Monday, October 16, 2006


One of the things Holy Trinity and Trendlewood do differently to any church I've ever been to is to wear badges. I'm not fully conversant with the system but it seems as if every regular member of the church goes to a badge case and takes out their own badge, returning it after the service.

As I told folks at my first Trendlewood service yesterday, I'm not too sure how I feel about it yet.

On the plus side, you can easily check out the name of someone you feel you ought to know by now, which in my case is everyone. There is none of the embarrassment of forgetting names, although I manage to conjure up enough embarrassment letting my eyes wander across people's chests trying to find out their names, especially when their chests are ... well you get me. Sorry madam; do you have a badge in there somewhere?

On the negative side, a friend of mine visiting the church recently (I sent spies) was greeted not with 'Hello, I don't recognise you, are you a visitor?' but 'Have you got a badge?' It also brings back memories (showing my age now) of the old Scripture Union soundstrip, The Stranger, where Jesus rides into a western town and tells people to take their badges off. Includes the immortal line something like, 'My wife's a D6; that's pretty good for a woman.' Anyway they lynch him. 'There's nothing like a good lynching to get people together again.'

I used to enjoy the occasional amnesty times we had at St Paul's when St Paul's night collided with Alpha and so we had everyone badged up for one night only. Not sure about all the time though. I used to wander into town with my badge still accidentally on regularly enough to look like an escapee from somewhere secure.

How do you feel dear readers? Would you like to go to a church where badges are worn at all times?

I'm trying to talk the idea of everything we do, everything, being accessible to a newcomer or outsider. Remember, where there are no pole vault pits, there will be no pole vaulters.


dmk said...

As someone who constantly forgets names, and as a new vicar in post, yes yes yes to badges. However, it would be embarassing to still be looking at them in 6 months time.

The only other way of doing it I can think of is having icebreakers as part of church meetings, like the Peace but more creative. Then at least those of us who remember other details better than names('you're the chap with a pet snake', 'you're the lady who likes prawn and spinach sandwiches for breakfast') will have a conversation starter.

Anonymous said...

I HATED wearing a badge, if people didn't know me , I figured there was something wrong!

Ex -Trendlewooder!

Chris said...

I wouldn't like to go to a church where badges are worn at all times.

I think it would be a real barrier for new people coming into the church and almost certainly a bigger one (most of the time) for a non Christian attending church for the first time.

It's probably not a barrier for everyone though and some might be attracted to a church where you all where badges. Not me though.

Anonymous said...

I understand the desire to have badges - easy ID, saving forgetting names, etc. My problem with it is that any newcomers are immediately conspicuous by their lack of badge. It visually defines them as 'not yet part of things'.

Much better to have an occasional one-off session where everyone gets a badge, or perhaps makes their own.

Kathryn said...

Mmn....I'm with Mike there. When my kids were at the village school, everyone wore badges at the beginning of the new school year for about a month, which gave everyone time to sort themselves out. It meant the new children didn't feel conspicuous and gave you a fighting chance of working out who's who...Something similar at the start of a new chapter in ministry would be good, and then periodic "Know your family" Sundays to keep you up to speed with the 8 identikit little old ladies who sit in the back row at 8.00. But all the time?- no. Miserable.

Anonymous said...

So after one service you feel that the correct way to provide leadership is to critisise without any discussion with those involved first. Mmm. Not sure I agree with that.
Trendlewood is a congregation that has been badly disappointed by its leaders in recent years. A time of healing would be good.
Perhaps the reason there is no pole vault pit, is that people wanted a hockey pitch. Do we really want a nation of only pole vaulters, or would a few hockey players be good?

Matthew said...

Did you see Extras last week, where he couldn't remember the name of the make-up lady?

Don't like the idea of badges. Anything that marks out visitors or makes people feel that they're not one of the gang can't be good.

If you don't know someone's name why not just ask? If it's a person whose name you should know, just apologise for being an air-head and forgetting it in the first place. Whatever happens we shouldn't be turning the church into some sort of club, where new people or visitors are marked out as different.

(Time to put the soap box away again)

St said...

Thanks for all the comments folks. As I said in the post, I'm not sure how I feel about this yet and your remarks are really useful in helping me to decide.

Jonathan Potts said...

Both times I had to wear a badge at Alpha, I happened to be wearing a T-shirt with "Fatface" on the left-hand pocket. Which was rather unfortunate. So that was my name for the evening.

"Anonymous" (the second): I don't think Steve is "criticising" the leadership, just throwing out ideas and questioning things. Which is (in my opinion) a good thing for a leader to do. You don't want him blindly following the old status quo do you? ('cos knowing Steve, he won't).

Anonymous said...

Do make sure you don't antagonise us by seeming to make fun of us to the rest of the world.
It wasn't the people of Trendlewood who suggested the badge system but a newcommer. Some people have never liked badges. Others do what's expected of them.

St said...

Thanks for the warning, anonymous friend. If I could 'make sure' of that I would. Over the last twenty years or so I have antagonised people by:

1.Setting up an overhead projector in church.
2.Accidentally (apparently) giving more attention to one bereaved family than another when two lads were killed in a car accident.
3. Questioning the historicity of Genesis.
4. Allowing 'quick-witted' to wander accidentally into the territory of 'insensitive'.
5.Telling someone I thought they were in error in the wrong tone of voice (they agreed they were wrong but it was how I said it that antagonised).
6. Wearing white shoes.
7. Suggesting that we stop taking a collection.
8. Liking modern fiction.
9. Enjoying rock and pop music.
10. Owning a brick.

So I'm grateful for the advice but I hope you see from the list that absolutely anything can antagonise people without that being the intention. I will try, but I guess if I wandered round all day terrified that anything I do might antagonise people I would either have a stress-related illness or remain silent (I know, I know).

James tells us to be slow to anger. I am; are you?

When does a 'newcomer' become a 'person of Trendlewood?'

david said...

Badges have obviously touched a raw nerve! (sorry, Steve, I understand the use of exclamation marks do the same to you). I remember that at one HT service it was suggested that everyone took the time to introduce themselves to at least one person they didn't know - not a bad idea.

Caroline said...

Oh Steve,

you only ever own half of what you say and I'm sorry that your comments have caused hurt as implying criticism; not (I'm sure) what you intended, but then words have a funny way of making different meanings to different people.

perhaps some time will allow people to trust your committed care for them? a commitment that undergirds qestions that rattle cages

of course, it is also you who must give time as well, as your partners in the church

Caroline Too

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking time to think about the response to the badge issue.
The issue isn't really about questioning the wearing of badges. When you are new is probably the best time to question things.
Its about inviting the world to comment before giving time to the people you are supposed to be leading. Remember that this church has been through a lot of hurt in the recent past.
We have been really looking forward to your arrival and want to move forward but to do that we need to feel respected and valued.

St said...

OK anonymous. The lamb may not have lain down with the lion yet but at least, as Bishop Jim Thompson used to say, it can sleep on the sofa in the next room without locking the door.

I value everyone. All human life is precious and special. Respect is a complex word and it depends how you meant it. It can mean to treat with consideration - yes to that. It can mean to treat with deferential esteem - bit Uriah Heepish for my liking. I wouldn't expect to be respected until I'd hung around a bit; just valued, although one might respect an office before one respects an office-holder

Is it really so bad to share the reality of a situation with the wider world and ask, 'Now what do you think of this? I need help.' It arises out of valuing people and wanting the best for them.

By the way I'm enjoying this exchange and learning from it. Hope you are.