A question from an All Saints’ School pupil
It was asked about our church building but is the church a building? The word translated as “church” in the Bible is ekklesia which refers to an assembly of people, a people called out. The roots of the word ekklesia are from Athens’ ancient democratic system. The male citizens assembled in an ekklesia where the business of governing the city was debated. If you failed to attend, slaves with rags soaked in red dye could brand you. Thus everyone knew, by your shame-fully stained toga, that you failed in your democratic duties.
The church is a people gathered for worship, prayer, reflection and fellowship. The church building is the home of the church. A place of great warmth and meaning because it is the place where we gather. However, the church building can also be seen as a house for the community. A place where the community gathers - not just for religious celebrations like marriages and funerals - but potentially for plays, concerts, coffee and family activities. The building should be at the heart of its community.
Viewing the church as a gathered people, also changes how the activities of the church may be seen. We are not a people led by a vicar, we are an assembly where all have an equal role - just as all had a role in the Athenian parliament. The minister may have a representative role in worship but in visiting, prayer, helping at school, etc., we are each vitally important. We have a personal role to play depending upon our gifts, time and passions.
I would like to suggest that a traditional view of church as a building, with a congregation led by a professional vicar, is neither part of our ancient heritage nor future. With both fewer paid clergy and an appreciation of ancient models of church, we have exciting opportunities. Church as a gathered community, which is part of a wider community - and which serves that community with its abilities, buildings (and magazine) - is a long standing tradition and a modern role. Welcome to the community church of All Saints’
With blessings and payers Paul.