Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Church and The Buildings

St. Alban’s, the little Anglican Church in Souris was celebrating its anniversary last Sunday.  There was a combined service with the other small congregations in the Parish — Montague and Georgetown.   Canon Peter Harris of St. Peter’s in Charlottetown was the celebrant.  The service was followed by a pot-luck at one of the parishioner’s homes in Souris. 

In his homily, Peter gave a bit of the history of St. Alban’s and reflected on what church buildings.  As I recall from what Peter said, St. Alban’s was first formed as a congregation in 1895 and a church building was erected shortly after.  The first parishioners were primarily immigrants from Newfoundland (which of course was not a part of Canada at the time).   The building served the Anglicans in the area for some years but sometimes later the Newfies (Peter didn’t use that term) returned to Newfoundland (reason undetermined) and the building ran into problems with the furnace (an old, old problem with churches in my experience) and eventually was deconsecrated and razed.  The congregation was resurrected when the current little building was erected in 1980 and has carried on since.  The Parish which includes the three aforementioned congregations, is a mission and does not have a resident clergy being served by Canon Peter and a priest from Milton and South Rustico which is near Charlottetown.   This is a challenge to St. Alban’s as it doesn’t have services on a set schedule.  Indeed I was talking to a life time resident of the area and she was not area that there was an Anglican church in Souris.  Indeed St. Alban’s has a sign and on the street but it doesn’t give any information about services or contact information.  Without regular services there is a challenge for a congregation to attract people.   That is something which the congregation could consider. 
Christians in Canada and generally in the Western world have a love hate relationship with their buildings.  They are blessed with some beautiful structures which are erected to the glory of God and as places where the Christian community can gather to worship but they are also saddled with what can take a large portion of their resources to maintain.  Of course building and other special places have been set aside for the worship of God  but the building is not the church as Peter noted.  He quoted the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth, “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own”?  In the twenty-first century we Christians are struggling to find new ways to be the body of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit.  With the shrinking of mainline churches and the secularization of society and culture there will have to be new ways to be those things without such attachment to buildings and formal structure.  The challenge is to determine how to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Blessings. 


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