My colleague had just taught the final lesson of a Year 7 scheme of work on Christianity, appropriately finishing with a lesson on Holy Week and Easter.
Looking at the next scheme of work, some thought must have passed through his mind. “I meant to ask. Did you go to a church service over Easter?”
“I intended to go,” I said, “but when I looked at the possibilities, they seemed very limited. The thought of Easter worship without music wasn’t very attractive.”
Perhaps there might have been more inclination to attend if there had been a chance of an encounter with the sacred, but such moments seem rare.
In my home parish, it is possible to sit looking up at peeling paint and cobwebs, there doesn’t seem much sense of sacredness in the building. It would cost nothing to put a long-handled feather duster around the place, and not much more to have put some white paint on the worst parts of the walls. Perhaps the worshippers who still go there would regard me as being concerned with the superficial and would say that the sense of the sacred is to be found within and that I should be less concerned with its outward appearance, but if the place is to be sacred, then surely a modicum of care is in order? A bit of care would ensure that some of the accumulated clutter was removed, that out of date notices were removed, that furniture was not left lying around, that wilted flowers were thrown out, that tidiness was thought a virtue. It wouldn’t take much effort to make many places more presentable, if they are thought “sacred,” wouldn’t that be desirable?
Worse than the medieval churches with peeling paint and cobwebs are the medieval churches that have been reshaped according to the tastes of a vicar who will insist that everyone is on first name terms and his name will be “Steve,” or “Dave, or “Spike” and he will wear a pale blue shirt and chinos. Shiny laminate floors will have been laid over centuries old flag stones, wooden pews will have been replaced by chairs in garish colours, electronic monitors will have been installed so everyone can follow what the leader tells them. The empowerment of common prayer will have been replaced by the power of the worship leader and the praise group, the liturgy of the people has been superseded by the cult of the pastor.
Perhaps when choral evensong resumes, there will be a chance to find a moment missed at Easter.