There is nothing more satisfying than walking into a well-kept church, pews freshly polished, brasses shining, carpets beautifully cleaned, fresh flowers and not a cobweb in site. Such churches exude a sense of peace and calm and speak of a church building loved and valued for the special place that it is.
For many this reflects the respect due to “God’s house”. It goes along with wiping one’s feet at the door, men taking off their hat, the young refraining from chewing gum and pets kept outside. For many of us such an attitude is instinctive and we would expect nothing less.
Yet for all of this we must remember that we do not ask people to come into our churches to share just part of their lives. The Church, in both its buildings and its communities, should be a place where all of life is acknowledge, in its beauty and its brokenness, where nobody needs pretend and secrets do not need to be hidden.
The Church should be a place where the good, the bad and the uncomfortable can be safely held. Tears, laughter, anger, love, dreams, doubts, fears, hopes, confusion and much, much more should be able to find a home here. And in the process we have to accept that mud, both real and metaphorical, will fall on the carpet. Indeed any church where there has not been mud on the carpet in not true Church.
So polish, scrub, vacuum and dust your church as much as you like but please leave some evidence there has also been mud on the carpet. Reassure me that all of my life is welcome here, that this is one place where I can be really real, that this is a safe space in which I do not have to pretend.