Warning: I am not absolutely sure myself about how much of this is a genuine suggestion and how much of it is a very silly piece of fantasy satire.
How many clergy (and indeed others) who are involved in rural parish ministry have lamented the Sunday morning rush between multiple tiny congregations, and the reluctance on the part of many parishioners to travel within a benefice in order to have fewer, more populous services?
The solution may be here! All a benefice needs is an old bus, preferably one with a toilet, and a wheelchair friendly ramp. Buses are already equipped with what basically amount to pews (and they’re an awful lot more comfortable than most church pews!), a heating system that works, an an area at the front where one could install a drop-down altar (rather like a caravan’s dining table).
And here’s the clever bit: You could devise a liturgy that begins and ends with hymns, which could be sung as the bus drives round the various villages picking people up and then dropping them off afterwards (you could even order the hymns and time them according to the legs of the journey so that everyone heard each one once). Do most buses these days have a means to play music? They must do, surely – even an old cassette player would work for the hymn accompaniments.
Then, the main bit of your liturgy would take place once everyone has been picked up – it could be anywhere, to be honest, it doesn’t need to be anywhere near a church, it could be in a field, somewhere with a nice view, just somewhere convenient. It could even be in a different place each week…. So, you park up, stop singing hymns and get on with Matins, or Holy Communion, or whatever it is you’re doing, you put the collection in the bit where the bus fares would normally go, and then once you’re had the final blessing, you drive back round the villages dropping people off, and singing the hymns as you go.
Is this a mad idea? Probably.
Is it more mad than the alternative? Maybe not….
Is there anything that can enable rural communities to experience and enjoy worshipping together, give them confidence to stray beyond their usual boundaries, and think out of the box?
Everyone agrees the bus services to rural communities leaves a lot to be desired. But maybe that’s because they haven’t tried this kind of Bus Service.
Addendum: since posting I have been told about the phenomenon of spontaneous ‘churching’ of public buses in Jamaica, and you can read a bit about it here.