Thursday, 3 August 2017

So, Is the Work in Progress? by Mari Howard aka Clare Weiner

Diggers at work!
The longest procrastination?

Our church jumped in with both feet this month: work is now in progress, after 108 years, to complete the building. 

Ever since the money ran out in 1909, the West End has been waiting … and during those years, a lot has happened. Of course the back of the church, the west wall, was nicely finished off, and a beautiful garden was created where the proposed seats for 400 more people had been on the architects plan. Then, nothing more could be afforded.

The west end garden ... before ...
Today, a longer nave isn’t exactly what we need: congregations are, thinking realistically, smaller than what was expected in 1909. But, if the church’s mission is to take the gospel out to the community today, we do need to develop. Both our building, and our expectations, and what we offer. We need small meeting rooms for weekday events, an office, a good kitchen. We need up-to-date toilets: in plural, and with baby changing space, not just the one which lurks, like a dingy afterthought, beyond the vestry.  The vision is to offer the church as a better space for worship, and other congregational gatherings, for community use, to be a place of welcome to those who rarely if ever go inside a religious building, and to hopefully be open during the week for quiet, prayer, or just to look around.

The diggers have arrived, dug trenches for water and other facilities, and already a concreted area shows the ‘footprint’ of the new space. And the trenches are evidently fitted out with the pipes and the wires, as they’re now filled in!

So now, instead of a work-in-progress, St Michael’s truly is a work in progress - work is progressing, moving forward, after a hundred and eight of years of waiting. Hopefully, the extension will stand for many years, watching over the progress of a church keeping up with the challenges of the times, in tune with how our God wants us to respond to a changing society, climate change, increasing technology, and whatever the future holds. 

And what about us?

Often we refer to ourselves as ‘one of God’s works in progress’. Are we making progress like the builders, are we  ‘like living stones, being  built onto spiritual house, a holy priesthood, offering sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’? (I Peter 2.5) And are we, as individuals, ‘temples of the Holy Spirit’? One area our Vicar wants to develop, alongside of the fabric of the building, is the spiritual life of the congregation. We need to build up our prayer lives. And pray for the parish around us, and also about the tasks we each are called to in daily life. So that we become truly the body of Christ in our community.

Beams and foundations 
The personal challenge

This message underlined for me that if the call to write is my God given task, it deserves priority. It’s easy to think that writing is self centred, whereas making cakes and serving on the summer Saturday cake stall, helping with the Christian Aid collection, sorting the Food Bank box to make sure everything we give is suitable and in date, and all similar distractions are selfless, more spiritual, and superior. But if the task is to write, they are distractions, worthy but time-consuming. They can be done by others. It’s a temptation to feel guilty, saying ‘I have to work’ when the work is writing fiction. This I think can be a problem for the Christian writer, as most people don’t realise how much time it takes to write a book, and how serious writing is actually very demanding! ‘Oh I’d love to be a writer’ people say, not thinking how much social life, let alone church social life, they’d have to not do in order to get it done.

So, having been to Scargill, and spent a wonderful week in Cornwall (renewing my inner eye and my photos for use in the new book) it is now down to writing in the holiday month of August. Which should work, since all the usual church activities are taking a break … Love You to the Moon is a complex story, and past the planning stage. They say you should be preparing your publicity well before you finish the book …The church extension is due for dedication in April, the Bishop probably has it in his diary.  … can I get a version to the beta readers by then?

Clare Weiner writes as Mari Howard and is currently working on the third in a family saga tracing the ups and down of a couple of young professionals, (one raised in a Christian family, the other not), their birth families, their children, and their crises, in today’s world.
The books explore our changing culture, and how we might live generously and inclusively with people unlike ourselves. Website:Hodgepublishing

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