This is not a rant at any particular denomination, just in case it looks like that by the time I finish!
On Wednesday mornings I now run a Sports Massage Clinic at The Telegraph Media Group in Victoria. It's a great opportunity for me to develop my skills and practice as a therapist and I"m grateful for the opportunity. The other opportunity that comes with this job is the chance to walk through London once a week. I get the train to Fenchurch Street and then walk to Victoria and then walk back again after my clinic. In fact, the last three weeks I've walked from Victoria to Canary Wharf, usually wondering why someone hasn't straightened out the Thames. I'm sure it would be about 1.5 miles shorter if I could go in a straight line!
My walk takes me past a few interesting landmarks, some well known, others a little more obscure. For those who remember Monty Python, yesterday's route took me past Wapping steps, which made me laugh as I recalled one particular sketch on the "Be a Great Actor" album I probably still own somewhere in the loft.
More recognisable to most are things like HMS Belfast, Victoria Embankment, London Eye, and the Palace of Westminster. As I cross the road by parliament and head towards Victoria Street down past Westminster Abbey I can also see Methodist Central Hall. An impressive building that looks like it could possibly swallow the Abbey and the church next it and still have room for pudding! The architecture owes everything to the era in which it was built and I'm not about to criticise either those who built it or those who maintain it. But as I pass these and other church buildings of differing degrees of splendour, I have to wonder what it means about both how we continue to live out church and what they communicate about our values.
By the time I make my return journey in the early afternoon, the Abbey is surrounded by tourists taking pictures while regular commuters dodge in and out of shot. I have to say I don't see many standing outside Central Hall, but it is behind me on my return trip! Westminster too has it's share of snappers and around the corner the London Eye is the backdrop for more pictures.
As I continue my return walk I see the occasional intrepid photographer snapping away at some of the hidden towers and odd shaped building that dot the roads and riverside of the city. Not until I get to Tower Hill do the large crowds reappear.
But those impressive churches still occupy my thoughts as the remind me of a long past sense of awe and desire to build the best for worship and in some cases far more. And that's what bothers me, the institutionalisation of what was meant to be a lived out dynamic relationship with God. something that somehow got reduced to a good hymn and a good sermon in a brick box once a week. Not the fault of the builders, more the fault of the generations that followed them and missed the point of the mission for the sake of the building.
Caught by the need for the church to have an address so that people know where we are, we have lost the principle of being among the people Jesus misses. I've heard it said in the past that people need to know where we are so they know how to contact us, but isn't it one of the primary principles of the gospel that we are a sent people, a going people.
I'm not sure we need a corporate address, but I am sure we're afraid we will lose our identity if we don't have one.