Some time ago someone made the comparison between the established church in the uk and museums. Many of the larger churches and cathedrals in the country ate full of old artifacts, ancient paintings and commemorations to those who died years ago. Some cathedrals even charge admission for those who want to visit as tourists.
Another colleague of mine took this comparison further applied it to smaller churches in certain areas. When members of his parish ask him to baptise their child, he asks them to cone to church before the baptism day itself. Their response is usually to come once, and then say that they’ve been. They feel no need to come again for many years. Just like if you were visiting a museum. You might go one November and then not go again for a couple of years.
I’m currently in Leuven, Belgium for a couple of days. The central church, St. Peter’s, is a huge gothic catholic church, architecturally very impressive. As with many churches of it’s day, it boasts a large central screen separating the choir and high altar from the nave. Today, the altar has been moved forward and the space from the screen through the chancel is now a museum, costing 2.50 Euros to get in, containing the church’s treasures and religious paintings from the area. It is literally a museum, caught in a time warp, visited mainly by tourists (like me).
After my visit, I stepped into the Market Square and sat down to have a coffee and a pastry. As I was watching the passers by, two students walked passed wearing a red tabard over their clothes. The tabard said (in Flemish), ‘prayer here’. I spoke to one of them and she said that they were from the university evangelical students group and the wanted to take their faith onto the streets. It seemed that they had a few conversations with people and they prayed for them. I wonder whether this simple action was a much more effective statement of faith than the gothic church-museum that I went unto.