I am not one for visiting old Churches when I am away, I love history and I love the Church but it’s not something I tend to do.
So it was unusual for @ratryn and I to decide to visit Coventry Cathedral when we were in the Midlands recently. A couple of Saints from the St Mary’s community had offered to look after all our little ones so we could make a few days of a trip up to a conference in Solihull.
Without any definite plan for the day we set out from our hotel and almost on a whim decided to go into Coventry to look at the Cathedral we’d heard mentioned so often before.
Intending to go in for a short while, to pray together and to look at this magnificent building – It was some three or more hours before we emerged again into the cold January day. It really is an amazing place, a clean modern building that has been built with a vision for enabling the worship of God in the best possible way. The true purpose of the building was clearly thought about and it has been designed with a focus on the worship of God. It truly is a place that fulfils the vision of the architect and the Cathedral chapter that commissioned it. I was hugely blessed by my time there and really did have a refreshed encounter with God.
It perhaps seems strange that I might suggest that an encounter with God in a cathedral was a surprise. But so often we think of these grand churches as tourist attractions, ancient monuments or museums rather than places of worship. A large number of people wish to visit our own St Mary’s Parish Church each year, but for many of them it is it’s interest as an old building that brings them visiting. Of course all our churches were built with one purpose in mind, with one vision – to enable people to worship God. Over the years as theological thought and Church practice developed different items were brought into the Church to further enable that worship. Pews were an 18th & 19th century edition to most Churches, where previously people had stood in worship or sat against a wall or pillar. Pulpits are also a largely 18th Century addition that were introduced as the Church moved away from the centrality of the communion and to the theological idea of Scripture and the word of God as the central focus of our worship. During the reformation the images from scripture and the murals of the saints that adorned many a parish church were white-washed over as part of the backlash against what many reformers thought of as the idolisation of the Roman Catholic Church.
As I’ve said before, the Church has constantly changed and developed over the centuries as it’s adapted the way it fulfils the vision of it’s foundation – to enable people to worship the one true God. This is the purpose of our Church building. It is its only purpose, the one thing that defines and differs it from any other ancient building. We lose that focus and vision at our peril.
As we continue to seek God afresh for his call on us as a Church community at St Mary’s we also seek him afresh for how we best use our building to worship and glorify Him. To make our worship space available for our whole village community, and how make the most of this fabulous resource in a way that focus all who visit on the God it was built to worship.