Renovation with purpose
I recently bought myself a new cordless drill. This was a momentous event, since my trusty old Black & Decker cordless had served me for almost 30 years. After all these decades its ancient battery refused to recharge. With due ceremony, it was delivered to the local Utility Site in Kilbirnie for seemly recycling.
I am now in possession of a shiny new such tool. It comes with two rechargeable batteries; is more compact and lighter and altogether easier to use. Imagine the ridiculous scenario of me, having purchased my new drill, displaying it proudly in the Manse but never using it to turn a screw or open a cavity for a rawlplug. How absurd to invest in a new tool with no intention of ever using it for the purpose for which it is manufactured! How ludicrous to surrender hard-earned cash on a device which will never emerge from its box! Surely, we would say, time and money are surrendered in the purchase of a power tool in order that this power tool might then be deployed in some necessary DIY.
I relate that cautionary, if imaginary, tale to highlight the danger facing any church fellowship like ours preparing for life after a major renovation. That renovation is not an end in itself but a means to an end. That renovation is not simply the conclusion of a project (although it is) but it is the beginning of a greater project which the completion hereof makes possible. A refurbished sanctuary should not only make us more comfortable in worship, but should give us a tool to welcome others as we seek to share the Gospel. A newly renovated building is an opportunity to be used - not a trinket to be admired.
The renovation of our Building has been many years in the planning. In fact, as I reflect back on my eight and more years in Dalry, the preparations for this have, in one form or another, been taking place throughout that time. We embarked on a Tearfund process called ‘Church, Community and Change’ many years ago, during which we asked ourselves about our place in the community and how we might better serve our community. Among other things, that process threw up the inadequacy of our buildings as a place to welcome people. During one exercise, we were encouraged to imagine what it would be like to come to Trinity as a stranger who is unaccustomed to Christian worship. One individual commented that our front entrance was more like a rear entrance. Upon entry to our building, strangers were immediately confronted with a wall and a decision as to which direction to turn (left or right) to gain entry to the sanctuary. To the modern mind-set that is unwelcoming. Anyone on door-duty at a funeral can see how difficult and off-putting our visitors find this.
The final trigger to our renovation project was the realisation that our heating system was in urgent need of replacement. The various plastic containers filling with water under the 19th century heating pipes were evidence of a system that had ‘had its day’. Sooner or later there would be a catastrophic and irreparable failure which would force a major and unplanned replacement of the heating system. Far better for us to undergo the replacement in a planned way, taking into account what else might also be done.
As I write this, we must be grateful to God for his provision for this project. Members of the congregation have responded generously to our appeal for financial support. The General Trustees of the Church of Scotland have not only provided us with a loan facility but a grant of £25,000 towards the cost. In days of austerity and hardship for many, it is surely reason to give thanks to God for making this project possible.
As we prepare to re-enter our re-decorated sanctuary, which has a new heating system, new lights, new windows, new seats, new floor, it is important to remember that this is just the beginning. The sanctuary is not an end in itself. That is why so much effort has gone into advertising the project and why we are inviting so many to come to the re-opening weekend (probably in early June - date to be confirmed).
We are viewing the opening weekend of our newly renovated sanctuary as an opportunity to invite others in. Yes, we want to celebrate and enjoy the renovated building, but more importantly, we want others to join us, we want outsiders to become insiders, we want to use this as an occasion to share the good news of Jesus.
Let me put it this way: there is no surer way to kill a church than to lose our sense of mission. There is no more certain way of destroying a church than to become so preoccupied with internal matters that we lose the priority of outreach. Churches can so easily become turned-in on themselves so that they spend their energies on internal matters - finance, fabric, organisation; not that these matters are unimportant but the church is on earth to pray and to share the Good News. Other things should be the servant of our mission and not a substitute for it. Many churches will disappear over the coming years because they have allowed themselves to become no more than caretakers of a museum or maintainers of a tradition, instead of those whose Spirit inspired Christian witness turned their communities upside down.
We have been greatly blessed with the new sanctuary, but it is to be a stepping stone and not a terminus.
Come the month of June we should be once more occupying a building which is refreshed and renewed. But that is only the beginning. All we have done is put a tool in place. The church must be a place where the Bible is taught (the minister is responsible for that) and where we meet to pray (join with us on a Wednesday evening) and from where we reach out with the Good News.
Regarding the last of these, a first step would be to invite people to our Opening and to the first Sunday service. Who will you invite? As we reach out together, who will you bring along? There will be lots of flyers to give to those around you. This is a task for us all. Our mission field is your network of friends, neighbours and loved ones.