On Sunday morning, the bishop of Christchurch, New Zealand, was interviewed on the radio. She was talking about the cathedral there, which was so badly damaged in the earthquake that it’s not going to be feasible to rebuild it. People in Christchurch are heartbroken by this, as the cathedral was an iconic landmark and considered to be the heart and soul of the city. Asked about the future, the bishop said they will build a temporary place of worship, and in about ten years time they will probably build a new cathedral. The bishop said, “What we must now do is become the living cathedral. Christians must embody that which we had projected onto a symbol and we need to become the heart and soul of the city ourselves.”
Church buildings have taken up so much of my time and energy over the years, and can so easily pre-occupy the congregations that occupy them – the building possessing the congregation. A lot of this is because our church buildings are no longer appropriate and we need to re-order them if our mission is to be less tightly controlled by them. This, plus routine repairs, plus the management of lettings to raise money for the church, plus fund-raising for bigger building projects, all greases its way into becoming the main object of our attention.
Three cheers for Bishop Victoria Matthews. The church is not the building. It is the people. The building is a means to an end – and only one means among many by which Jesus will build his living church.