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My hairdresser is a special young woman. I do not have to tell her how to cut my hair. She just knows, and she gets on with it. We pass the time of day. She tells me about her life, and she asks about mine. She knows about my family, even the ones she has never met. I am touched by her interest in my life, and what she remembers between visits. Even though I am only one of many customers she sees during her working life, she always gives the impression that she cares. I wouldn’t go to anyone else to have my hair cut.

I can’t help but compare. What if all the people in my church were like my hairdresser. I accept that they are there voluntarily, not because they have to be in church to earn a living. But shouldn’t church be like the hairdressers? Shouldn’t church be a place where people want to come, where they feel welcomed, and surrounded by other people who care? Shouldn’t people leave church feeling better than when they went in?

Conversely visiting the hairdresser as a child was not a pleasant experience. For a start I had to cycle there, i.e. take myself to this place of torture! My father would give me half a crown (12.5p in today’s money!) and strict instructions of what I should say to the barber; “short back and sides and not too much off the top!” It would not have made any difference if I had said anything else. The barber only knew that one style. Leaving the barber’s shop was equally unpleasant, as I would be itching all over from the bits of hair that had found their way into my clothing.

How is your church? Is it like my hairdresser’s shop – a place where people care, where people show interest? A place you want to be, and a place where you want to return? Or is it like the barber’s shop? A place of torture where the barber knows only one thing? A place that is as unpleasant in the feeling you have when leaving, as it is when you arrive? A place you never want to go to again?