I don’t believe in God but I love a good church.
It’s about the architecture, the peace, the contemplation, the wishes and dreams that get thought there, that got it built and that keep it open still for its congregation.
And just across The Mystery from us there’s a particularly beautiful church that I got into for the first time this week, on National Heritage Open Day.
It’s in Hunters Lane, a narrow little road that I often walk along on the way to our local Co-Op shop. The road is now crowded with late 19th/early 20th century houses, mostly divided into flats. But when the church was completed in 1839 it stood on its own.
I would often stop and look at the church, wondering if it were still open. Then a few Sundays ago I happened to be passing around mid-day. The church doors were open and the congregation were on the steps. Not many of them and mostly elderly, but I was very glad to see them there.
So on Sunday this week I couldn’t pass up the chance to go and meet them and look around their beautiful place.
For the heritage event on Sunday they were displaying the wedding dresses of members of the congregation who’d got married in the church. Stretching all the way from last year, to the earliest one from 1927.
What interested me the most though was the place itself and the people who love it.
It’s a ‘Congregational’ church which means, in their own words:
“We are a free church who embrace congregationalism. Congregationalism is all about Christians working and worshipping together in independent congregations making decisions as God leads them in matters of worship, witness and service to their communities. We are the only Congregational Church in Liverpool.
Wavertree Congregational Church started in 1836 as Trinity Chapel. We are a relatively small congregation but are very friendly and welcoming with huge enthusiam.
At the moment we dont have a minister. However this means that our services are fresh and vibrant as we embrace a series of guest preachers and guest ministers from week to week to lead our worship.”
I asked about how the small congregation manage to maintain the building and learned they have a little money from bequests, but that most of the actual work is done for free by one of them, who happens to be a retired builder.
What they do have to spend money on is the maintenance of the church organ.
I knew nothing about church organs other than loving the sound of them. But I soon learned that this one is very special. It’s a Henry ‘Father’ Willis organ. Other examples of it can be found in St. Paul’s and Salisbury Cathedrals. But on this busy open day it was silent. I asked why?
“Well that’s because we’ve got no one who can play it. Someone’s coming from Liverpool Cathedral to play it for us next week so that will be lovely. But we keep it maintained every six months in the hope that one day we’ll find someone who’ll be able to play it for us more regularly.”
Heart twisting. Which is when I decided to write this post. Maybe through this and the Tweeting and general social media activity that will follow we can help to find these lovely, gentle people what they need? And if we can find them two or three people who can share the pleasure, so much the better.
Knowing your way around a keyboard won’t be quite enough though.
But wouldn’t it be great if social media, something undreamt of when the church and its organ were built, could help find the people who could once again fill this lovely place with music? Pass the word around.
So let me know if you think you can help. Or contact Wavertree Congregational Church directly.
And of course it goes without saying that, even if you couldn’t play their organ, they’d welcome you into their congregation if you’re interested. It’s not for atheist me, but there’s space for us all with our beliefs and non-beliefs, I believe.