Support the Café
Search our site

Keys to the kingdom

Keys to the kingdom

One priest tells the story of a man who broke into church to pray – and another replies with the story of a church that stayed open.

Last week, Giles Fraser wrote in the Guardian about a disconcerting moment when his church warden arrived one morning to find the door forced open. Inside, she found a man praying, surrounded by burning candles.

The first thing she noticed was that all the candles had been lit. And by all, I mean all. The main altar candles, the side altar candles, about 20 or so on the votive candle stand, the one in front of Our Lady, and so on. For a high church establishment such as ours, lighting all the candles is quite an undertaking. The place looked like a John Woo film set. And there, sitting a few pews up from the front, a solitary man sat still. He hadn’t broken in to rob or damage, he had broken in to pray. And judging by the amount of candle wax he burned, he had been there half the night.

They chatted. He apologised for the door. And then left.

Fraser, who is the Priest-in-Charge at St Mary, Newington, in south London, reflected that “there was much to admire in a man who had gone to such remarkable lengths simply to get into a church to pray,” remembering times when he had let himself into St Paul’s Cathedral at night to sit in the silent dark, and pray.

Responding via the letters page, a “friend and colleague” of Fraser remembered a church in another part of London where

the church council decided never to lock the glass-plated door fronting on to the street. We believed that a church may be needed just as much by night as by day. It was on the path of a good many tramps crossing Blackheath on the way to London. The sanctuary was lit. It cost us only the electricity.

Some came just to sit. Some to pray. A few to sleep. They caused no trouble.

Once, a processional cross went for a walk, but turned up on the banks of the Thames. Canon Paul Oestreicher admits that this was in the 1970s, and in a different part of town, but marvels that

on many a morning we could say “Jesus slept here last night”.

Featured image: St Mary Newington, where Canon Giles Fraser serves as Priest-in-Charge

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

3 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ken Campbell

The Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Orleans, Massachusetts was consecrated on the Feast of Pentecost in 1933, since that date the church has never been locked, indeed has no locks.

David Allen

Perhaps if congregations took steps to lock away precious babbles and to secure areas of the building that would be unwise to leave unattended, they could then leave more naves unlocked and open for the least of these to visit 24/7. Yes, it would take forethought, extra effort and maybe even a certain expense to bring it about, but it is doable. And I think Jesus would like it.

Kathy Franklin

Yes

Facebooktwitterrss
Support the Café
Past Posts
2020_012
2020_013_B
2020_013_A

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café