Paxtonvic’s Blog

Just another weblog

St James Church, Little Paxton – The Church For Tomorrow Project

This morning Little Paxton Church launched their Church For Tomorrow Project – CHUFT for short. Here is the homily I gave before the presentation was made. I must admit that I heard the opening joke at the Ely Diocesan Synod meeting yesterday – but I  thought  it rather appropriate!

“Someone said to me recently that they hadn’t heard a joke from me for a while.

They are quite right – it is high time I delivered one – and happily it’s quite appropriate for today.

Two men were out on a boat when a storm blew up. It was a pretty bad storm, but luckily they were washed up on a little island in the middle of nowhere – safe but very sorry for themselves.

The first man, Tom,  said to his companion  called  Dick  “ This is dreadful. We have nothing to eat. We have no resources whatsoever. No-one will ever find us”

“ Don’t worry” said Dick  “ I’m a Christian – all will be well”

“ I don’t know what good that will do” said Tom – “ we are cut off from shops and we have no food  and no radio”

“ Don’t worry” said Dick “ Honestly, I’m a multi-  millionaire – all will be well”

“ Huh” said Tom “ What good will all your money do us out here? I tell you – we are doomed!”

“ I promise you we shall be okay” Dick insisted “ I know my church treasurer will find me” .

St Teresa  of Avila  the 16th century Spanish mystic wrote:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

St. Paul teaches that all baptized Christians make up the mystical Body of Christ. It is our hands that perform His work when we care for one another at home, in our workplaces, in our church communities.

It is our lips that proclaim His message when we offer kind and encouraging words to each other.  Christ uses our eyes to see the needs of our brothers and sisters. He uses our feet to walk upon the earth and carry on His mission day by day.

St. Teresa of Avila composed her poem on this very theme –  It’s a neat concept and makes me feel honored that The Lord would use my simple body  and abilities to carry on His work.

The question is for every generation of Christians in every place – how are we to be Christ’s body in the communities where we live and work? What form should our endeavors take?

Mission simply means “ sending out “ –  – from the Latin word “ to send out”  – mittere giving us the word mission.

So – what form should our sending out take? We are not charged to keep our faith to ourselves – cosy as that can feel. We are called to be out there engaging with people, being the Body of Christ in every day situations and making a  positive difference.

Okay Annette – we go along with all that – not that it is easy or that we always know what we should be doing – but it sounds right. And let’s be honest many of you in all sorts of ways are very involved in the life of the local community or involved with many other aspects of life beyond this parish.  That’s all well and good – being Christ body in the life of the world as we experience it.

So – why are proposing to raise and spend £350,000 on a project which is all to do with our church building and altering its fabric?  That’s rather different  surely to being  “sent out “ – it sounds more like staying in and pouring money into bricks and mortar and doing our own thing in a warm and comfortable environment.

Good point. So this is where I can only be passionate about my own views. Whether we like it or not we are custodians of an ancient building – a building which to me isn’t just bricks and mortar but is a hallowed place – a place  and space made special by centuries of prayer and praise. It’s is a place which our forebears have lovingly expanded and looked after. A place where thousands have come for all different reasons in different times and  different seasons.

LP church in sunlight aug 25th 09 2

There are 16,000 parish churches in England alone and 43 cathedrals. They comprise our oldest buildings and simply from a heritage point of view are priceless. Many are 900  years old – some like GP nearly 1000 years old and are echoes of Saxon  and Norman times.  They have constantly evolved over the years .

In medieval times, the nave was very much the place of the people – the local meeting hall where the business of the time was conducted. There were no pews, just a few seats along the wall for the infirm. It offered flexible space for a population closely linked with the daily life and prayer of the church. The chancel and sanctuary were the sacred  places inhabited by the priests and deacons – where mass was said and the host blessed. The two areas of the church – nave and chancel were separated by a rood screen – most now long since taken down.

Church history tells us that parish churches have always evolved. When the Victorians got to grips with our parish churches as populations escalated and people had to be seated to listen to hour long sermons, it seemed sensible to build pews – rows and rows of them in neat lines where people could sit still and listen – in an appropriate way – children included. In some churches Georgian box pews had been erected a hundred years before the Victorians to keep folk warm and again seated for long sermons. Many of the Victorian pews were adapted from the Georgian box pews.   The nave was no longer the community meeting place as parish halls and reading rooms were built by the well healed patrons of villages and towns. Hence we inherit the Victorians love of order and compact seating space – even if it is rather uncomfortable.

Well, we aren’t medieval people. We aren’t Victorians. We are 21st century people looking to be how we can best be the body of Christ in these contemporary times.

And more and more now church communities are seeking to be the body of Christ  out in their communities but also of course within the walls of their medieval buildings.

There is a great move towards adapting churches so that not only sacred worship takes place as it always has done – but these buildings are truly accessible and open to the whole community.

The MAProgress  updates which are being collated by the Diocese of Ely  and which will be exhibited on November 21st at the Cathedral when the Archbishop of York visits, clearly show that many parish churches already have or are embarking on re-ordering.  Diddington finished their project in September and Great Paxton’s should be completed at the end of November.

We go out – yes, but we earnestly want people to come into a building which is flexible, warm, friendly and – radical talk – but OPEN.  We aren’t alone still in keeping our church closed here most of the time – and naturally we would have  worries about having it unlocked all day. But what image does a constantly locked church give out? One of the strengths of the church community at Diddington – small as it is, is that the church is open 24/7.

So – Church for Tomorrow is all about looking to making our church far more accessible so that more people come in for whatever reason and catch something of Gods saving love in Christ by doing so. And meet, when they come in, people who have clearly something special about them – Christ dwelling in their hearts. Faith it is often said, is caught and not taught. Whether we are engaging with people out of the building or inside it – we are here to be speaking Christ’s words to them and  radiating outwards his love.

The PCC  have worked very hard over these last months to create the CHUFT project – to offer a church building where we can truly be Christ’s body day by day – not just on a Sunday for an hour or so. A place where people feel welcomed and loved and safe. A place where children especially feel welcomed and a space where they can be offered creative activities and the Christian faith in an engaging way.

A place where people  with disabilities of any kind feel comfortable. A place where those who are hurting find comfort. A place where most days – if not every day, people may come quietly and pray.  A place where morning and evening prayer may be said sometimes without those gathered feeling very cold. A place where we can enjoy the arts and the heritage of the village. A place where we enjoy each others company and share fellowship and food. A church where people come and find nourishment to help them then go out into the world in mission. There are so many things a church building can be and represent. We are now embarking on a very brave project to make all these things come true.

Before I finish, I must make a reality check and say that whilst it is really good that Great Paxton and Diddington have been able to make their dreams come true, their projects have been on a much smaller scale than our CHUFT proposals – we really are going for some major improvements which I think is only right for a church in a community set to grow to 4,000 plus with new housing developments.

May God Bless our efforts and guide us in the ways he would have us go.


You can read all about the CHUFT project on:

If anyone would like to make a donation to the project, please e-mail Mr Peter Hagger on:

October 25, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. It is a treat to have been able to ready your homily Annette from the comfort of my parent’s sitting room in Edinburgh. I was sorry I couldn’t be there this morning but my thoughts and prayers were with you in St James.

    Comment by Nick | October 25, 2009 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: