One of the roles played by churches is that of a spiritual home, a safe harbour in a storm, a refuge, a place to which weary travellers return. We see this every week at St. Stephen’s where members, both old and new, seek a sense of belonging where familiar faces and familiar habits become a reassuring sign of “coming home”.
We saw this a few weeks ago at the funeral service for Ann Rhodes. Ann’s association with St. Stephen’s was lifelong and she was an active member of the AYPA (Anglican Young People’s Association) in the post-war years. The church then was central to the social life of many young adults, as is evidenced by the many pictures we have from that time of stage productions, scouting events, and a full choir featuring the glowing faces of several well-known present-day members.
Ann’s funeral brought many of the old gang “home” and many took the time to say how good this felt to them. Their young lives were forged here, romances were sparked, and deep friendships were formed that have endured a lifetime. One woman who has lived abroad and who returned to worship with another congregation asked tearfully if, when the time comes, she might be buried from St. Stephen’s.
With our current focus on redevelopment and on all the exciting possibilities for future growth and change, we should never forget that we are also, for many people, the rich and rewarding past. And that every Sunday is a “homecoming”.