Sunday, 26 April 2009

Avoid the supermarket queues by going to church

Today is Sunday and I didn't go to church. I also did something I almost never do on a Sunday, I went to the supermarket. One of the things I love about living in France is that we do not yet have a 24/7 culture. The week still has rhythm and downtime. There are though a few shops and markets open on Sunday morning, and a special law allowing for full Sunday opening in December.
Today I wanted to buy some flowers for a friend I was going to visit in her new flat. Rather than paying more for the flowers at the florists I went to the supermarket. Mistake.
I was shocked at how many people were there, at how the fresh produce section looked as if the vultures had descended on it. And I was sick about the sheer waste of time of it all. If I am going to have to queue 15 minutes for the privilege of paying for my seven items I rather feel as if the supermarket should be paying me for my time. Upstanding middle-class citizen that I am, pointless hanging around in one of the forefronts of capitalism can quickly turn me into an anarcho-syndicalist. My own fault for making the wrong choice I suppose.
However I also wondered about how this hanging around encourages communion in a weird sort of way. There is an odd sort of human solidarity in the ghastly pointlessness of the supermarket queue. None of us can quite believe that we were so stupid as to all come to the same place at the same time and create this nonsense.
I also had idle thoughts about trying to talk to the people about why they were there and what they were doing with their day. I wondered about how to do that in a way that would offer them grace, respite, gentleness and humour. What does the gospel have to offer in a consumer society, how to speak to people in the right tone, that shows engagement and interest in their lives and truly offers them love? I've not yet got a copy of bishop Stephen Cottrell's book Do Nothing to Change your Life but my thoughts meandered a bit in that sort of direction - I love his Do nothing Christmas. But how do you enter into conversation - do you hand out egg timers as a way to encourage people to take time out and recognise that they are so much more than what
they buy or do?
So I may not have gone to church today but perhaps my supermarket frustration encouraged me to reflect more deeply than I often do on what the core of my faith is, and how I might begin to communicate that to the Sunday morning shopping congregations.

Picture by the wonderful ASBO Jesus, a tribute to the brilliant supermarket checkout staff whose good natured professionalism and banter shone through today's interminable queue.


janetlees said...

You might like to try Kirsty's sermon about supermarket queues and how they helped her to reflect on the order of episodes in the differetn written down versions of the gospels - all from watching what people put on the checkout belt and in what order. Like I say, RB is everywhere.

Jane said...

Is it on Vision4life?

Anonymous said...

Well, if you supported local commerce rather than the commerce, this wouldn't have happened.
Wrong choice :-)