In a recent conversation with a colleague, we got to talking about the roof. Ah, the church roof! I indicated that if I were to sum up my ministry of the past 5 years, it would be by talking about the church roof.
Understandably, my colleague was a little taken back. While I believe that a church building is very important, it is just bricks and mortar – and a roof. I have seen some church buildings that have become more of a museum than a house of worship, some where the structure has become more important than the community.
And yet: the roof. It defines my most recent ministry.
Partially, this is true because I have gained a lot of experience in putting on a roof. (Well, not personally!) Within the 6-point parish I presently serve, we are blessed with the care for 9 buildings and one garage: 6 parish churches, 1 parish hall, 2 rectories. There has been much work done on these roofs during my tenure.
The rectory was re-shingled just before I moved in. The garage was newly-built (therefore has a new roof!) The separate parish hall was re-shingled. Two of the parishes have had repairs done to the roof, 2 others have had new metal roofs put on.
While there have been various grants awarded for the new roofs, from the Diocese and the Anglican Foundation and local community groups, (and we are so grateful!), there has been a lot of fundraising!
But even before that happened, there was discernment. We knew that working on a roof is a major expense, and so wanted to make sure that this was a wise and faithful use of resources. Especially in small, rural communities, we had to ask ourselves: Is God calling us to continue in this way? Are we being led by the Spirit to a different style of ministry that is not linked to our building? Are we a ‘viable’ congregation that will have extended need of this building? Will this roof benefit the community, or just those of us who meet for regular worship?
In all ways, the communities came together. With clarity, we all articulated that yes, for the love of God, we need a new roof. Not just as something to top the walls, not just as something to catch the snow, but as a sign of our ministry. We need a new or repaired roof because we are an active, vibrant, faithful collection of God’s people. We need that roof because we intend to live, fully, and to share that life with our communities. We need that roof because we, the church, are alive: not as bricks and mortar but as the people of God exercising ministry.
That process of discernment has been exciting. It’s been energising. It’s been delightful to witness these congregations identify their ministries, their gifts, and then commit – through prayer, work, and finances – to the future of the church.
And so, I summarised to my friend: my recent ministry has been all about the roof. Not for what it is/does, but for what it stands for: a vital and healthy community. Realistically, a dying congregation doesn’t focus on the roof; a living congregation commits to the roof as a shelter for their ministry.
What a delight to be witness to communities so committed to raising the roof!