Sunday was a poignant day as I presided at the last Eucharist to be held in St Andrew’s Church, here in Exeter. The first church was a tin tabernacle, erected at the end of the nineteenth century to serve the expanding population on the other side of the River Exe, the area called St Thomas. That building was bombed in the war, to be replaced by the modern church we see today. Dedicated by one of my predecessors, another Bishop Robert, in 1963, that building too has now come to the end of its life as a venue for Christian worship.
Memories of family christenings, the weddings of next-door neighbours, the carol services of the local brownie pack, the funerals of dear friends were all shared, the waft and weft of community life. The tapestry of our lives is woven with such events and it’s why our churches become part of our internal landscape, not merely a landmark on a street corner. We get emotionally attached to our buildings. They become sacred space and saying goodbye to them isn’t eas
Except that this is not what the Bible means by ‘church’. In the New Testament church means people, not bricks and mortar. And across the river the pilgrim people of God are once again on the move, this time consolidating their worship in the old parish church of St Thomas and making their medieval building fit for purpose in the 21st century. They’ve yet to decide what to do with the site in Alphington Road and we pray for them as they discern God’s will. Watch this space.
As we blew out the altar candles for the last time and said our farewells, words of Dag Hammarskjold, the Secretary General of the UN who was tragically killed in a plane crash in 1961 came to mind:
For all that has been – thanks.
To all that shall be – YES!