“Here is the Church, and here’s the steeple!
Open the door, and here are all the people!”
Ever play that? I’m sure we all have. I don’t really remember when I learned it, and now that I’m looking at it, I’m wondering if I remember the words right. Maybe it’s ‘Here’s the people’ – ungrammatic, but part of me remembers it that way.
You remember the finger motions, don’t you? They are just there in our memories. Vague, ghostly people half-remembered, also – the people you remember playing it with. Sunday school teachers. Parents. An uncle or two. Somebody somewhere at a children’s meeting. I’ve “used” the game with a stranger child who was scared of me, or when I was baby-sitting a child who couldn’t stop crying.
Once upon a time, a long way away from here. I remember thinking about that sing-song verse from my youth. I was in another St. Alban’s Church.
It was in England. Not far from London. In the market town of St. Alban’s. That church isn’t next door to a Cathedral, it IS a Cathedral. St. Alban’s Cathedral. (Deans of that cathedral seem to turn up as guest preachers here from time to time — I think one’s coming later this year).
Why I remembered that bit of verse right then I honestly don’t know. It may be because that particular church was a very unusual sort of place. It had been built over a period of time, and each piece was designed and added on at different times. More than that each piece of the building having had its own designers and builders, it had a sense of being a collection of pieces, not a single church.
Each of the designers and the builders lived in different times, and obviously had different ideas about what should be included in the building and what it should look like. So a lovely brick wall morphed into a stone cloister. Another part was all curves and another all straight line.
That church seemed to mimic my funny, finger-action verse. When you open your hands to show all the fingers, you can think how each of those fingers is different – some fingers are good at pointing directions, others better at holding the other side of what you’re picking up. One finger is often reserved mostly for insulting people. Each one, different. Like my little finger with its crooked joint- crooked because I tried to catch a football once and badly missed it.
Strange building, that St. Alban’s is. But look at this one we go to on Sundays. Looks like a lot of churches I know (one reason I love it is that it LOOKS a lot like the church I knew in South Carolina where I grew up, a place I remember reaching out in happy times and sad ones).
What different emotions all those differences remind us of. What different experiences. Think further – when you open your hands and wiggle all the fingers, think of all those people – each one unique. Each one reaching out from where they are – hoping, dreaming, wishing to touch…maybe somebody…maybe even to touch God.
For all those churches we’ve know, there are thousands more. Each built by a motley group of human beings, groping for the same thing, building different sorts of places in which to do the reaching out. They all build something different. That St. Alban’s in England and ours.
Think about it. In each of those churches, like in this one, hungry, thirsty, lonely people reaching out for each other and for Somebody that holds it all together.
People like us. Each one a finger, each different, and each dreaming and hoping to connect.
See you Sunday. Let’s touch fingers! I’ll be reaching out.