An Open Church
On our recent trip to England we visited the town of Avebury, which was built in the middle of one of the largest circles of standing stones in the UK. We had arrived a bit late and all of the shops and museums were already closed.
I fully expected the parish church to be closed tight as well, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it unlocked. Tacked to one of the doors was a printed message that welcomed visitors (of all religions), inviting them to pray, to rest and to find peace. "Welcome home," it read at the end.
There was also a sign taped to the ancient doors that read, "Push Hard to Open." I gave it a shove and it swung open with a creak.
There was no one in the church when we went inside. It had a musty smell--a mixture of old stone, wood, hymnals and candles. I read on the wall that there had a been place of Christian worship on that spot since the 600's. There had been a church with a priest since around 1000 A.D.
All around the church there were places to kneel and pray. Candles were burning in a stand, lit by visitors from earlier in the day. I found some cushions on the floor next to a tree that was covered in paper hearts. The hearts had prayers written on them by adults and children. One of them read, "I am so grateful for my precious life, thank you."
I looked around and realized something. That little church in the middle of the English countryside was doing everything they could to be the Church to everyone who visited there. And it also hit me that for nearly 1400 years followers of Jesus had been kneeling near the very spot I knelt, praying, singing, thanking God, being the Church.
In that little church which stood in middle of all of hundreds of standing stones, which had been there for five millennia, I was reminded then of the words Jesus spoke to his disciples at Caesarea Philippi: "Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it."
The world around that little church in Avebury might be swirling and turning in turmoil. But there it stood--a place of peace, a place of rest... home.
May you find such a place for you and yours. May you realize that the Church is made up of people like you, who are doing the best they can to live into the hope of the Resurrection. May you find hope in this knowledge. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.
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