I took two photo’s on holiday that reminded me of the changing nature of church.
Church at the heart of community, at the heart of governance, at the centre of society; once people could not imagine a time when this was not so. Church buildings were the largest and grandest in town and stood looking down on us, mostly benignly, but sometimes in condemnation. Church was constant, unchanging. Church knew best, and our role was not to question, not to think for ourselves, not to make our own faith journeys- these were already mapped for us.
Some people saw these churches as representing all that was wrong with faith. They had discovered the Bible, and wanted to interpret it for themselves. It was theological and political dynamite that split families and communities. Thousands of people died in the resulting truth wars.
The trouble was, each interpretation of the Bible came to be challenged by another, and another. New chief-interpreters rose, started movements, then faded away. The most lasting of these movement became denominations, inspiring and converting people to their cause, winning people to their Jesus’s.
But the new kids have run out of steam for the most part. Their club-ish brand of religion, characterised by hard unyeilding edges to every question, has left most people uninterested and unmoved.
Strangely most of the old church buildings are still there, still being used- albeit it sometimes feels like they operate as a museum for past faith, attended by a few who are historically minded.
The churches of the modern era have not always fared so well. They are now often made into carpet warehouses, restaurants, storage units, or perhaps they are converted into that most post modern icon- the posh house.
Here is one glimpsed on a Scarborough back street. The thanksgiving gates have been firmly closed;