Faith Focus: Return to the Houses of God

Alan Sharp

Alan Sharp - Credit: Archant

At last we can come back, we can come home. For four months all places of worship, from our mighty Cathedral to the tiniest village chapel, had to be locked up. For much of that time not even the clergy were allowed to enter. 

And now, at last, and subject to certain restrictions, we are being allowed back to our ‘special places’ to worship, to say our prayers, to take communion, pretty well everything we used to do, so long as we don’t sing hymns.

I was at a service in Guildford Cathedral shortly after it was consecrated. The bishop was preaching and he made the point that if you go into one of our old established cathedrals, like our own St Albans Abbey, you are aware that the very walls of the building are steeped in centuries of prayers of the faithful, and that it was one of the jobs of those of us in that congregation to begin that process at Guildford. 

For too long we have tried to worship from our homes, by Zoom or live streaming. It has not been easy. There have been many distractions. We find we are just watching the service, rather than fully participating. Worship is in danger of becoming a spectator sport.

So it is good that at last we can return to our churches, that at last anyone can enter the building, to reflect that we are in the presence of God. We can sit or kneel quietly and tell ourselves: “Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One, is here.”

In an Old Testament story, Jacob is fleeing from his brother’s anger. He reaches Bethel, later to become a famous centre for worship. He has a dream in which he sees God standing by his side. Jacob cries, “Truly the Lord is in this place. This is none other than the House of God, and this is the Gate of Heaven.”

Take advantage of our open churches. May those places we regard as our ‘House of God’ never again be locked to keep us out of our ‘Gate of Heaven’.

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Alan Sharp is a Methodist lay preacher and a member of both Marlborough Road Methodist Church, St Albans, and St Mary’s Church, Marshalswick