The Church of Mornington Crescent

A couple days ago, Nik Butler started a game of Mornington Crescent on Kyte TV.

(Glossary to the first sentence:

Nik Butler is also know as loudmouthman, lives in the UK, and twitters, which is where I met him on my birthday, I think.

KyteTV is an internet TV site, allowing people to produce video and store it in a “channel”, like a personalized on demand set of videos.

Mornington Crescent is, well, let me go back outside the parentheses.)

Mornington Crescent is a game which has been played in the UK on a BBC program for many years. As the program is a comedy program, the game itself is comedy as well. (Feel free to go read about it at wikipedia)

Players take turns naming stations on the London Underground. The first person to name “Mornington Crescent” wins the game. In naming stations, people refer to sets of rules and various variations and strategies and levels of play. Games last as long as the people involved decide to keep playing. But there is a secret.

There is no secret.

Or, more accurately, the secret is that the game exists because the people involved have agreed that it is fun to create rules as you are playing and argue about the rules that were just made up, based on rules that you yourself are making up. The secret is that it doesn’t matter that anyone at any time, including in the very first play can say, “Mornington Crescent” and end the game.

This morning I was thinking about this game and watching Nik’s channel which is apparently the first all-Internet video version of this game. I realized that this game is exactly like the game of church.

  • People make up rules as they go along.
  • People take delight in identifying variations of the rules.
  • People read through piles and piles of books, picking up a bit here and a sentence there and stitching them into a rational for a particular action.
  • You have to accept the fundamental principle or nothing makes any sense.
  • For the uninitiated, the fundamental principle makes no sense.
  • For the novice, it doesn’t matter how many times the insider says, “just play,” you still are painfully afraid of saying the wrong thing, quoting the wrong rule, not getting something right.
  • For the outsider, it all seems like a lot of energy for something which doesn’t matter anyway.
  • For the insider, the delight is in the wordplay, in the interaction with others, in the sense of doing something well that others don’t get.

As I watch the videos and as I learn about this game, I’m increasingly aware that much of church and denomination and constitutions and bylaws and much of what we insiders spend such energy doing looks exactly like Mornington Crescent.

And that is scary.

Not because someone might point out that it all is pointless and irrelevant. That part I can talk through. Mostly because people might think that there is nothing true in anything that we talk about in relation to church. But here’s the thing.

There really IS a Mornington Crescent station. It’s just the game that’s made up.

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One response to “The Church of Mornington Crescent

  1. Wow, having myself been involved in Pentecostal and Evangelical church I think I can only reply:

    Mornington Crescent !