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Change – and decay ? and pews

It has always seemed obvious to me that things can rarely stand still. All the more obvious to me perhaps as I think over my mother’s long life and prepare a tribute for her.

None of us like change and as in the words of ” Abide With Me” change  is linked with decay – ” Change and decay in all around I see” – that is certainly a downer on the way things move on.

Change can be most passionately resisted when it comes to pews in churches. I have been hearing how folk in one of my previous parishes are up in arms about the proposal to remove the victorian pews and put in flexible seating.

Here at Little Paxton we have a similar  proposal and whilst I think all the regular folk who come are keen for more comfortable flexible seating ( in the form of bespoke oak chairs which will still display our kneelers) there are some village folk who are upset by it – and it is still their parish church even if their attendence is less frequent. This upsets me a lot as I like everyone in a community to be happy with what a church PCC is proposing  to do – and yes, I know that you cant please all the people all the time…

The sermon that I blogged last time was all about helping to make our church buildings ” Thin Places” -places where the presence of God can be encountered more easily. And here we meet with difficulty – because different people will have different ideas about what helps to make a church building a ” thin place” .

I think Im quite torn on all of this. I love the sight and touch and even smell of an ancient church building interior – especially  in summer when flowers have been in church for some days and there is an indecribable  scent that only seems to come from the interior of a church bedecked with folliage. I love the look and feel of  old pews and there is soemthing stable and secure about them – reminding us of all the people who have sat on them over the decades – even if they are reworked Georgian box pews.

And yet – where they totally take up all the space in a church, are inflexible and and in poor condition, where they inhibit what can happen in terms of mission and work with children and block the creation of any meeting area or relxed human fellowship – then  I do think we need to think again. Our buildings are not museums and if we dont make them more suitable for a variety of purposes they will decline and become redundant.

I never wanted my motherto grow old and die- Im sure we would all say we never want ourselves to grow older and loose our strength and abilities. But we cant resist change and so often good things come with new ways of doing things – and even older age has many benefits. Churches have always evolved over the centuries – if they hadnt we wouldnt have had the pews we have today because in medieval times churches were usually  without any seating excpet for those who were infirm.

Im sure Jesus’ disciples would have wanted to keep their Lord and Master alive and with them in bodily form – but there was another glorious plan that became obvious with the coming of the Holy Spirit. We have to let go soemtimes of the old way of doing things and put our yearning for security in a changing world not in pews or eachother or property but in Gods love and presence abiding with  us always. God is our rock and our salvation – not anything in the material world.

Yesterday I stopped by a field with a style and wndered  what lay over the horizon. I didnt have time to look – but with God’s strength beside and within us we can be brave and let go of the familiar and walk into the unknown.

June 18, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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