There was this Spanish guy, this Chinese guy and this Russian guy all working on the building site for the Habitat Uniting church.
At the beginning of the day the construction manager Vinnie comes out and says to the Spanish guy, "You’re in charge of the cement”. The Spanish guy nods, "Si."
Then he said to the Russian guy, "You're in charge of the dirt." The Russian guy nods, "Da."
Then he said to the Chinese guy, "You're in charge of the supplies." The Chinese guy nods, "Shi."
Then he said, "I'm gonna be back at the end of the day to check on your work. It better be good or the Church Council guy Bruce Mason will be after you and that’s not something I’d wish on anyone."
So they all go off to go get their work done.
At the end of the day, the boss comes back to check on their work. He looks at the big pile of cement and goes, "Good work," to the Spanish guy. Then he looks at the big pile of dirt and says, "Good work," to the Russian guy.
He looks around for the pile of supplies that would be needed for the next day's work, but can't find it, so he starts getting pretty steamed and hollers "Hey! Where's my supplies?!"
Suddenly, the Chinese guy jumps out from behind the big pile of dirt and yells, "SUPPLIES!"
Habitat Uniting Church in Canterbury has been renovated – there’s a bit of a surprise for everyone. Many things are different, many things are still the same.
We are back, but building is not quite finished yet. The organ builders are still at work, another light has to be installed and the back room is still awaiting its cupboard and carpet. We are also waiting for the liturgical furniture to be complete – there will be a baptismal font, now communion table and lectern.
So, we’re moved back into a space that is nearly finished, but not quite. We are a family who moved out while the renovation was being done, and here we are back again and need to work out together how we set up the space. We need to try things out it different positions and test out how the new space works. We can take out time and get a feel for the place as we re-establish ourselves here.
In Peter’s first letter to the early church as he encouraged them in their life and worship. He describes them as like infants longing for spiritual nourishment coming together in a community as like living stones. Peter is using the metaphor of a building project to describe the life of the church. He speaks of Jesus as the corner stone and the people as living stones.
Robert Gribben draws on Peter’s metaphor and has called this little book about church architecture, ‘living stones’. In the introduction we read:
‘By their very design and appearance, church buildings make a statement. In a world increasingly indifferent to the organised religion, it is important that the places where we meet celebrate the sacraments and hear the Word speak of the faith we have to offer.
‘Old buildings can be renewed with knowledge and vision and new church building scan be based on sound principles of worship and theology so that our buildings themselves preach the Gospel and offer the hospitality of God…. ‘
Many of these elements are present in the new worship space.
We go on to read: ‘When we gather for worship, the fist and most influential word is spoken by the church building. It will arrange us in a certain form, it will require a certain manner of address and action, it will make its impact on our Spirits and it will teach us something about God.’
Come and visit the church and consider how these elements arrange you.
What does it require of us? How does it impact on our Spirits and teach us something about God?
Robert says that in church buildings four main spaces are needed- a space for the people, a space for the word, a space for communion and a space for baptism.
Have a look - can you see those spaced in this design?
He also tells us that there needs to be spaces for the key symbols of our faith: Water, Light, The Cross, the Bread and Wine.
Can you see spaces for these symbols in this space?
In his letter, Peter reminds the early church that they are called to be like living stones.
‘Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’
The church is a worshipping community make of people build on the corner stone of relationship with Jesus who like the corner stone in a building or key stone in an arch way, holds the community in place.