Yesterday the EBA got the keys to the house in which we will be living next month. I joined a couple of people from the EBA to look around so we could work out what needs to be done. A couple of things struck me (not falling masonry – the house is sound!).
One was how different the house looked when there was no furniture in it. When we looked around it was a home: now it is a house (until we move in and it becomes a home again – I’m really looking forward to that).
A second thought was how there are lots of things to learn. There is a different timer / controller for the heating and hot water. There is an alarm system but no code, so that will have to be reset. There are appliances in the kitchen that are different to the ones we currently have. And there are new neighbours to meet (I met our immediate neighbours yesterday and they seem lovely).
A third thought was how much grubbier the house looked than when we had looked around. I am sure that if anything it’s cleaner than then, but without furniture, without pictures on the walls, without people, without anything to distract our eyes, the children’s fingermarks on the walls, pen marks on the carpet, paintwork that has been scratched all become much more obvious.
And I guess (at the risk of being cheesy) church is a lot like that. Church premises are very different without the people in them. They are simply buildings but when the people are there they take on a different character – the church is the people but somehow the premises take on the character of those God-filled people.
If you are new to a church (or you don’t normally go to church) there’s an awful lot to learn. You don’t know any of the traditions that most people know (which can lead to standing up at the wrong time – embarrassing!). You don’t know any of the people and (if they don’t speak to you or welcome you) can feel very awkward. You don’t feel familiar with anything. But remarkably (well actually not at all if you think about it) it is also possible to get past those things very quickly because we all worship the same God, follow the same Jesus of Nazareth and are filled with the same Spirit.
And churches are grubby too. I don’t mean premises that need sprucing up. We don’t like to think of ourselves like that but churches are made up of imperfect people. Yes we are people filled with God’s Spirit. But we’re not perfect. We might pretend that we are. We might like to delude ourselves that we are. But we are not. And in my opinion churches that are more at ease with the grubby fingermarks and are ‘lived in’ are much easier to feel part of than those that seek to hide it all because I am not perfect either. I wouldn’t want to go to a perfect church, I’d spoil it!
Be blessed, be a blessing