Yesterday I sat in the church where I am now serving, St Matthew’s Salford Priors. I contemplated the East Window. After a while, stepping closer, I saw it was put in place and/or dedicated to the memory of Samuel Garrard who was priest here for 41 years. I wanted to know some more about him so I went to consult the list at the back of church and I discovered he followed on from a first Samuael Garrard, presumably his father. Then I saw that he was not the only father-to-son partnership: was Henry Holyoake one man, or two? Then there were the Burtons, Arthur and Harold.
Then my eye was drawn to John Davies – as this was my paternal Grandfather’s name, and is the name of one of my cousins. No relation, I’m sure, as probably a fairly common name. Not so, Lobbeus Lunne!! Wow, there’s a name! Was he ‘Lob’ for short?
Anyway, I’m not on this list. For one I’m not the vicar, I’m a mere associate minister and for two, the current vicar is the final name on the list.
It did though help set me in perspective. I had been praying about both the building and congregation and it is fairly overwhelming to think how many before me have also bothered God about the roof leaking or prayed for ailing but precious parishioners. And that’s just the church leaders – what about all the thousands and thousands of individual Christians who have come into this space to celebrate, to mourn, to be married, to pray, to plead, to worship, to wonder?
Not all of them came to be spiritual: during the 100 years war every Englishman was required to practise archery on Sunday afternoons – here are the marks in a sandstone arch where arrows were sharpened.
Presumably said arrows where then fired in practise… at what? Apples stood on gravestones? (could add a whole new meaning to ‘messy church’!)
All this helps me to hold myself in proper perspective. Even if I stay ‘a long time’ I’m just passing through. Even the Garrard’s father and son, were ‘just passing through’. The building has stood for a 1000 years, it too is just part of a bigger story.
But the Kingdom that came in with the coming of Jesus into the world has been going for twice that long. Who knows how much longer this church will stand or how many more might encounter God here?
The life in the church is what matters, more than its bricks and mortar, more than the individuals who come and go. The activity and presence of the Holy Spirit is like the electricity inside the lead that lights the lamp. A beautiful lamp and a faultless lead still gives no light unless it’s plugged in and switched on.
Lord, you said that you were the light of the world and that we are light of the world
Both those things can only be true if there is a deep connection between us and you.
Keep that connection strong
“If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” John 15:5