Christian clubbers remix Bible message

Despite unfair comparisons with . Sheffield’s disgraced Nine O’Clock

Service, a club-orientated

congregation in Glasgow has won the support of the established church with its unconventional style of ‘rave’ worship. Eddie Gibb


While the Church of England continues to mop up the emotional overspill from Sheffield‘s Nine O‘Clock Service. church leaders in Scotland have offered support to a Christian congregation that has been successfully mixing club culture and worship

for several years.

The Late. Late Service is held in different church venues around Glasgow‘s West End every week. including the monthly ‘celebration‘ service when the congregation dances to trancey house music against a backdrop of computer-generated graphics.

These club elements led some tabloid newspapers to draw comparisons between the Late. Late Service and N08. whose disgraced leader Chris Brain. an ordained minister. admitted ‘improper sexual conduct’ with female members of his congregation. But members of the Late. Late group are anxious to point out that their service was set up specifically as an alternative to that kind of charismatic leadership. ‘They are democratic to a fault.‘ according to one 1

regular visitor to the service.

The Late. Late Service is based around elected groups who look after different aspects of the congregation‘s affairs. from writing the music played during the services. to offering support to individual members. ‘lt‘s very tedious.‘ said a spokeswoman for the Late. Late Service. ‘You wouldn‘t believe how many meetings there are. but it‘s incredibly important

so situations like NOS don‘t happen.‘

The Late. Late Service was launched five years ago by a group of young people disillusioned with the hierarchical. and often patriarchal. structure of Christian churches. They were looking for a way to bring more creativity and active participation into their worship. ‘The group wanted to experiment with worship and make it more culturally relevant so you didn‘t feel like you were stepping into a different world when you went to church.‘ said long-standing member Dot Reid. who currently co-ordinates the

service‘s musical output.

As many members of the group were already involved in the city‘s burgeoning dance scene, they decided to hold their own service in Glasgow nightclub Fury Murry‘s. but quickly realised the club ,

the Late, Late Service: celebrating creativity and club culture

environment was a distraction from the worship. instead. the group starting taking their music, vibrant visuals and a growing congregation. into churches borrowed for the evening. The celebration service is currently held in Woodlands Methodist Church which is transformed every month with PA. sound mixing desk and large white drapes onto which the graphics are projected. in true rave style, the following week‘s service turns nearby St Silas Episcopal church into a chill-out zone playing ambient music and offering a chance for meditative reflection. So what about the usual assumption that the devil has all the best tunes?

‘A lot of us have been in bands and had that argument thrown at us.‘ said Reid. ‘Art is a neutral thing and the meaning depends on what you bring'to

it as a writer. The one positive thing that NOS left

was its experiment with bringing modem culture into church. it was a valid thing to do but it went tertiny wrong. Anyone who knows anything about NOS knows it was nothing to do with the music it was about an abuse of power.‘

At least two church ministers are regular visitors to the Late. Late Service. including the rector of St Silas which hosts the ambient service. ‘I‘m the same age as the Late Late people and it‘s a culture I can relate to.‘ said Reverend David McCarthy of St Silas. ‘People focus on the bright lights and loud music. but in a lot of ways it‘s quite conventional. The Late. Late Service is totally unlike the Sheffield experience.‘ McCarthy believes this kind of alternative service ‘refleets the richness of God‘s creativity‘. though he does not believe it is the single solution to the problem of bringing young people into churches with ageing congregations. (To be fair. the Late. Late Service doesn‘t make this claim either.)

However. Church of Scotland youth advisor Steven Mallon believes there are elements in the Late. Late Service‘s approach that could be used to make

‘The group wanted to experiment with worship and make it more culturally relevant so you didn’t feel like you were stepping into a different world when you went to church.’

conventional churches more young person-friendly. ‘lt‘s very impressive because they are creating a community where everyone has a stake and feels they belong.’ he said. ‘The church has to reinvent itself every generation and the Late. Late Service has given us an example of how things could be. I don‘t think many churches will actually go as far down that route as the Late. Late Service. but they could pick up a few ideas.‘

A recent survey of young people by the Church of Scotland showed that while many young people believed in God or some form of spirituality. they felt the organised church was irrelevant to their lives. ‘They didn‘t have a problem with God. but they did have a problem with us.‘ said Mallon. ‘There is a desire for change at the grassroots and the revolution will come from there. The need is far more urgent today than ever before.‘

The Late. Late Service is featured on Christian Rave Special on Christmas Day at 12.30pm on Channel 4. The next service is at Woodlands Methodist Church on Sun [7 Dec at 9pm. Call 014/ 339 6702 for

fa rther details.

And finally. . . ‘cheese polioe’ whipped during panto season

We human beings have become so accustomed to our position at the head of the food chain. that the growing hysteria over mad cow disease, and its possible link to the rare condition Creutzfeld-Jakob disease. was threatening to get out of hand. Meanwhile in Scotland. an isolated outbreak of listeria hysteria appeared to have blown over after the maker of the ripe soft cheese Lanark Blue won his case against local authority environmental health inspectors. Humphrey Errington produces his cheese from unpasteurised ewes' milk and the inspectors from Clydesdale District Council, dubbed the ‘cheese police‘. had ordered a batch to be destroyed while trying to enforce the 1990 Food Safety Act. The resulting

court case highlighted the conflict between environmental health officers and the producers of ‘rcal‘ food. Enington described the court’s decision to find in favour as a ‘victory for traditional foodmakers‘.

With beef off the menu at many schools. there was also concern expressed last week about the literary diet being fed to pupils in Scotland. it appears educational reformers are pressing for the current review ofthe national cuniculum. due to be published next year. to include an increase in the amount of Scottish culture taught in schools. One proposal is for a compulsory Scottish author to be put on school reading lists. possibly at the expense of Shakespeare. ‘The criterion should be quality, not ethnic

origin.‘ responded one teachers‘ representative. who is urging Scottish secretary Michael Forsyth to block the idea. The prospect of lrvine Welsh‘s Trainspotting as a set text remains a tantalising prospect. however.

Talking of culture. the panto season is upon us. though John Murtagh. artistic director of Ayr-based theatre company Borderline, is unlikely to be celebrating. As part ofa financial restructuring. the company decided to give Murtagh his jotters only days before the curtain was due up on Babes In The Wood in lrvine. The panto’s director decided to take the script. which he wrote for the production. with him (oh yes he did). A spokesman for the company promised. rather predictably: ‘The show will go on.‘

Murtagh. who has the backing of the actors‘ union Equity. has hinted some additional scenes may be played out in court.

Harrassed Christmas shoppers looking for some respite from piped-music versions of traditional Yuletide carols in their local shopping centre might like to consider heading for Cumbemauld. which was this week dubbed ‘Scrooge capital of the world‘ by The Herald. Shop keepers in the concrete consumer palace are up in arms at the decision by town centre managers to ditch Santa‘s grotto and switch off the carols playing over the PA. allegedly to save on the public performance licence fee. Or perhaps they’re just music lovers. (Eddie Gibb)

The List 15 Dec I995-ll Jan l9965