the hopes sessions / 2 / doorstep

4 04 2011

hope on the doorstep

Hope is rising.

Sometimes hope can be found right on the doorstep.
Sometimes hope is trampled on.
Sometimes hope is a springboard for more hope.

This doorstep  is where the youth club meets.


beautiful. sparkly. graffiti. people.

23 09 2009

What is beautiful? Not what building or person or cat is beautiful; but what is it that makes them beautiful, or not? What shape or lines or colours makes one thing beautiful and another thing not? There’s probably a scientific formula, but that’s just being silly.



We are surrounded by different people’s views of what beauty is. One person’s beauty is another person’s porn; one artist’s beauty is another’s graffiti; one building’s beauty is another’s Gherkin. Retaining something called beauty is massive industry.

There is a lot of snobbishness about beauty. In the world of ‘church’ where I spend a lot of my time there are endless debates about the ‘beauty’ of certain buildings (usually old ones), the ‘beauty’ of certain songs (usually old ones), the ‘beauty’ of certain worship styles (usually old ones).  Perceived wisdom is that ‘old’ is ‘beautiful’. If old is not beautiful, it is certainly ‘proper’. As if Jesus came in 1872 and said “Stop what you’re doing and look dusty”.

Many people who don’t go to church often have strong opinions about what a ‘beautiful church’ is; my last church St Mary’s Southgate and my new one here in St Helier both have few weddings, because the churches are not considered good enough for wedding photos. Many people want ‘proper’ looking churches, that contain dark wooden pews and stained-glass windows and have no heating. They, of course, aren’t the ones trying to do kids church and cafes and not die of hypothermia in the winter.

So what makes a ‘beautiful church’? It’s a cliché if you’ve been around church for years but it’s new if you haven’t – the building is irrelevant. It can be old and beautiful or old and ugly; new and beautiful or new and ugly. Who gives a monkey’s.

Here are 2 photos. Which church is the most beautiful?

Jesus comes to show us beauty. His beautiful love is not love of bricks and mortar in the same way his beautiful love is not love of religion or anything especially ‘solid’. The beauty he came to show us is locked away deep within us all; the beauty of a created person he looks at and says “This is good!! You are good!!”.

So what makes a beautiful church? PEOPLE!! Wonderful, sparkly beautiful people who know they are loved and forgiven and released and changed and transformed and who have God the Creator living in them and seeping into every crack and crevice of their lives like the flowers that cannot help but sprout in the cracks in the concrete or the spray-can that covers an age of decaying and depressing brickwork with beautiful mesmerising and wonderful colours.

the one with the beautiful mural...

the one with the beautiful mural...

I belong to a beautiful church in a beautiful place. The 20,000 strong south London estate of St Helier (once Europe’s biggest council estate) might not seem so beautiful to many. The buildings might not win any awards. My church building is certainly distinctively designed. But the people! Each one loved and precious, and some so full of sparkle that it makes me smile. And some with the potential to sparkle like the most beautiful diamond you’ve ever seen. A beautiful church is a people that love and are loved. Yes, heating helps, cushions help, movable seating helps, data projectors help. Not being bored certainly helps. The Victorian Society generally do not help.

No matter how crusty or crumbly or badly-drawn we feel, may we know we are beautiful people being beautiful church that cannot help but spill out and make everything else beautiful like the best graffiti in the crumbliest place. In big words, that is the incarnation, the resurrection, the Immanuel. Spray me beautiful! And smile.


beautiful immanuel

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