We are almost there – all being well, the St Kilda Uniting Church will gather in the building at 163 Chapel St on Sunday 13th December.
That may sound like an odd way to describe returning to the building which for over 140 years has stood on the corner of Chapel and Carlisle and been called ‘the church’. But I wanted to really make the point that the church is a community of people that chooses to meet together in a building. Albeit, one built specifically for that purpose.
However, it is not the church.
Since going into lockdown, even though we have not been inside 163 Chapel St, we have been ‘the church’. We have never stopped being the church. We have gathered via the internet. We have listened and learned from each other about how to live through a pandemic and remain faithful. We have at different times, been moved, touched, inspired, and hopefully, for most of the time, we have been nourished and sustained. We have been able to see each other’s faces and the homes in which we live. We have ‘met’ each other surrounded by the ‘stuff’ of our lives: furniture, pictures, lamps, radios, plants, tapestries, clothes hoists etc. For me, this has been especially significant – as I so often say ‘context, context, context’. People participating in church life, while folding clothes, eating toast, drinking coffee or having a smoke. There was something incredibly authentic and real about gathering in this way. Personally, I think we were enriched and not diminished by the whole zoom experience.
It has been a most challenging 6 months but through it all we have been the church. And now, the church is going to start gathering again in a building. I have no doubt that 2021 is going to be a disrupted year as we navigate major building repairs and other changes.
But if 2020 has taught us one thing, it is that we can cope with anything. That as a church we can navigate whatever lies ahead because the faith that strengthened us this year will also sustain and strengthen us next year – and the year after, and the……….