Where is the Church?
Ask different people around the community, where is the Church? and I am sure you will receive at least these four answers (I would be interested to hear of any other answers)
- I don’t know
- Very specific geographical directions of the nearest Church building
- The Church is the people
With the church buildings being closed for public worship, I am sure many of you have asked yourselves the same question, especially if you have found it difficult to engage in any of the ways we have tried to adapt.
Before lockdown I would have answered that the church is the body of Christ, all the believers brought together through faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 12) without a big focus on the buildings and I do still believe this to be the case, however as a person with a heart for pioneer mission and fresh expressions of church, I have been taken by surprise how the closure of our church buildings has rocked me to the core, and what this has meant for us as a worshipping community.
As a parish we have tried hard to adapt to the circumstances that we have found ourselves in. We have had online worship, reflections, news sheets, Zoom calls, socially distanced visits, Easter cards, the vision project and prayer books delivered to our homes, yet none of this comes close to when we gather together in person for fellowship and worship.
This time of lockdown has made me question my faith, and discipleship. There has been tears, laughter, pruning and growth and in the midst of all of this my heart has yearned to be with you all, to share with you, to listen and walk through this together.
On Tuesday 23rd June we were able to open Holy Cross again for 1 hour of private prayer and reflection, this is important and it is a real blessing to be able to sit in that sacred space once again, and Friday 26th St Andrews Church was opened too for private prayer. On the same day that Holy Cross was opened Boris Johnson announced the next stage of the lifting of lockdown, that Churches will soon be able to open again for public worship, subject to social distancing and risk assessments etc. This is indeed an answer to prayer but will need to be planned very carefully to ensure the safety of all, and we know with certainty this will be done.
These changes have brought about much rejoicing, quite rightly so, but I still have this niggly question in my mind “where is the church?” I believe the answer is where the people of God are gathered, doing life together. Our sacred spaces are a real blessing to us and give us that space to come together in a traditional way, but I feel that God is calling us to more, not instead of, but as well as!
Over the last few days, I have shared a glimpse of my faith in lockdown journey (so far), I still have much to ponder and pray upon from what has been, as I am sure you will have too for your own journeys and I would encourage you to do so. There is power in testimonies, so I ask for you to share them with each other as you feel led, use them to build each other up, encourage and strengthen us all as the church the body of Christ.
I want to use this last reflection as a call to prayer, for our church family to come together as the body of Christ to pray for revival in our community, to stand up and be seen but not for who we are, but for who we are in Christ.
Heavenly Father as we prepare to open the church buildings again, we ask for you to be with us all. We ask for you to give vision to us and encourage us to step out in faith as we serve you. We know that we each have gifts, and we pray that we will recognise these and use them for your glory. Lord as we pray we ask ourselves where is the church, or where should it be, we ask for you to show us guide us and provide for us as we seek to reach out, so that as your disciples we can shine your light in to dark places.
In Jesus name we pray