Today I went into St Mary’s Church for the first time since 15th March. As I write this letter, today is the first day the church has been re-opened. St Mary’s Church as we know it was built in the 13th Century, and since then has had a few additions, such as the west tower, the stair turret and the four pinnacles. Despite much damage through a lightning strike in 1624, the church was rebuilt and survives to this day. Although some modernisation has taken place to provide for a toilet, new heating and lighting, nd to enable refreshments to be served, the church has changed little over the centuries.
As I have reflected on this, there is a real paradox; so little has changed with the building, but so much has changed for people’s lives. Generations of people have worshipped in St Mary’s church. There have been weddings, baptisms, and funerals, and over the centuries people have found comfort as they visited the church for private prayer or corporate worship. The church has provided a place of sanctuary for people during times of flooding, famine, plague, prosperity, happiness and celebration – and for us now, can be a place of peace and reflection.
Although, like St Luke’s and other churches in the area, the church has been closed during lockdown, the building has remained as a solid reminder of God’s presence at the heart of the community. Our lives have changed radically over the last few months while the church has remained unchanged, and until it is safe to attend services in church, you will notice that Christine Roberts and Simon have made the interior of St Mary’s as safe as possible for private prayer. I am encouraged by God’s promise in Deuteronomy 31:6, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you”, echoed by Jesus in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. So as we begin to ease out of lockdown, let’s draw on the certainty of things that remain unchanged as we think about how we want to create a different way of living based on all that we have learned through this time.
May each of us know God’s presence at work in our lives, Bill