We have spent some time over the last few months trying to work out exactly what it means to “be church”, thinking about the things that we do and the things that we are called to be as part of the body of Christ. I have to say that it has been very heartening for me, to come in here as curate and see that there are so many people engaged with the calling that we have. But firstly i would like to talk about the building. Of course, this church building is a special place, at the geographical heart of the community. Whenever I come here there are resonances of what has gone before, all those fellow pilgrims that have travelled through here before, all that history but without the people this would just be a pretty building. It is what happens in here that makes it a truly sacred space, it is the human interaction with the building that makes this place truly special.
Because as beautiful as this church is, and I doubt anybody would doubt that it is indeed wonderful, it is not its beauty that brings us here. The fabulous stained glass windows, although they are a help, are not the focus of our devotions. Where our focus is, is usually the altar. Every week we come here and the Eucharist is celebrated there before being distributed. That is the place at the intersection between God and us, where something mysterious and glorious occurs.
The other place is no less important and yet we walk past it most weeks - I certainly know that I am guilty of that. It probably doesn’t get thought of all that much but it is easily just as important as the altar because that is where our journey commences, the place where we are first brought into the Body of Christ, where the mystery, the adventure begins. The font where we are baptised.
I occasionally get into conversations where the person that I am talking to tells me that they were baptised. When I hear that my heart sinks a little because the fact is is that we weren’t baptised, we are baptised. It is something that we carry with us, it changes us, we are not the same person after we have experienced it. We join the countless millions of people who have gone before us, and it leads us right back to Christ .
Jesus’s baptism marked the beginning of his ministry here on earth. Up until that time, he had not performed any miracles, but with God's stamp of approval and with the spirit of God upon him, Jesus began to do just that, perform great miracles. From this new beginning, many people began to understand that Jesus was truly the Son of God and they began to follow him. It all started with a baptism.
I understand that these are big footsteps to follow, there are none bigger but in our own little way we are called to copy that with our baptism. All of who are baptised are given a new beginning, a chance to be all that we can be because of that fundamental shift when we are baptised. Rowan Williams said that, “As baptised people we are in the business of building bridges”, and this is what we are all called to do. Building bridges between our neighbours, whether that is in the town that we live, within our country or around the world, as a member of the family of Christ we are called to build community, to think of others and to do what we can to bring a little glimpse of heaven down here in the here and now. I am sure that most us would agree that we could all do with a little more of that in our lives and in the world around us.
So I would urge you, whenever you come into church, as well as looking right to see the altars, we should also be looking left, seeing the font, remembering to ourselves that the journey that God calls us to may have started before we realised it did and that we are to do what we can to build bridges, just as our saviour and so many others did before us.
Mark Nelson, Assistant Curate