This week, the plumbers have been in, sorting out (we hope!) the heating. Doing skillful things with boilers, and pipes and all the bits in between....And once again, I am reminded just how grateful I am that there are skillful people in the world.
We seem to have a never ending task in caring for, sustaining and even improving our building. Just as we get one bit sorted, something else requires attention, and when once we have worked out what we are requiring in one area, the work changes, and the resources of the rooms and the support systems are under strain again.
Once, early in my time here, I went to a meeting with other ministers. It was an interesting gathering, and they were lovely people. But we found that we were working in very different settings. I made some remark about the building, what we need to work with, how much energy - mental and physical - it takes to care for it.... And one of the colleagues very quickly and decisively remarked that "the church is more than the building - you shouldn't let it dominate you".
At which point, I realised that, lovely though this group was, it was not going to be my natural home, since they were all from churches in such a different context that we were dealing with different issues....
Because, situated where we are, and operating as we do, our building is central to our life. Of course the church is more than the building, but without the building, we would not be the church we are. We would not be able to do so much of the work we do - Sunday lunch, Tues@Bloom, the Evening Centre and the Night Shelter, our various musical events, the hirings that provide so much of our income, the hospitality that we offer in the foyer - and we could list many more.
Our building is our home, our mission, an income generator, a base for so many activities.....and sometimes a liability, an income devourer, a source of frustration, and even, occasionally, a challenge to our unity.
It is a gift from the past and a responsibility to hand on the future - and it needs to be used well and creatively and with imagination. It is a place where we can be centred in order to make a difference in the world around us, but it must never be the place where we are trapped or the only centre of our attention. It is a context which determines much of how we relate to one another and to the whom we seek to serve - but we must never let it be the main truth about who we are. It requires lots of care and attention, and we must resist the pull to let it take all our energy.
And so today, I want to celebrate all that we are because of our building, all the gifts that people offer in order to make it function, and the skills that are enabled to flourish because of all that goes on in our building - and to pray that we will know and be the blessing of God in and through our building, and sometimes depsite our building - and to look forward to a heating system that works!