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The bigger the better

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"Do we need church buildings? We are struggling in a small village to maintain a medieval church, and it occupies all our time."

HOW we think about our churches is critical to what we do with them. When a church building becomes too great a burden, a possibility is disposing of it. Contemporary culture teaches us to think predominantly for the present.

Most of us have moved on from the design era of "form follows function" which dominated architecture for a generation.

In contrast, most of our churches were designed as sacred space, set aside for meeting with God. Church buildings were designed to reflect and support the enormity of the event inside the walls.

Buildings that push our senses and imagination to new levels also push us beyond our bound-aries to seek a God who is greater than we are. Rather than producing little functional spaces that suit our religious meetings, I would like us to be building churches that use every skill available in 21st-century architecture to inspire and encourage us to know that God is beyond, above, and deeper in us than we can ever know. Isn’t that what St Paul’s Cathedral is about? You meet an infinite God in a great building, and an uninspiring God in a prosaic building.

Buildings in which prayers and sacraments have been shared for hundreds of years have a heavy sense of the presence of God among us, however small our numbers may be. The building itself, bearing its sacred quality, becomes part of a ministry of presence, something challenging, beautiful, and inspiring, standing in any local community, to engage people in subtle ways, whether they enter the building or not.

organ fund-raising

David Knights of the Council for the Care of Churches has assured me of a less bleak scenario on organ fund-raising than the one mentioned in my column a few weeks ago (20 May).

The Heritage Lottery Fund, through its funding stream for features and fittings up to £50,000, is helping to fund some Victorian church organs with repair budgets in the £40-60,000 range.

Your application must show how you will increase access and educational opportunity through the project. Organ recitals and access programmes for school projects are the kind of thing that churches are developing. The website www. bios.org.uk is helpful, and David Knights would be happy to hear from you also if you need further guidance.

Maggie Durran can be contacted at maggie.durran@churchtimes.co.uk

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