Thanks so much to people for writing with feedback on last week’s newsletter. Lloyd Alstad made an interesting comment, which I think is a good balance to what I wrote.
“As much as our church “building” may make a statement about our view of God, and the gospel also, I do wonder if referring to the building as the “House of God” or the “house of the Lord” might distract from the New Testament teaching that the congregation is the house or temple of the Lord.”
I would like to thank Lloyd for his input. Lloyd and I were at New Pastors Orientation together I believe.
Before I get into some of the promises made in last week’s newsletter, there are a couple other churches I would like to mention.
First Baptist Lethbridge, AB has an interesting and ancient symbolic set up of their windows. The glass near the back of the sanctuary is quite dark and it progressively becomes lighter, brighter and more transparent, until you get to the front, where it is completely clear to allow the light in. It is symbolic of darkness becoming light, taking it’s queue from the chaos before God created the light of the new world He made, building also on the meaning of the death of Christ, waiting for the resurrection and the clarity, light and glory of Christ’s resurrection. You will understand the various metaphors at work.
One of our churches in British Columbia (I am not sure they would fully appreciate the meaning of what I am about to share, so I won’t mention who they are) has a entrance / reception / fellowship hall that is in the round with what looks like an opening in the ceiling. The raised ceiling has a heightened centre and faux circle that looks like a chimney in a First Nations home. It is an example of culturally friendly architecture that does not compromise the faith.
New Life in Duncan, BC and West Point Grey in Vancouver, BC have wonderful areas where people can be welcomed, where they can fellowship and mill around together. These areas used to be called a narthex, but are not always recognized as such in churches not of our tradition. They were areas where people would assemble. Sometimes in previous years in our own tradition the pastor and choir would assemble before they processed to the front. Please link in with Jill Schuler (nee Cardwell) regarding the artists network for new possibilities and ideas to celebrate the coming together of the people of God as the body of Christ in a multitude of wonderful ways.
I was once in a church in Central Canada, in downtown Ottawa. It was dark and unwelcoming. In the difficult place I found myself in spiritually I slipped out after half an hour. Feeling a little lost and wanting to sing the praises of God, celebrate communion, and be prayed for, I knew of a little church 4 blocks away. I slipped in near the end of the service. It was an evangelical church, well known for its Alpha programme. I slipped in 15 minutes before the end of the service, and needless to say, all the things I had longed for came to me as a gift in those moments. Aesthetically it was a warm place, but it was the people that prayed for me, the way I was greeted, and the presence of God that made the difference. Some of the things that Lloyd referred to.
There are wonderful stories of the cities of refuge in the Old Testament and churches of refuge in many ancient cities including Durham Cathedral in Durham, England. (It must be noted that the door knocker, used to alert the church that someone in need of refuge was needing attention, has over the years been stolen several times, and a crude replica replaces it. Needless to say, I digress).
There has also been a movement where churches have become sanctuaries for those in the refugee process. I have always wondered and imagined what it would be like if we not only used the word “sanctuary” in its common meaning of gathering for worship, but also used our church buildings as true sanctuary for those in need. What would it be like if we had our church buildings inspected for safety and cleanliness and placed a sign outside the building for all to see, that this was a place of sanctuary, a refuge in time of trouble, need, natural disaster or civic discord? We talked about the Clive church in AB last week being just that. We don’t have to be purpose built to do that. We can retro fit to embrace that call of Jesus to our neighbour.
We did some work around disaster relief and partnerships a few years ago at the CBWC. Some of the thoughts here were contained in that work. It would be very interesting for us to be able to say to the communities around our churches that we are not only a place of refuge in time of trouble, but a place of welcome, hospitality and safety the whole year through. As Rodney Stark, the American sociologist and historian from Baylor, has said; “Christianity grew when people joined the community, then through proclamation of the word and the power of the Spirit, they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and then grew as they became disciples of Christ.”
I think that’s enough for today and I thank you for your willingness to read and to share in these matters.