This evening I joined with others to mark the reopening of St Petrock’s Church in Central Exeter and we held a dedication service for the refurbished church, the bell-ringing centre and the recreated Chapel for Justice, Peace and Creation.
St Petrock’s was one of the many early medieval churches within the walls of the city of Exeter. It served a small but prosperous community of merchants but was also renowned for its chartable concern for the city’s poor. The interior has been described as one of the most confusing in any church in England. The decision was taken to physically divide the church to make smaller area for church use, with the remainder being leased to the St Petrock’s (Exeter) Ltd. Charity which provides advice and support for homeless people.
It prompts the question – what is a church building for when it is dedicated?
First and foremost it is a place of worship – it is a place for us to encounter God – a thin place where we can know how deep and wide is God’s love for us in Christ Jesus.
But churches have always had other uses apart from worship. It is a place of community activity.
Churches are also places of pilgrimage. Places where people come – maybe for other reasons than God – history groups, support groups and rites of passage and they should be places that seek to draw people along the way to encounter the love of God.
But a church is not a building. It is made up of living stones people who live to worship and glorify God. A church is not a building. It is a community of people, a place where relationships are restored, healing and wholeness received, hope and possibility is nurtured, life and faith renewed – and for all people in such a way that all may ‘have life’, and in Christ, ‘have it to the full’.
A church is not the building – we are the church the people of God. People exist to know God, be known by him and to bring others into that place where they may also be know God and be known by him and know that love which supposes all understanding we are people of praise. A ‘touching place’ that is a contact point to join and continue the journey of faith, love and life that draws us all to the heart of God’s love and purposes as pilgrim people.
The refurbishment of St Petrcock’s enables the people of God to worship, create community and be a people of The Way. As such it has proved a successful project.
Lord’s Prayer version by Martyn Goss
Creator God – maker and shaper of
all that is, seen and unseen;
You are in the expanse and depth
of Creation, and in the processes
that make life possible.
Yet we are distracted by the gods
we make ourselves and our
lives become fractured and fragmented.
In our brokenness we disturb the
Earth’s capacity to hold us.
Instead we find climate uncertainty
and global injustice.
Call us back from the brink.
Help us to choose love not fear,
to change ourselves and not the planet;
to act justly for the sake of the vulnerable;
and to make a difference
today for life tomorrow.
In your name – Maker, Son and Spirit. Amen