Rector’s Letter – October 2016

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20

Dear folk,

It seems a long time ago now when as growing up you could walk to a friend or neighbour’s house and go straight in. That was socially acceptable (within reason) when I was young and few people locked their doors.

On mission in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, when doing home visits one day I got to one parishioner’s door to discover keys in the yale lock, on the outside! I rang the doorbell and when the lady of the house greeted me I handed them to her. She promptly put them back in the outside reassuring me that she wouldn’t lose them there. “Why does she even have keys?”, I wondered!
Keys on the outside might give a strong message of trust and welcome. Keeping our church doors open is important because it gives that same message to the communities and visitors.

Another thing that gives a welcoming message is our new glass door. It has caused quite a stir since being fitted; there has been a stream of interested school parents popping into the church to admire it. I don’t think anything else so far has yielded such an instant and positive response from people who don’t come to St Mary’s.

Doors enable us to have access to environments of security, warmth, quiet. They provide a way into and out of walled areas or buildings/places of containment. Since we were back in the church building early in June many commented that they liked the open aspect with no inner doors, but not having doors on the church caused some real frustration with noise from the street, and cold draughts and wind, even though it was supposed to be summer!

Missionally, there is much to be said for open air worship, or at least worship outside the walls of our buildings. We are not a secret society, or the persecuted church in a hostile land. We do want people to be able to see us and worship and join in. But as worshipers in Scotland, we need walls and roofs to protect us from the elements. But roofs and walls do not a church make!
The reason for our having a glass door is to improve accessibility and visibility, so that the life of the real church, the gathered Jesus-people, can be seen by all who pass by. It’s also about reducing obstacles and barriers that make the metaphorically steep steps into any church, flatter and more inviting.

That same challenge is also true of the gospel that is preached to all who enter our lovely building. For those yet outside, walls stand in the way of them being able to see the risen Lord alive and present among his people. That’s where things like our new Life Groups come into play. You can read about them in this issue. Also too about the recent Men’s retreat to the Isle of Cumbrae.
To turn the Revelation of John around for a moment, imagine Jesus standing on the inside of a church building, knocking and asking to be let out, shut in by his people? Certainly not a sound interpretation of this text, but arguably a very true picture of ways of doing church that confine God to buildings and sacraments. Not just a picture of corporate worship either but perhaps also of personal faith; keep the walls up and the doors shut, not allowing the radical life of Jesus to be seen in us.

I know that’s not the St Mary’s way, and pray that all who pass by or visit us continue to see and be attracted by the life of Christ in us and in all we do, inside and outside of our lovely building.