In response to my earlier post "In defence of the Parish System" many, both on the blog and via other media, pointed out to me that what I was really celebrating was the opportunity to offer pastoral care -and the role of the church building in enabling and focussing that.
Of course you are right...but oh, church buildings are represent so much complexity.
This year sees the 150th birthday of one of my churches, and the 175th of the other...
And of course there is much to celebrate as we look as those beloved buildings, and imagine all those faithful worshippers who filled the pews before us.
Of course, there's always the possibility that they were as beset with doubts and questions - and felt as dwarfed by the building of valley church (designed to seat 500, til they thankfull removed the gallery, bringing it down to a mere 300) - as their contemporary counterparts.
But somehow as we remember our predecessors in faith, they seem to acquire a patina of holiness that may actually have only tenuous roots in reality.
We won't know the truth...and we don't actually need to.
All we know is that they kept those buildings weather proof, were, it seems, generous with both time and money (think of the number of commemorative gifts in any average English parish church!) - and handed on the buildings to the next generation, and the next....til they reached us.
Yes, there IS something to celebrate.
But there is, also, something to lament.
Neither congregation that I serve is huge or wealthy - and that, of course, means that taking our part in handing on the building in good repair can feel rather overwhelming.
Then there's the added bonus or burden of the particular artistic and architectural merit of Church on the Hill - which attracts visitors from far and wide and means that we really do have to take our responsibilities particularly seriously.
It's a lovely building, with amazing glass - but that in itself demands so much of our time and attention that it can be hard to hang on to the knowledge that the building exists to enable encounters with God.
The extraordinary fund-raising efforts, the welcome extended to endless parties of visitors, the beauty of the flower arrangements - all are pointless if we lose sight of that basic truth.
The church building exists for worship.
If caring for our buildings hinders our primary calling as Church - to love and serve God with all that is in us, and in loving and serving God to love and serve our neighbour - then we are in serious trouble.
If we can find money to maintain our building but not to give to those in need...
Well, you know all that.
So do I....but it's a constant challenge.
I want to celebrate these two church buildings as a symbol of God's presence in our community...
but I want to be able, too, to recognise God's presence in the lives of those who meet there week by week.
If I can't, if others can't - then, for all their beauty and all their heritage, those buildings are just a waste of space.
Let's pray that this year we can rightly celebrate the Church and the church both up hill and down dale.