I wonder, what does
the church mean to you?
Perhaps you immediately think of the building…. All Saints began in 1880, a simple, flint building with red brick quoins comprising of a main worship space, chapel and vestries. In 1996, the church building was extended and altered, giving a larger worship space. In 2003, a major upgrade was completed, joining the church building to the existing hall, and adding an office, and meeting rooms.
All Saints is centrally located in the village, with a lovely garden and grounds. All Saints is used regularly by all sorts of community groups. Perhaps you attend All Saints frequently or perhaps you have come for a funeral, wedding or baptism. Maybe you wander in from time to time, to say a prayer, to be still and think.
Or maybe as you think about church, you think less about the building and more about the people, the community, the relationships, the activities that make up All Saints. Maybe you think of an individual you know who comes to church, maybe you think of the person who led the last service you attended. Maybe you’ve come along to a coffee morning, or Messy Church or the Bereavement Group and found friendship and support. All Saints is a group of individuals, from all walks of life, young and old, who together are committed to knowing God, growing in our faith and sharing God’s love with our community.
But did you know that
All Saints has a birthday?
This month All Saints, along with all Christian churches, will be celebrating its birthday – Pentecost. Pentecost (which this year falls on the 4th June) is celebrated fifty days after Easter – the resurrection of Jesus. For the early disciples, they had encountered the risen Jesus; for forty days, Jesus had spent time with them, but then he ascended into heaven and they were left on their own again. The disciples remain gathered together in an upper room in Jerusalem not quite knowing what to do.
Then ten days later, as they were marking the Jewish festival called Shavuot, the Holy Spirit descends upon them. The disciples hear wind, and see flames on one another, and then find they are able to speak and be understood by many as they are filled by the Holy Spirit. At first sight, people passing by think that the disciples might be drunk, but the apostle Peter tells the crowd that they are full of the Holy Spirit.
The disciples receive an amazing gift, a wonderful person, God himself comes to inhabit them. The Holy Spirit comes as an advocate, source of consolation and giver of gifts, who will speak the truth through them to all who will hear. The Holy Spirit comes as love to dwell in their hearts, making sense of the mystery of the Christ they have encountered, and enabling them to share that mystery with others. Pentecost gives the disciples all they need to pass on what they have received from the Lord, so that others too may believe, and be transformed.
And so, from that moment on, the early disciples are inspired and filled with the Holy Spirit, they begin to tell others about Jesus, travelling far and wide, and as they go they establish communities of faith, what we now call the church.
Pentecost is the start, the birth-day of the global church. But more than this, the Holy Spirit didn’t just come once and that was it. Rather, the Holy Spirit is in and with the church today. The Holy Spirit continues to fill Christians today, inspiring them, encouraging them, helping them to love, giving them the boldness to pass on all that they have received, and to live faithfully in hope of the glory which is yet to come. The Holy Spirit makes the church not just a building but a people who know God and want to share his love with others.
And so, on the 4th June, All Saints celebrated Pentecost. As we marked our birthday, we shared some cake and sang happy birthday. And we all wore something red, a symbol of the fire and the Spirit!
Revd Emma Racklyeft