it is,it's my family now,theyv enveloped us as a family,into their church and their hearts,and I feel blessed to have such love and support,and know that when my time is up,that my husband and kids will be loved and supported in a church where the people genuinely care,they care because,they walk the same walk Jesus did,and I pray that you find the same.
    I always say,I'm 100% certain that God exists and that Jesus died for me,but even if I was wrong,being a follower of Jesus,is a really nice way to live my life,and to raise my kids.i strive to be loving,accepting,non judgmental and selfless just as Jesus was,and raise my kids to be the same way.and I have comfort,that I can face what's an uncertain,difficult stage in my life,where I know the end of my life could be soon,but I face it with the certainty and comfort that even though God doesn't make the bad stuff happen,he uses the bad stuff for his glory,and he s in control of my life,totally.
    I'm sad and sorry that your experiences haven't been good at the churches youv attended.il keep you in my prayers,and I hope you have a happy successful journey in life
    Take care
    Tracey B :o)

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