Let us go to the House of the Lord
Father Irving Hamer from St Martin Roath, Cardiff, reflects on the importance of churches in our communities.
I rejoiced when they said unto me, let us go to the House of the LordPsalm 122
These words from Psalm 122 that have taken on a new significance of late. They were composed for pilgrims en route to the Temple at Jerusalem; a people for whom God, faith, pilgrimage and the Temple mattered.
We hope soon to be able to return to the House of the Lord when our churches are opened, initially for private prayer.
Recently, watching the BBC drama Salisbury Poisonings, the Cathedral church there was constantly used as a backdrop as the drama unfolded. These images set the context of this drama in a real place with real people as they dealt with the Novichok poisonings in 2018.
In the final episode I was drawn to the character of Dawn Sturgess, a 44 year old mother of three and the only person to die as a result of the poison. Dawn was struggling to get her life back together following alcohol addiction.
As the images of the Cathedral appeared I saw an icon of the significance of our Church buildings. Placed at the heart of our communities, they speak of the presence of GOD who in Christ became man, and who took upon himself our brokenness and the tragedy of our human condition. They are places where the human and divine meet; they are signs, even today, of the changeless redeeming love of God that is not indifferent to the lives of all, and is manifested in the care and value we afford to all.
Our buildings are as varied in character as the congregations that meet within them. They witness to the faith of past generations even as they serve the faith of contemporary congregations. They are the places where we celebrate our relationship with God. The Church becomes visible in these places when we meet for the Eucharist. Here personal, family and other community memories mingle. They speak of the ongoing life and ministry of the Church to all through the lives of our people.
Whenever someone slips into church to pray before the tabernacle, or light a candle, when a visitor finds welcome, when a child is brought for baptism, when a person comes in repentance to make their confession, when a homeless person finds clothing, food and a listening ear, when the body of a loved one is received on the eve of their funeral, when a couple celebrate their marriage: all these things impress upon us, and invest with profound significance, our churches. We ought never to be too cynical of such. Jacob as he wrestled with life, encountered God at Bethel and raised an altar there and worshipped.
In times of crisis many have returned to the Church. People find that being in a church places their lives and situations in an altogether bigger context; that is in the presence of God and in the context of the eternal.
As we prepare to re-open our churches there will be matters of Health and Safety that we need to follow. These will be made clear to us all in due course.
Reopening St Martin in Roath
At St Martin in Roath we have already made some preparations. These include:
- Preparation for cleaning the church now and when it is open again.
- Removing all books, children’s toys, holy water from stoops.
- Drawing up a rota of people to act as stewards when the church is open for short periods each day. Their job will be to ensure that hand sanitising occurs at entry and exit points, and social distancing is maintained in the church
- Printing banners and notices making people aware of the required health and safety requirements that are in place to prevent any spread of Covid-19. They outline areas within the church that are closed, e.g. kitchen/vestry, sacristy.
- Delineating seating within the Nave and Blessed Sacrament Chapel that observes the safe distancing guideline.
Let us pray
Almighty God, unfathomable mystery you have manifested yourself to us in Jesus Christ your eternal Word, through him you have called us to be your Church graced with the gifts of the holy and living Spirit.
Pour down your blessing upon all our church buildings where your pilgrim people gather in prayer. Let them be places where your presence dwells and your glory is revealed.
May we, your people continue to worship and praise you on earth until we behold your face in heaven.
We ask this through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.