It was a wonderful surprise last Sunday afternoon, arriving at St. Paul’s Church and having nearly 100 people in the church looking for an opportunity to ring our bells to commemorate the 100 years since the signing of the armistice, ending World War 1.
I can’t help but wonder why: what brings people to the church for these occasions? I’m not one who usually thinks it’s helpful to be curious about what motivates people, because it often enough leads to judging people’s reasons. So, I didn’t ask, but many people told me so anyway. It might have been that they were curious about the bell tower, it might have been a desire to commemorate the importance of the armistice. Several people rang the bell in memory of a particular veteran that they knew personally or who was related to them.
I dare say that even though very few people actually said so, it was an opportunity to be with God. Perhaps some people, in some way, desired an encounter with God. There was no sermon on Sunday afternoon: no hymns, no coffee—just an opening prayer and people patiently lined up to ring the bell, as if they were on their way to receive communion.
Upon reflection perhaps this could be one more gift we can offer the wider community—a place for people, beyond ourselves, to encounter the divine.
A church that exists only for itself has a limited life expectancy, but one that lives for others has eternity on it’s side.