We’re just starting the holiday season – I hope that you making the most of the sunshine and summer season for some rest and relaxation. Of course, if we have a typical British summer you may be reading this in the pouring rain! The word “holiday” comes originally from holy day, because people were given time off work to attend church services on saints’ days or festivals. Perhaps this is still relevant to us today. Holidays give us chance for physical relaxation, but perhaps we also gain spiritual refreshment from the new experiences and people we meet.
By the time you read this John and I will have spent a week in Pembrokeshire as part of our summer holidays. It’s one of our favourite places and we usually go there at least once a year. It’s a place that I find spiritually refreshing as well as physically relaxing. The beauty of the landscape, the joy of paddling in the sea, and the peace of the cathedral create a sense of calm and rest.
Last year there was a special competition on the beach while we were there – a “Sand Church Competition”! The beach was divided into sections and families or groups of people had three hours to create their own version of a church sculpted in sand. At the end of that time one of the clergy team from St David’s Cathedral came to judge the competition and present the prizes.
It was fascinating to see how people interpreted the theme and how creative they were with the resources available. I wondered if the designs of the churches reflected the experiences of their creators. Did the sand church represent their view of the church in Britain today?
One group built a small chapel out of pebbles and sand, the sort of place that you would find in a remote rural area of Wales. It looked a bit like an up-market shepherd’s hut, but somehow they had managed to create an atmosphere of calm and holiness about the building.
Another group had made their church into a ruin on top of a hill. It resembled Mont St Michel in France but the church had no roof and was open to the elements. It was obviously a relic and not a place for present day worshippers. A third group obviously had a feeling that a church was more about people than a building. They had drawn lots of stick figures in the sand and had written “We are the Body of Christ”. They were making a strong theological point but it was less impressive as a construction.
If you were building a sand church what would it look like? Would it be based on one of the churches in our benefice or would it be a unique design based on your experiences of church? Church buildings often create a feeling of peace; there is a timeless quality which reminds us of the prayers and worship of past generations. It is the people who create that atmosphere through their hospitality and love; a welcoming church reflects God’s love for all people. That’s a difficult thing to re-create in sand!
However you spend your holiday I hope that it provides opportunities for rest and relaxation.