In pre-earthquake days, we would have been at church on a Sunday morning. But like so many other churches in our city, this is what is left of our church, post earthquakes. A blank space, which was actually being seeded with grass when I took this photo the other day.The walls of the church didn’t come tumbling down, but the structural integrity of the building was so compromised by the earthquakes that it had to be demolished for reasons of public safety.
We still have a church hall, a meeting room, a tiny wooden church school building, a lounge and a portacom office. You can see most of these structures in this photo which shows the view at the back of the church property.The church members continue to meet regularly in the church hall and some activities take place elsewhere. I believe a scrabble group now meets at a nearby retirement home. However, wimp that I am, I am no longer comfortable sitting in a sub-earthquake code building, with exits that seem way to far from any seat I might choose. So we stay home, and the church comes to us. We can access sermons and information on the church website; the minister and elders visit from time to time. And, of course, we keep in touch with other members of the church. The church community has a three year timetable to decide the future of the main church. The buildings that still stand require strengthening if we are to be allowed to continue to use them. So, with the 3 year timetable for the main church, it may be many, many years before we have a church with walls.
What interests me about our church in its current state is the resilience of the church community. Many of the community are elderly and had long standing associations with that particular church building. It was a building with many memories: baptisms, weddings, funerals, celebrations; familiar benches where they sat year after year. Yet, they have taken the loss of the church in their stride. After all, what is one less building when you have survived the Depression, World War, prison of war camps, the Blitz and any number of trials, including major earthquakes.
Also, I am interested in what happens when our church is un- bound from its four walls. So far, I believe it is a liberating experience for everyone. For me, personally, I am more conscious of living my faith in the world and as part of my everyday life. The whole world is my church rather than a small building on a small corner in a small city.
Funnily enough, considering its broken state, our church is named after St Giles, the patron saint of the poor, the outcasts and the disabled. Amen.