What is Church?

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday May 16 2024, 2:15 pm

If I asked you the question “what is Church?”, the image likely to come to mind is of an ancient stone building, probably from the middle ages, with stained glass windows, a tall tower, and possibly some bells. It’s a very English answer, and of course the answer will change depending where one is. But there is genuinely one answer which crosses all boundaries and all cultures and transcends all time.

The answer is found at Holy Communion whenever we celebrate it: we are the Church, the Body of Christ. All those of us who gather together to worship God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who share in the Body and Blood of Christ at Holy Communion, are the Body of Christ. The Church is the people, not merely a place.

That is not to say that place is not important – it is vital. To have a place to gather together, to remember, to be with one another is absolutely essential. Human beings are very physical creatures, and we would be foolish to underestimate or ignore that fact. The physical building of the church, especially the ancient ones, have a place in our collective English memory and imagination that is almost beyond rational explanation. Even those were who would not come to church every Sunday, who might come only for Christmas, for baptisms, weddings, or funerals, love their local Church very much. It’s important to them. And they support it in so many ways, as we see so clearly in our various rural communities in this benefice.

This Sunday, at Pentecost, sometimes called the birthday of the Church – when the Holy Spirit came down upon those first disciples in Jerusalem, and the Church was born, we celebrate the completion of roof works at the church of St Mary the Virgin in Buckland costing over £1 million. For a small village of around 500 residents, this has been a massive achievement! Nine years of hard graft has ensured that this church is no longer on the Heritage at Risk Register, and we are finally in a position to begin thinking about interior creature comforts such as heating and plumbing. 

Whether the church is a place or a gathering of people or both, it is the presence of the Holy Spirit within that brings us to life, gives us courage and faith to reach out in love to one another; and it is being fed with the bread and wine of Christ’s body that binds us together into one Body and makes us holy. We are loved by God, we are redeemed and restored by Christ, we are enlivened by the Holy Spirit. We are the Church, the people of God. 

Revd. Talisker