So I’m at something called Naper Settlement here in Illinois, a mid-1800’s display of replica houses and stores. My daughter is here for summer homework for a US History class.
So to my amazement there’s a church. I’m sorry, a Church! Not some replica. Built in 1864 it was an Episcopal Church. Amazingly it hasn’t been stripped of its artifacts. I only had a few minutes inside before I had to leave because there’s a wedding planned.
It’s stunning, my pictures here don’t do it justice. It’s not the Sistine Chapel, but its surely isn’t a “modern American Church building.” An Altar up front that the priests would offer Eucharist facing away from the congregation. Ornate woodworking. Vibrant colors. Solemnity.
And it has been reduced to essentially a historical curiosity. As I consider the crumbling theological structures of the Church of England, it’s impossible to not see the parallels.
Instead of Ancient traditions and solemn worship there’s capitulation to the modern times. In Europe the old churches are being torn down: here and here. The CofE thinks it can do the Theological legwork in short order to incorporate “gay weddings and transgender affirmations”. A hundred years ago I wouldn’t have to tell you this is wrong, we’d all know instinctively.
I’m torn as to which is ultimately better when a local church community dies: demolition or historic talisman. The former is sad in the loss of majestic artistry but reflects reality; the later retains the physical beauty but is drained of any real life giving vitality.
Fortunately, our life is in Christ and not any building. The Church, she is us, the body and bride of Christ. We Anglicans are just starting the process of rebuilding. In coffee houses, garages, borrowed spaces, the faithful’s houses, Elementary Schools and at Cathedral of the Diocese of the Upper Midwest in a renovated factory.
The Church isn’t a building. We the followers of Christ are. She is us and we are She. Wherever we meet it is a church gathering. I’m not arguing against beauty here. I’d love some more at mine. But I’ll take orthodoxy over capitulation. We must rebuild. This new generation must be taught the Ancient ways. The way of humility. The way of submission to Christ Jesus. The way of the Cross. For in them is Life.
Soli Deo Gloria