The Beauty of the Church

Wandering around St. Albans Cathedral I marvelled at the beauty of the old, imperial building. The attention to detail, the sheer scope of the ancient project – it was breath-taking. The chance encounter with the orchestra rehearsing Elgar only amplified the moment. I don’t know, perhaps I’m the only one, but sometimes church buildings seem a darn sight more impressive than the people they house.

Choosing a Church today can be a bit of a chore. Modern, convenient transport means we aren’t restricted to the parish church. We can shop around. And so we produce lists; things we’re looking out for. Worship style, child care, service times, outreach projects etc. etc. “Where will be best for me, for my family?”, we muse.

All good questions. The problem is, if that’s all we’re basing our decision on we’re restricting ourselves considerably. Our list of desirables, is just that – ours. It presumes we know our needs, and we know what Church is meant to do for us.

Some of the best services I have been to haven’t been in English. Perhaps there was translation available, or perhaps not. They were so different to my norm that I could more plainly see the beauty in a people coming together for one main reason: to worship a God that they know.

You see, it’s not about the quality of the coffee, or the style of preaching, or the size of the group. The people ultimately come together because no matter who they are they have a greater thing in common.

It makes the true Church the most diverse and inclusive place you will ever find. It’s not about race, or gender, or language, or age, or profession, or location. It’s about someone who transcends all of that: God.

And if I turn up to Church looking to be impressed by the people – better versions of myself, more likely than not – then maybe I will feel comforted and maybe I will feel affirmed in my stylistic choices, but I will forgo the chance to learn something that my personal culture doesn’t let me see.

Deep down I know that a world full of people like me would be a horror film. Humanity only grows in richness, and collectively reflects more of its Maker, through its diversity. The beauty of the Church is that for the most part, it doesn’t look like me. And that is a very good thing.