Apart from faith and family my two main passions are music and photography. I distinctly remember the first time I was deeply moved by a piece of music I was a 9 year old boy at the time.. My parents gave me my first camera – a Kodak Brownie 127 – a year later and I used it for the first time during a family camping holiday in mid-Wales. I took several pictures of some chickens that visited our tent each day on the search for scraps of food.
Photographers love cameras and all the associated equipment. Which was my favorite camera shop? Jessop’s of course. Music lovers pass many hours browsing through LPs and CDs at record shops. Which was my favorite shop? Yes, you’ve guessed it, HMV. Unless you are not a watcher of TV news or a reader of the papers, you will know that both of these long established and very well known retailers have gone into receivership and are no longer trading. For me, and for many others like me, this is very bad and very sad news indeed.
Many would say to me, “shops are a thing of the past, internet retailing is the future”. I would reluctantly have to agree with them and say that this new age of buying and selling has many advantages over the old way of bartering for goods over the counter but think what we are losing – community.
The Post Office closed suddenly in the village where I lived some years ago and I remember the profoundly negative effect its demise had on village life. It seemed that something of the village died that day. The number of people walking back and forth from the village centre plummeted and there were far fewer opportunities and much less reason for people to leave their homes and bump into friends and neighbor for a catch-up and a mardle (gossip). Community life was severely damaged.
Do you know, it’s possible to go to church on the internet these days. For some time there have been “Virtual Churches”. You can hook up with them to experience worship, teaching, prayer and to become part of an “on-line community”. I can see the attractions at this time of year….. No getting up for me at some unearthly hour on a Sunday morning and making my way to church on a dark and freezing cold morning. All I would have to do would be to crawl out of bed, go downstairs, fire up my computer and lead my services from the comfort of my own study. I could even record the material, broadcast it automatically and take Sundays off. Now there’s a thought!
But Jesus didn’t come just to teach us facts about the kingdom of God, or to encourage us to sing songs and pray in isolation. No, he came to show us and to encourage us to build a new community. And true community can never be virtual. True community means being with people, sharing the same space, breathing the same air. Seeing one another, talking with one another, and even touching one another. Church is community – church people are in community with one another and with God – and that is why it can be such a life giving, joyful and essential thing to be part of.
James Nash – Rector of the Church in the Woottons