Open Welcome is designed to help rural churches consider how they might use their building to offer welcome and hospitality to those in their community, both residents and visitors.
A young woman had recently begun to attend her local Methodist church. Chatting with the minister she was asked what had made her join the congregation. Her answer: ‘I was walking round a cathedral and God zapped me’.
If church buildings have the capacity to move people in that way then we need to view them as more than just ‘bricks and mortar’. We all know that some places can feel particularly special. Churches, with their regular cycles of worship, prayer and sacrament, are sacred spaces, places of encounter in which individuals and the community meet with God. For many of us our spiritual journey can be linked to particular places: perhaps the church we have always worshipped in, the place we came to faith or simply somewhere we go to find peace and quiet.
But the significance of church buildings isn’t limited to the spiritual realm. Particularly in established rural congregations, churches often have a personal significance: the building will have hosted families gathered together for baptisms, weddings, and funerals across the generations; it might be a place of happy childhood memories, or have an association with a special person.
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