Rev Eve Pitts

 

The meaning of 'church' in the Bible is the group of believers in Christ who met in each other's homes. But today when we hear the word 'church' we think of a building which is needed for Christian worship.

Church buildings are important for they enable Christians to worship together. They were built as a response to God, to enable Christians to worship together in larger numbers than a home will allow.

Church buildings are important in that they provided a consistent meeting place for Christians, often with a capacity of a hundred or more. They are a place set aside; they are seen as special; they are a sacred space to which we come with respect and reverence. Church buildings speak of permanence, stability and serenity.

They can serve as places to withdraw to from the hectic, over busy and anxious times we live in. They can be places where people come when they feel tired, to find rest and peace.

At the heart of communities

In addition to their role as places of worship, church buildings are valuable resources for the whole community, used and cherished by people regardless of their religion. Church buildings are still very much at the heart of communities.

Church buildings, especially attractive old ones, are important because people find the symbolism and the craftmanship attractive and comforting. It suggests something permanent and transcendent; it links with the past. It transcends daily life.

Church buildings are important because they proclaim that God is present and active in the world, and that God is not to be forgotten. It is sometimes difficult to put into words, but churches bring out respect and loyalty in people, and a sense of the sacred.

For people who need them

Churches can subtly create within people a sense of the divine in conscious and unconscious ways. They provide places for silence and calm, reflection and prayer. Architecture is important: attractive church buildings can transmit something of the character of the Christian faith as well as the perception that this building is special – a place where God can be encountered.

People identify with church buildings, even if they do not often attend services. The church is there for people who need them, for life's important rites of passage. Some families identify with churches for generations for this purpose. They are seen as 'our church' in our neighbourhood. They are always there, and have always been there, so it seems.

The physical presence of a church is a symbol of the permanency of the culture in which people live their lives. They are a cultural resource.

The centre of social life

Many church buildings are important because they are multipurpose, enabling meetings of different kinds, such as schools or lunch clubs. In a small place a church might be the centre of social life, especially when other buildings such as public houses and shops have closed.

Church buildings are usually seen as safe places for those in need or in crisis, whether or not the people in need are Christians.

Church buildings are important because people go to them for spiritual 'repair'. They can provide answers that no other places offer. In urban areas, church buildings can bring people together from different backgrounds for prayer and worship.

 

Rev Eve Pitts was ordained as a deacon in 1989 and in 1994, was one of the first black women ordained priest in the Church of England. In 2010 she moved to Holy Trinity church in the inner city parish of Birchfield, Birmingham where she has led a major programme of repairs which have ed to to its removal from the Heritage at Risk Register.

www.holytrinity-church.co.uk

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