Church Matter Feb. 2020

Church Matters – February 2020 How hard do we find it to cross the threshold of the Church? This is a question that works both ways. For those who are not regular Church goers it can be difficult to step across the threshold and enter a Church building – for many and varied reasons. And for those who do regularly attend Church services it is not always easy to take the things which they find so valuable within across the threshold and out of the building. If the Church is to have any relevance in society then this sense of division – of there being a visible or invisible barrier between the worlds inside and outside of Church – needs to be broken down. When Jesus walked this earth, even before there were such things as Church buildings, he was aware of this potential problem. In the Sermon on the Mount he told his disciples to “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Followers of Jesus were not to hide their light under a bowl, they were to let it shine for all to see. Unless light is allowed to shine out it cannot achieve its function – which is to lighten dark places. So, for those of you who do regularly go to Church, don’t keep the light you find there to yourselves, but share it with the world outside; by what you do, how you act and what you say. There is a danger, though, that our Church buildings themselves can appear to be dark places. The following is a set of lyrics from a song by the secular group Snow Patrol:- Slowly the day breaks apart in our hands And soft hallelujahs flow in from the church The one on the corner you said frightened you It was too dark and too large to find yourself in. (from ‘The Lighting Strike’ on the album ‘A Hundred Million Suns’) Of course this is only a song lyric and we cannot read too much into it. However, returning to our old Church in London over New Year reminded me what a transformation was made to that building when the solid wood entrance doors were replaced with fully glazed doors. What happened inside the building was no longer a mystery and to step across the threshold was not to step into the unknown. And on dark winter evenings the warm glow of light spilling out from within issued an unspoken welcome. Now this sort of action isn’t suitable for all Churches – particularly our older historic buildings. But the principle of our Churches being filled with light, and warmth, does apply. It’s all very well us trying to save energy, but if in doing so we make our buildings dark and cold then no-one will wish to enter and find the true light within. And if you are amongst those who rarely enters a Church building, then please don’t wait until the next Christening, Wedding or Funeral to go again. Ask someone you know who does go to give you a tour round their Church, and discover what you are missing. Churches are places where God can be encountered and where the light of Jesus shines. They are almost always places filled too with a sense of peace – a commodity we can all value. I wish you light and peace during this winter month. Keith Browne