We often refer to places as 'Sacred Space' - and one of those places is church. Not that a church building is the only sacred space in our lives, but in my own journey some of the churches I have ministered in have themselves been very special places to me. For some it has been about the building itself - the feel of the building, particularly when it feels like a place has been 'prayed in' - it almost feels as though the stones and wood have absorbed years of prayers. For others it has been the community that is so closely linked with the building. Usually it's a mix of both.
I am not one who thinks we should 'do away' with the churches which are part of the built heritage passed on by our forebears in faith. I do believe, at heart, that Church is the community not the building, I also value the love, the dedication, the commitment that has gone into the building of our churches, and the sense of being able to gather in community in a place which is dedicated for that purpose. There may come a time when many of our church buildings are repurposed, there is a calling for us all do be and do 'church beyond our walls', but I believe at this time we are called to welcome, to invite people into these sacred spaces which, I am convinced, are more a blessing than a curse!
The Churches in this post are places I have ministered and felt a particular spiritual connection with - I didn't have pictures of my own, so searched the internet for them, and realized that most pictures of churches are pictures of empty churches. Also I didn't include all of the churches I have been blessed in ministering to as there are so many pictures of empty churches that even a lover of these spaces can cope with in one go (I have served in about fifty churches over the years, as priest, and as Rural Dean). I was pleased that the pictures I have for St John's tend to be ones with people in, and I am grateful both for the feel of our own sacred space here, and the community that reminds me constantly 'God is here!'
How dear to me is your dwelling, *
O Lord of hosts!
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord; *
my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.
The sparrow has found her a house *
and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;
by the side of your altars, O Lord of hosts, *
my Sovereign and my God.
Happy are they who dwell in your house! *
They will always be praising you.
Happy are the people whose strength is in you, *
whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way!
Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs, *
for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.
They will climb from height to height, *
and you, the God of gods, will reveal yourself in Zion.
Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; *
hearken, O God of Jacob.
Behold our defender, O God; *
and look upon the face of your anointed.
For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, *
and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God
than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For you, Lord God, are both sun and shield; *
you will give grace and glory;
no good thing will you withhold, O Lord, *
from those who walk with integrity.
O Lord of hosts, *
happy are they who put their trust in you!
All Saints Parish Church, Hampton, Diocese of London, England
St Michael's Parish Church, Shute, Devon, Diocese of Exeter, England
St John the Divine All Soul's Commemoration
St John the Divine Pride Eucharist, Bp Logan, Celebrant, Rev Patrick Sibley, Deacon, Archdeacon Alastair Singh-McCollum, Assistant at the Liturgy