It’s a truism that buildings have atmosphere. I have walked into some churches and have felt the presence of God and into others which have just seemed like hollow shells. Interestingly it hasn’t seemed to me to have anything to do with age but rather what has happened in the church. Another factor has been the presence of Our Blessed Lord in the Tabernacle.
When I was a teenager I visited Kelham to test if I had a vocation with the possibility of entering the “cottage” a sort of pre-theological training, preparing young Ordinands. Kelham had a profound effect on me and it was the time I spent there which rooted me in the Catholic faith. Much of that was engendered by the time I spent in the wonderful chapel experiencing the Liturgy in all its glory.
A couple of years ago I was staying in the north and discovered that Kelham was just down the road from the hotel. My wife and I decided to pay a visit aware that SSM were no longer there. The building is now used as Council Offices. At Kelham we went to the Reception area and I asked if I might visit what, in my youth, had been the chapel. They were very obliging ad arranged for an official to take me through the building to the chapel which is now used as the Council Chamber and as a Ballroom for functions.
As I walked into the chapel, somewhat apprehensively, what had been the chapel was now full of the bits and pieces used for Council meetings. I stood there transfixed for some minutes remembering what had been and I’m not ashamed to confess that tears rolled down my cheeks. The chapel was gone, the atmosphere gone; no longer was the wonderful liturgy celebrated with its clouds of incense.
The church is not the building we worship in but the people of God who gather to worship, pray and celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass. Remove the people, remove the tabernacle and you are left with an empty shell which is what the old chapel at Kelham now is under its new owners.
These thoughts came to me as I have read various blogs talking about taking churches into the Ordinariate. Whilst it would be great if the CofE agreed I have no doubt in my mind that they will not do so. But the church is not a building it is the gathered people of God offering Him praise, worship, thanksgiving but most of all the Holy Mass. We should not be afraid to enter the Ordinariate because we don’t have a church building I believe God will go with us as we journey into this new and exciting venture.