I am the sort of Christian who always says that Church is people, not buildings. I am the sort of Christian who, whenever anyone
says, “Sorry Vicar, I’m not religious,” replies, “That’s ok, neither am I.” But the current crisis that has prevented us from
worshipping together in our beautiful and beloved building has made me think.

Of course, it is true that the Church is not the building; but the building matters. The building is important for many reasons. The
building is the place where, the words of the poet T. S Eliot “prayer has been valid.” People of faith and people who have
struggled with faith have entered this place carrying with them their hopes and their tears, their joys and their sorrows; and here
God has met them.

St Mary’s has stood for centuries as a reminder of God’s presence and love, as an invitation to all come and meet God, and as a
promise of God’s presence with us. The presence of this building assures us that if we have forgotten God, God has not
forgotten us!

And what about ‘religion’? Religion has a bad press today, even in the Church. We all want to claim to be spiritual rather than
religious. And yet I miss the familiar words of the Eucharist and the words of the hymns and worship songs that I love. Singing
them alone and at home is not the same.

I think that religion: the words of prayers and hymns that we know by heart and can recite almost without thinking about them are
important. They are written on our minds and our hearts. We turn to them when we need to celebrate or give thanks or when we
need to lament. For this reason I recommend the spiritual discipline of memorising verses of Scripture and words of hymns.

Religion, it seems to me, is a bit like the bark on a tree trunk. The bark itself may be dead, but it protects the life which goes on
under its surface. Without the bark the tree would die.

The life of the spirit: our heart’s worship, prayer and meditation, our daily ’walk with Jesus,’ is deeply personal and intimate.
Without the protection of ritual and creed, it is vulnerable. The bark hides and protects the life which is deep within the tree, it
doesn’t create the life.
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Neither do religious institutions create spiritual life. The life comes from our personal and intimate daily interaction with God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The religious institutions and rituals protect that precious and vulnerable life.

It is only when the rituals and institutions are taken away that I realise how very important they are for my spiritual wellbeing.
Personally I cannot wait until we can meet again around Christ’s Table, hear the familiar words and share in the sacrament.

Until that day dawns:

May God bless you and keep you,
may the Lord make His face to shine upon you
and be gracious to you.
Amen.
Thought for the Month