Monday, September 15, 2008

Haunted by the Curse of the Millenium Wok

'A wok is only as good as the food inside it', would seem to be a rather obvious observation. Chinese restaurants do not win accolades for the size or quality of their award-winning pans, but (we hope) for the stunning combination of flavours which dazzle the happy palate of the consumer of their garlic and chili-laden chicken satay.

This is a lesson which the good and wise leaders of our country apparently hadn't grasped as they planned the millennium celebrations, eight short years ago (eight!!). For those of you who live outside the UK, the centre-piece of the celebrations here was the 'Millennium Dome', a gigantic upturned wok by the Thames in East London. It could hold vast crowds, it was a magnificent piece of engineering and it was anticipated that millions would gather under its giant roof to admire the er...... um...... er... things that we will put in it that people might want to come and look at, er, at least I think that's it. Conceived in the decaying years of the Major government, and executed in Blair's glory years of successful media management, the Millennium Wok was to be a triumph! The nagging question about what was going actually go in the cosmic inverted oriental saucepan, lingered in the background like the proverbial bad smell. No, that's not strictly true, the doubts about the content accelerated towards the millennium, like a jet-aircraft approaching take-off speed. In what appeared to be a last-ditch effort to avert disaster, the incumbent regime frantically sought to rustle-up some last minute attractions, to lure the punters in under the guidance of the fella from Eurodisney. In the end, visitor numbers were neither as embarrassingly low as the scheme's detractors had predicted, but neither were they anything near the what original vision for the project had envisaged.

I watched today as a huge mobile crane towered above the houses of Perth's western edge, lowering long, pre-cut beams into position over the structure whose roof they will form. For two years we have looked at the architects plans, displayed on the church noticeboard. Now every day the building site more closely resembles the shapes we have imagined for so long. It has been a wonderful process of planning, teamwork, fundraising and sacrificial giving by many, many people to get us this far.

However, even as I watched part of the structure being lowered into place, I was struck by the image of the Millennium Dome; that awesome space, that for so long was an awful vacuum. I am somewhat haunted by the image of that great space, like an inverse tardis, so externally impressive and yet internally vacant. But my comparison is not a practical one. In the case of our church fellowship, we are spilling out of the space we are in and have immediate need for a new kitchen to replace the old condemned one, a decent office, a quiet place for prayer, storage space, not to mention a worship space in which we can all gather. No, practically filling the space is not the concern, we are a very active fellowship with kids clubs, bible-classes, toddler groups, youth groups, ladies group, lunches, bible-studies, and more, all in addition to the main worship services.

I looked at the shape of the sanctuary spreading out across what was once grass and wondered. I wondered if this space we are, by the grace of God building, will be a place in which He makes himself present with us. Will it be a place of empty possibilities left dangling in the air with all the disillusionment of unfulfilled potential, or will it be a place in which we meet with God? Will it be a place in which Christ is made known, and in which people are drawn to Him, or a place of missed opportunities? Will it be a place in which community functions, and the love of Christ is evidenced in practical caring - or place in which parallel lives almost, but never quite, touch. Will it be a place in which God's praises are sung that will lift these brand-new rafters, or simply a place in which songs are sung? Will our prayer-chapel be a place of wrestling with God and in which the blessings of heaven are secured for earth, or simply a place of spiritual massage!? Will the new platform under the end-wall that is now but a timber-frame, be one from which the word is preached with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, or one from which mere words are issued?

The image of the great millennium wok, the Greenwich Folly, haunts me and disturbs me. It unsettles me and must drive me to prayer. If you sense such a disturbance - will you join me?


His Girl Friday said...

"I looked at the shape of the sanctuary....."
Your post was excellent, but I find this paragraph to be most eloquent and sobering. I wish more believers thought (or openly thought) this way and were humble enough to share this with others.

With your wisdom and humble heart, HM, I feel that you/yours will be quite blessed.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts exactly