From The Rev’d Gareth Miller – May 2020

Brian Wood

The Rev’d Gareth Miller

Dear parishioners;

Church buildings are special to many of us, though we’re having to make do without them for the time being. That’s sad, but we’re also learning new ways of being together and worshipping together. Of course, trying to worship God while looking at a screen is not ideal, but thank God that we can enjoy a different kind of fellowship that in some ways feels quite intimate.

The Bible reminds us that God does not live in human temples. But being human we need visual aids, places that give us a glimpse of heaven. That’s why we make the liturgy different from ordinary life. It’s why we have robes, and music and processions, and in some places smells and bells. It’s not supposed to be like other times and other places. Here we encounter the divine in all his mystery and majesty, as well as all his intimacy.

When Prince Vladimir of Kiev visited Constantinople in 988 he attended mass in Hagia Sophia. “We did not know whether we were on earth or in heaven,” he said. “Never have we seen such beauty. Here we can truly say that God dwells among men.”

When we are touched by the infinite our instinct is to kneel or to bow down. Have you ever had that experience of going into an empty church and the only appropriate thing to do is to kneel? We are bodily creatures, and just as people who live entirely in their heads often find it difficult to contact their emotions, so if we do not use our bodies in church it’s perhaps more difficult to connect with God.

It has become rarer to see people kneel in church. Some of us of course might find it difficult to get up! But we can bow towards the altar, or make the sign of the cross, or raise our hands in praise, or dance, or reverence the blessed sacrament. When the priest bows or genuflects at the consecration it is a reminder that God comes down to us in order to bring us up to him. That’s what worship reminds us of.

We can just see the obvious, the literal, what stares us in the face, or we can move through and see beyond: “A man that looks on glass on it may stay his eye, or, if he pleaseth through it pass, and then the heav’n espy.” (George Herbert).

I hope it won’t be long before we can gather again for corporate worship. Worship draws us out of the suffocating bubble of our own ego. Richard Rohr, the American Franciscan, says “Your life is not about you.” St Paul put it even better: “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

Your sincere friend and Rector,

01869 350224