What does the word ‘Church’ mean to you?
What does the word ‘Church’ mean to you? If we were to play a word association game and I said 'church', what would you say? Would you say 'building'? I reckon most of us would. How many would say 'people'?
This has been on my mind a bit recently as one of the churches I work in is needing a new roof. The old one has done pretty well, lasting over 200 years, but now it's struggling to do the job. Fund raising looms, as does filling in lots of application forms for grants, all in the hope that we might literally 'keep the roof over our heads'! This is the sort of thing they don't train you for at minister school, and yet it's an important part of the job. Church buildings mean more than just convenient places of worship. They can be at the heart of a community, and often the only public building left after the school, the shop and the pub have closed. Generations have been baptised, married and then buried in or around them. They hold a special place in people's hearts, church goers or not. And so it's easy to see why they hold such power.
But it's also easy to then forget what church is all about, and think of it as a building. Peter talks of 'living stones': “Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood” 1Peter 2:4-5, NRSV). That's what church really is: a group of people, living stones, being built up into something. Growing together to be a place where love is found and God is worshipped, all centred around the corner stone, Jesus.
Our buildings are often beautiful and definitely worth preserving, but church is so much more than a building. It's a place of belonging and growing that can happen when people come together and Jesus is there in their midst, and that can happen anywhere. So, the next time you're on your travels and you see a pretty church somewhere, spare a thought for whoever has the job of keeping the roof on it.
But spare a thought, too, for the group of people who gather there. Be they just 10 or over 100, they are the living stones, the real church, people who want to be built into something more than just themselves and willing to be a part of a movement of love. Maybe you're already a living stone, or maybe you like the idea of being one? If so, pop in and say hello - there's always room for another. Although you might want to check the roof is OK first!
Rev. Gordon Strang
Cromdale & Advie, Dulnain Bridge and Grantown on Spey (Inverallan)