Weekly Update – 25/09

A couple of weeks ago I happened to be driving early one morning to Chichester for a work meeting.  It is not something I do very often nowadays and it brought back memories of those daily journeys I used to make driving from home down to work on the South Coast.  More often than not on those journeys I would listen to Radio 4 and “Thought for the Day”.   This particular day was no different from those in the past and I listened to “Thought for the Day”, which was presented by the vicar of a church in suburban London.  It was a reflection about the role of the modern-day church, specifically the church as a building, at a time of perceived decline in the relevance of the church within an increasingly secular society.

The speaker reflected on the poem “Church Going” by Phillip Larkin, who “was an agnostic and often wrote disobliging things about religion”. Indeed, throughout its verses the poem echoes a sense of decline in the relevance of the church.  Yet as the speaker noted, in the last verse of the poem Larkin dispels any idea of the church ever being without purpose or obsolete.  In the words of the last verse of the poem, the church is a “serious house on serious earth”.  Here the truth of human existence is “recognised” and celebrated. The church will “forever” bring out a “hunger” that cannot be discovered or satisfied through any other means.

For the vicar of the church in suburban London, the sense conveyed in the words of that last verse of Larkin’s poem was the reality of their own experience.  Churches are spaces where people can enter, and God can touch their lives.  Spaces where God can be with them in their joy or in their pain and a place where there is hope and redemption.  Despite our fear of the church being in decline, God will still be there to break through and touch people, whoever they are.  Our role is to look beyond our fears of decline and our initiatives to address our fears.  Our role is just to keep the doors open.

Listening to this “Thought for the Day” I recalled just a few days earlier I had put up the poster on the wall of our church with the “What3Words” word cloud and the three vision statements from our Parish Profile.  Our vision speaks about our church not just being a place of worship but being a gift to the community.  Being open and welcoming to all.  A place where people can encounter God and where there are opportunities for conversations about faith and God. It struck me that these three sentences from our Parish Profile are equally about “keeping the doors open” – not just physically but also spiritually and missionally. It is about creating spaces where people can enter and God can touch their lives.

In a few weeks’ time members of the PCC will be attending a Maidstone Deanery Roadshow.  The Maidstone Deanery is a gathering of all churches in the Maidstone area.   The Roadshow is an opportunity for PCC members from the churches in the Deanery to come together to learn and collaborate to share God’s message across our all our communities.  At the Roadshow there are workshops including two, (“Use of church buildings and creating new Christian communities” and “Including and welcoming children and young people”) which seem to focus on the same themes as we have our Parish Profile.  The one about use of church buildings seems to echo the thoughts of the suburban vicar on “Thought for the Day”.

Finally, please remember that our church is now open again throughout the day from Monday to Friday. To enter and be with God.