For some reason, Blogger hasn't been letting me comment here. There have been a string of complaints recently from other bloggers, so I don't think it's me. All I can think of is to use a new post to reply to comments on my last, and hope they get their act together soon!
All the people involved know our pattern perfectly well, it's just that we get this minority who don't think they should have to go along with it. I agree that it's about control, but underlying that, it's their own convenience as well. The problem with any sort of authoritarian approach.
We can't start earlier; one of two people who wanted an earlier service recently asked everyone, and they made it clear they didn't want to start earlier. We did try starting the choruses earlier, when we had a minister who wanted to finish 'on time' and a Senior Steward who never disagreed with ministers. It didn't work because nobody turned up any earlier. The choruses are part of the service, and everyone's going to have to work with that.
There's a slight political problem in the church, with one vociferous individual who probably agrees with the people who want to finish at twelve. Right now I'm the only one in Church Council who argues with her. I need one vital person to be there, but she's stuck elsewhere due to work at the moment. Hopefully that'll sort itself out before long.
Once we've got something clear through CC, the LP meeting will have to go along with it - even if a few argue, the majority will support us. That should be the end of it, and with an officially longer service, we can then look at the next stage. As I say, it's going to be a question of feeling our way, step by step, and finding a way of having a service which more of our people will be comfortable with. If we can do it without upsetting anyone, so much the better; I'm notorious for arguing with people in meetings, but I don't actually like doing it! We've just got too many people who've been allowed to get away with too much for too long, and it's got to stop.
When it comes to readings, our approach is to encourage as many people as possible to take a turn reading, and provide Bibles so everyone can follow. Some people are good readers, others lousy, but we don't care. What matters to us is participation. In our case, this isn't just a clique; it's a policy which has stood the test of time, and which, as far as I know, is supported by everyone. Once again, some preachers don't like it, but they've more or less accepted that this is what's going to happen.