Monday, January 09, 2012

More about buildings

Commenting on the last post, Still Breathing said
"The building should be there to further God's Kingdom which, of course, includes worship but it is a tool rather than an end product. Having said that just being there can, in itself, further God's Kingdom by being a visible sign of His presence"
and to that I'd want to say a huge Amen.
My experience is, always, that this is one of the major benefits of having a church building at all - and it is why I remain determined that such buildings should always be open, even if that means that their contents are stripped right down, to ensure that nothing vital goes astray.
When I was living and worshipping in the rural North Cotswolds, it seemed very clear that if a church were to close, there would be a general feeling that God was moving out of the village.
In a more urban context, it's harder to defend the concentration of church buildings, - though I'd argue that there is still quite a strong sense of place in more working class communities, so that the closure of a church building might well be a real bereavement, even for those who rarely cross the threshold.
I don't see any easy solution. The buildings both hold us back and offer us unique opportunities to offer Christian hospitality, so I continue to love them and wish they would miraculously disappear (without any hurt to those who love them).
It's imponderable, really - but it seems to me that all church buildings run the risk that confronted Peter on the mountain of the Transfiguration - that because they are places where we sometimes encounter God, they become in some troubling way almost a substitute for the encounter.
I found that I'd written about this some years ago, while still a shiny new curate. I don't think I've found a solution I'd better head off to put the church to bed now.
Someone has to look after the building!


Anonymous said...

You eloquently capture the very real dilemma that many rural clergy face. There is no blanket solution, despite many suggestions. We (at the ARC) experience a similar dilemma frequently in our work of supporting local rural ministers and congregations.
Please keep up the wider conversation about the parish system as whole, though!
Many thanks,
Simon Martin, Arthur Rank Centre

americanrattan said...

Her ways, filled with obstacles were not easy, yet that did not deter her from doing her Christian duty.