— Posted in Renovation & Restoration

Breaking Boundaries: What is Church?

Here’s a little exercise that you can try the next time that you’re in Church.

Once your’re settled in your pew with your prayer book on your lap, turn to your neighbour and ask them this questions:

‘What is church?’

Whilst they might answer you with a rather straight-forward answer like: ‘Church is here, you are in church,’ try and persevere by really stressing the word ‘is’. Hopefully they’ll then understand that you are asking them a philosophical question and will spend some time thinking about a more detailed, thoughtful answer. If they answer with something along the lines of ‘Church is here’ or ‘We are in church’, them move on to a different person.

The person who finally does understand your question will no doubt be confused but will gamely try and respond in a way that will (hopefully) make themselves looks smart. The smartest ones are likely to answer your question with another question like: ‘That depends on what you define a church as.’ In the event of this occurrence, you can consult this resource to show them all of the things that a church can be defined as.

Church is Sanctuary

Everyone remembers the beginning of Disney’s The Hunchback of Notredam – there’s an iconic moment in these opening scenes where Quasimodo’s mother, who’s being chased through the street, bangs her fists on the door of a church for sanctuary which she is denied. Unfortunately, despite times having changed so much since then people still rely on churches around the world as sanctuaries.

Church is Community Hub

Most importantly, in today’s increasingly secular world the church is a crucial place for people to meet and share common interests. Whether this is a small knitting group or a Rock’n’Roll choir, churches are fantastic, calm places for groups of people to convene. For decades now churches have been open to all kinds of people, regardless of their religion, it’s a way for church buildings to remain relevant despite the declining numbers of church goers.

Church is Entertainment

It might sound blasphemous to some but there’s always been an entertainment aspect to church services. Just think of Gospel Choir services with their dramatic singers and urgent preachers – these kinds of services are much more akin to theatrical performance than anything else, whilst the congregations will be getting a certain amount of spiritual enlightenment out of the proceedings they are also being entertained.

Church is Party Venue

What is a party but a celebration? It’s a place where we go to celebrate the lives of people, whether they’re getting married, dying or just getting going in life. For centuries churches have been places to party. Since the modern age has dawned churches have been hired out as venues for secular events such as birthdays, anniversaries – this has turned the concept of a church from peaceful place of worship to potentially party central.

So what is church?

Church is many things – most importantly, church is for you.