Vicar's Letter for June - Being an Open Church
You may remember that I spoke at the APCM about my desire to have the church open for a portion of the week. I’m writing this in early May - hopefully by now it’s well underway. This is something that the PCC has discussed and supports but I wanted to share with you why I think it’s important.
How many people turn up and find our church locked when they’re looking for a quiet space, somewhere to pray, or somewhere they or their family have a connection with? Over the past 18 months I’ve bumped into lots of people when I’ve happened to be coming or going from church who just want to come in. On those occasions I’ve been able to open the church for them – but how many times might this have happened when no-one’s been around?
We have a real treasure of a church. A stunningly beautiful building which is one of the oldest in Southend, a place where countless people from the local community feel some kind of connection, and where there is a real sense of God’s presence. Not only that, but throughout the year the church is decorated with some really wonderful flower displays.
Ultimately – though we are each intimately connected with it – it’s neither my church, nor your church, nor even our church. The purpose of this building is to be a centre of worship in our community – it’s for ‘those outside’ as much as for us. It’s not like a stately home which is carefully preserved by the National Trust, with visitors safely shepherded for a few hours a day, and then dutifully locked up with dust covers to prevent damage. It’s a place where people in our community can come not just to marvel at the building, but to meet a God who is real, and living, and powerful.
Of course it’s important to do this in a way that’s safe and secure – we need to balance openness with being good stewards of this building. However, our insurers like a church to be open. The best security a church can have is to be regularly used – and often the most significant damage is caused when they are locked and people are trying to get in. We’ll make sure that we take sensible steps like ensuring that anything of value is locked away. We are hoping that people from the church will be able to support this by spending time here too – not just to check everything’s ok, but also to be a welcoming presence, and spend some time in prayer yourselves.
Fundamentally, what does a locked church say about our faith? Maybe it says that it’s something for an hour on a Sunday morning, that’s primarily for ‘those inside’. But what does an open church say? It says that here is something for you too.
With every blessing,