The first draft of the letter that I wrote yesterday is different, although on the same theme, to the one I write today.
Yesterday I was writing, with thankfulness, that the restoration work on St. Mary’s, Woolpit, will be able to start very soon, due to the hard work of those in the church who have sourced grants to pay for the work.
Then last night we saw the dramatic pictures of Notre Dame Cathedral in flames and much of that beautiful building being destroyed. Today, some of the images taken by the fire crews from the interior, do give hope that not everything has been obliterated although much will have been severely damaged, both by heat and by water.
Fire occurring during the restoration of historic buildings is a constant concern and in Britain we’ve seen it happen on many occasions – the most recent being the Glasgow School of Art. Yet, all historic buildings need restoration and it has to be an on going process. Which takes me back to our lovely church of All Saints.
Although St. Mary’s doesn’t have stunning glass like that in the Notre Dame cathedral it does have some very old glass in many of the windows – glass that is tinged with green – and these windows are in a poor state. So is much of the stonework around the windows. The restoration that is needed isn’t dramatic but is essential if we are to keep the church water tight, protect the stone work and ensure that we pass on to the next generation our lovely village church. With such work come risks, although lower in the case of St. Mary’s where none of the work is within the roof or ceiling this time, risks that we and our building contractors are very aware of.
As the fire in Notre Dame has re taught the world, our sacred spaces are precious in our lives. To those of us who worship in them, their peace is the product of hundreds of years of prayer. However, they also provide sanctuary and places of quiet to those who may not have Christian faith but do value the importance of sacred spaces.
Our churches are symbols of continuity and stability in a world where so much seems disposable and make shift. They remind us of a different dimension to our lives. St. Mary’s church is open to all who want to stop, to be still and to enjoy the silence. It is there for those who want to encounter God afresh or for those who need a break from busy lives or a brisk walk.
Notre Dame will be rebuilt – a symbol of our resurrection faith – while St. Mary’s will be restored (thanks to the hard work of our fund raisers) and that too is a symbol of God’s love, which is eternal and renewed for each of us.