What is church?
During lockdown when public buildings/places of worship were inaccessible, the question arose ‘does that mean that churches are really closed’? Many churches used the slogan “church is not closed, only the building is” on their noticeboards and I particularly liked the following cartoon possibly depicting another dimension to the situation:
It brings to the fore the meaning of the word ‘church’. A dictionary definition would refer to it as: “a building for public Christian worship” or “public worship of God in such a building”.
Is ‘church’ a place, (ie a noun) or could it be more accurately described as a verb (to ‘do’ church)? Do we need a building to ‘do’ church? Clearly in the early Christian church it appears that meetings were more likely to take place in people’s homes and recently, as a result of the lockdown almost all churches have continued to run services ‘virtually’ either by live streaming or pre-recording worship. This is not to mention the regular pastoral phone calls which are the life blood keeping the community connected and ensuring that people know they are loved and cared for. After all, Jesus himself said that this is how we were to show the world that we were his disciples: by how we love one-another.
With it has come a greater informality, and arguably a greater accessibility with a recent Guardian article suggesting that up to a fifth of people currently accessing church services have never before been inside a church. Rather than hinder church attendance, the lockdown seems to have revitilized the church into being creative with how ‘church’ is done and reaching more people. Rather than being an irrelevant, social add-on that people can do without, it has become the focal point for many people’s week where they catch up with neighbours, participate in something transcendent, hear an encouraging word and are given hope that their God loves them and has not forsaken them.
At St John’s we are still live-streaming our 1030 service to church members who are unable to join us in person. We are aware that members of the community do not have the facilities to access live streaming and so we also provide some pre-recorded services. If you would like to access any of our services, why not find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/St-Johns-Broadbridge-Heath-492043440860334/ or check out our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmxZSTIbyxGhuxJ6on4C0IA?view_as=subscriber.
God bless you
Rev. Mark Lavender (vicar)