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Michael Palin on the place of church in community

Michael Palin on the place of church in community

Church Times has an essay from former Monty Python member Michael Palin describing the role that churches (the buildings) have played in his life.

“…wherever else there has been a tumult to escape from. I’ve also listened to sublime music and wonderful choirs in churches around the world, and I still find that a special treat.

But there are seven churches that have meant more to me than most.

In the article he recalls the churches that have touched his life or been memorable in important ways, such as; where he was baptized and attended as a child, the churches visited on summer holidays (somewhat reluctantly) with his father, where he was married, and where his great-grandfather was vicar and his local parish church.  He is especially struck by a tiny chapel on Cape Horn;cape horn chapel

What light there is falls from two small windows, one on each side, both of them murky with sea salt.

Out of one window is the Pacific Ocean, and out of the other the Atlantic. Nowhere else do the coastlines of the world’s two greatest oceans come so close that by a simple turn of the head you can see them both.


And though, Palin does not consider himself a Christian (“Agnostic with doubts” still remains an accurate description of the state of my faith [he says,]. But I still visit churches whenever I can, and find great comfort in them), he does see the local church as an important marker of community;

FOR my part, I feel very strongly that, if the idea of a community is to mean anything at all, then we must value the churches that are at their centre. Not just because so many are beautiful buildings in themselves, but for what they can still offer – as they used to offer – as havens, shelters, places of protection, places that it doesn’t cost a penny to enter, and which won’t cost you a penny to stay all day.

We must not be afraid to try and use our churches, open them for believers and non-believers, and even “agnostics with doubts” to enjoy. They are an archive of hopes, dreams, fears, skills, talent, and troubles, which should surely be available to as many people as possible. They are a precious expression of our past. And it is the duty of our present generation to deliver them intact for the future.


posted by Jon White


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Melissa Holloway

Yes. But this is a far broader view of community than I usually hear in church. Usually in church, community means us, and in the U.S., the Baptismal Covenant is often the marker for the community, especially when the community is talking about itself.

Philip B. Spivey

A far broader view indeed. “Upon this rock I will build my ekklesia.” (Mat 16:18)

Ekklesia better describes Palin’s view of Christianity; the notion of “a church” or “The Church” came later. An ekklesia has no walls.

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