Sunday, 21 September 2008

Grace and Beloved's ChurchSearch Week 14: Grace gets lost and makes an unexpected discovery

I was looking for a path. Potentially all very allegorical. I'd heard several rumours of an unmapped footpath through some woodland, which would, if it were where it were claimed to be, enable me to avoid a particularly scary roundabout whilst cycling to New Job. The trouble with that being that, whereas several rumours claimed the path to be there, none could agree its precise location. So I set off into the broad afternoon daylight to try and find it. And I got lost.

I found myself on a bright, leafy, newly-developed estate. I kept cycling through, hoping eventually to run into a main road or at least a road sign pointing to somewhere I recognised. What I finally recognised was the church. An immensely forlorn and dilapidated hut-like little building, right at the centre of the estate. I stood there, blinking, trying to account for this inexplicable sense of remembering. And then I realised. It was, I realised, a church I'd been to few times, years back when it had been temporarily hired for a few evangelistic-type meeting.

Back then, it had been a grim, dire, adjectly miserable-looking estate. The grotty little church had been very much in keeping with its overall character. Now, though, it seemed as though the entire estate, with the exception of the church, had been flattened, re-designed and rebuilt into somewhere fresher and more livable-feeling. The church, though, had remained entirely as it had been prior to the redevelopment. It stood as a centrepiece to the estate, a reminder of what a grim place the area had been.

Why, when the estate and its housing blocks, shopping precinct, pubs and verges were all redeveloped, why was the church left untouched? At first I wondered whether the church was simply a decommissioned, abandoned shell of a building, but then I saw a sign advertising its service times, toddler groups, luncheon clubs and youth activites for the estate. It's still (and its website also confirms this) very much a living, active congregation.

Perhaps the church reveals what the rest of the development doesn't, which is that new frontages and flower beds can be deceptive and that maybe many of the underlying social problems of the estate have not been solved by its redevelopment. Nevertheless, as the final building to retain vestiges of a crumbling, miserable-looking past, the church seems to carry such a backwardly-focused, hope-devoid image of its message. Very, very sad, I think. If I had a few hundred thousand pounds to donate, I'd love to build the church and the community an attractive, cosy, welcoming-looking new building for the centre of the estate...

1 comment:

Steve Lancaster said...

Oh, you have to watch allegory! Or before long you find you've written Dante's Inferno ;).

What you've written here is more than allegory, because it has been lived. (Question: is 'lived allegory' a workable definition of prophecy?)

Been absent as computer decided to pack me in a box with all my leads whilst it took over the DIY for a bit. I hope life's good? Sounds like it is.