I’m sorry to say I missed this year’s annual Boring Conference (Holborn, 31st May 2014). Established in the wake of the cancellation of the Interesting Conference 2010, together with the Women’s Institute, Yorkshire Tea and the Great British Bakeoff the very existence of the Boring Conference is heartening to me. In a world where people, goods and conferences are rushed to market, and marketed on the basis of sex appeal, quite frankly the merits of spending a day discussing a new Bic biro are obvious. According to founder James Ward, the Boring Conference represents a celebration of “the ordinary, the obvious and the overlooked,” a sub-cultural shift that owes more to members of the slow movement than the rat race.
And boring doesn’t mean sad. One person’s paperclip is another one’s Rembrandt. The very things that might seem boring to the average person are things that make Boring Conference delegates sit up and pay attention. So it turns out, paradoxically, that boring does not mean bored. It’s a question of reframing and subverting the word.
Churches have often found it hard to shake the ‘boring’ tag. Gatherings in cold crumbling buildings, dwindling youth populations, social disengagement and excruciatingly slow adjustments to technological progress have made it in some people’s eyes almost incompatible with modern life. No matter that Jesus said “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,” some people continue to think that whatever life is to be found in church is barely worth living.
On the flip side, some accuse the church of being too earnest and emotional, as if faith should be explored and experienced on a different level. In this scenario, church is too exciting! No matter that Jesus said, “everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” for some it’s better not to be involved at all than have to wear your heart permanently on your sleeve.
The fact is, church is all these things and more: quiet, loud, vacant, full, reflective, reactive, dying, alive. For all its faults, the church represents a celebration of the ordinary, the obvious and the overlooked; in particular, that God is present, God is love, and that God also cares for the ordinary, obvious and overlooked: people like you and me.