Church is more than just a building

 1 April 2021 |

As you will be aware the vast majority of churches of all denominations have been closed for public worship for some time. It is only now that with the vaccination programme in full swing that we ae starting to see a loosening of the various restrictions.

In the North Downs cluster of URC churches, Christchurch Walton on the Hill has probably the lowest membership but having conducted a Risk Assessment they decided that they could re-open for worship on Sunday 7 March. I was honoured to be invited to join them and lead a worship service. Having exchanged a number of emails and telephone calls I finally had the service planned. The focus was to be that the temple of God is not a building rather the temples that are God-like within us.

Next thought was where is the church, so Yvonne and I had a quick advance trip and found the lovely village with its outwardly rather austere looking church.

On the appointed day I arrived and was greeted by Janet and her husband Robert and later Sheila Brotherwood who is currently their only serving Elder. The church lacks the grandeur of other places I have been to but there was a feeling of warmth and fellowship that isn’t always evident. The service was preceded with a presentation to their former Minister and his wife and no pressure on me, but they were staying for the full service. It’s often sad saying farewell but there was a warmth and empathy shown by all present.

Although singing is not permitted in church, I had nonetheless selected some hymns that with the Bluetooth technology could be murmured or muttered along to a soundtrack The service proceeded as planned and even if I say so some funny lines worked to support the message that while location is important in providing somewhere to worship it is what is in our hearts and minds that will fulfil Gods promise to us and ours to Him.
We all wore face coverings and kept our distances by staying at 2 metres apart. It would have been nice to have shared a cup of tea or coffee, but I hope the sharing of worship more than compensated for that missing element.

Christchurch lacks some of the technical capabilities of other churches so were unable to join the cluster service on 21 March, but I agreed that as part of the original 2021 Pulpit Exchange I would fulfil the commitment to again lead their worship. The focus was that life on earth is a cycle of loss and renewal, the Christian journey through what we refer to as life consists of repentance and restoration. Life is both gift and burden.

Its not easy for members of churches to join other churches to share acts of worship but I would highly recommend that if you have the opportunity, grab it with both hands. At the end of the service at Christchurch we were made aware that for some time they have used the following to close their worship and I think it sums up a feeling that I took away from their fellowship.

God be with you till we meet again;
By His counsels guide, uphold you,
With His sheep securely fold you;
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again!
When life’s perils thick confound you,
Put His arms unfailing round you;
God be with you till we meet again!

Till we meet, till we meet,
Till we meet at Jesus’ feet;
Till we meet, till we meet,
God be with you till we meet again

John Sinclair