Our Church often seems very empty in lockdown. Rarely are there flickering candles now, people are not coming in and out, our 5pm worship – so much a feature of our Church takes place on line now. The building is cold.
Yet sometimes when I come in and sit quietly I sense the company of worshippers, past and present. The statues and windows surround with colour and give a glimpse of other realities. Closed, or not closed, our church stands in our community as a sign of the spiritual as a sign that God, in someway, dwells among us.
When children from the schools visit I often stop them at the back of church and invite them to stand in silence and look forward to the altar and then to look up. Most times when they look up there are some cries of amazement. The ceiling is huge and high up. The feeling of space and wonder is there when one sits alone too, and can almost be overwhelming.
The Bishop of Manchester has recently remarked that large Victorian churches can be a problem. He should know, his diocese has a great number of them! They need a lot of care – and heating. I’m sure the Bishop is right – especially when the churches are underused, no longer used, or in the ‘wrong’ location. Two churches where I was a priest were ancient, medieval, churches. They were much smaller and in many ways more ‘serviceable.’ In fact at one a churchwarden used to clear the church gutters himself and climb up the roof to replace a slate. I can’t imagine the St Chrysostom’s churchwardens doing that!
Nevertheless, as I sat in church yesterday, waiting and being still, I was grateful for the huge space which surrounded me. I was thankful that I could sense the holiness, and that I could ‘wonder’ in this special – and spacious – place.
Later words from the Psalm at evening prayer stood out for me “We went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.” (Psalm 66.12)
This is the second entry in Fr Ian’s ‘2021 Lockdown diary.’