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1st Sunday: 0800 Holy Communion (BCP); 1030 Morning Worship (normally Holy Communion)2nd Sunday: 0800 Holy Communion (BCP); 1030 Sunday School-Church (all-age, modern, informal, multi-media,...); 1630 Celtic Communion (using Iona liturgies, multi-media and multi-sensory worship styles) 3rd Sunday: 0800 Holy Communion (BCP); 1030 Morning Worship (normally Holy Communion) 4th Sunday: 0800 Holy Communion (BCP); 1030 Morning Worship (normally Holy Communion) 5th Sunday: 0800 Holy Communion (BCP); 1030 Morning Prayer (eg Choral Mattins BCP) Midweek Services
Wednesday at 9.15am: School-Church - a "Fresh Expression" gathering of children, staff, parents, congregation to worship together
The building St James' Arnside is now over 150 years old! It is almost too obvious to say that the world St James’ Church finds itself located in today is a very different sort of world to the one of 1866. It is difficult to imagine what it must have been like to be someone like Thomas Rodick, or one of those first local Arnside people to worship actually in Arnside – a place of worship they petitioned for, raised the funds for, planned and finally built! No longer did they have to trek over to Beetham for all of their Rites of Passage and Sunday services. It must have been a wonderful thing. But today there is a multiplicity of choices and lifestyles for the village’s residents that features church worship (now in one of three buildings in this village, even further afield!) only as one of a great long list of things to do. A lot has happened in 150 years and today is a very different world. The ability to travel much more easily, the exponential burgeoning of technology, the many different modes of communication, easy access to many forms of media, the changing nature of family patterns with relatives spread all over the place, the shape of the working week which now includes Sundays, all collude to make the role of this well-loved church building a very different one to what it was when St James’ Church was consecrated as a place of worship 150 years ago.
And of course Arnside itself has grown, developed, adapted and embraced the challenges of an ever changing world hand in hand with St James’ Church. St James’ and Arnside have grown up together.
I love going into St James’ Church during the day and sensing a warm ‘vibe’ amidst the peace and quiet – a feeling that is tangible – that this place is not only loved and cherished, but prayed in, worshipped in – a focal point in many people’s quest for peace, love and God. There is a Visitors’ Book at the back that some people fill in. It is almost universal that they deeply appreciate this peaceful, beautifully kept, open place that is like a hidden gem at the top of Church Hill.
In this day and age, there is so much we take for granted. It is rather too easy to take the beauty of the countryside around us for granted when we live with it day by day. We need to remind ourselves that people actually come here on holiday, to where we live every day! Likewise, we have all been born and bred under the assumption that a local parish church building will have always been there and that we expect the church to be always there for us when we need it, rather like the BBC, schools and the NHS. Churches are great institutions. Surely churches are things that come with the national infrastructure! It is easy to assume that it will always continue to be so. But we must remember that church buildings only exist because of those who use it. Arnside’s people built St James’ 150 years ago. Those who worship in it today continue to look after it and we will hand it on to the next generation when that time comes!
In the days when Thomas Rodick was around in Arnside, I would imagine that when people were asked what the church was, they would point to the building – “That’s the Church”. Today we would probably do the same, yet nowadays there is also a growing understanding that goes right back to the earliest days of the church: to those first followers of Jesus Christ. The church is people. The church is us. Rather than go to church, we are the church. Because of this, the ‘job’ of the church is not just to provide a gathering place to encounter God in one single centralised place, but it is also to seek ways in which we all can encounter God - wherever we are, whatever we are doing within the warp and weft of everyday life.
Churches right across Cumbria are realising this together. The church communities of the whole county are waking up to the challenge that church buildings alone do not share God’s love, but in partnership with people; in the ways we live our lives. Cumbria’s churches are calling this initiative “God for All” and it is an exciting challenge. St James’ church building is part of it – a hub that brings people together, inspires and energises. Yet this challenge is all about the ways we live our lives when we are not in this church building! We gather together in order to go and live our lives for the remaining 167 hours in the week! It is everywhere where “God for All” should happen!
And so, on the 150th anniversary of this beautiful building of St James’ Church Arnside, we rightly celebrate this wonderful legacy that the stories these stones and windows continue to tell. Quite rightly do we seek to preserve this heritage, as well as crafting ever new and innovative ways in which the people of Arnside can find in St James’ a place where they can encounter God. But only so that the people of St James’ and Arnside can join together within our local communities, all of us, living and sharing within the networks, groups and neighbourhoods that makes up this village today, meeting and being surprised by God in all sorts of people and in all sorts of ways. To be united and caring for each other, like a great big Arnside family is a wonderful vision to have, as we embark on the next 150 years of this village’s life.
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