Building A Church…

Thirty years ago, my first published novel was set in a Suffolk village, loosely based on Martlesham. That love story, with some unexpected (I hope!) twists, was inspired by a project I’d been involved with, to build a new church in Martlesham Heath. Today, St Michael & All Angels stands overlooking the village green – conveniently placed next to the pub, the Douglas Bader.

Never intended to replace the beautiful old parish church of St Mary the Virgin in the “old” village, it meant that worshippers on the Heath no longer needed to congregate in the cricket pavilion. It also provided a modern venue for non-church activities, such as keep-fit classes, and rehearsal facilities for Martlesham Brass.

In my novel, there was initially no love lost between the two communities of “Sharnham”, old and new villages. Eventually, as in real life, villagers from both worked lovingly together to raise funds and see the project through to completion. In Martlesham parish, both church buildings have drawn worshippers from both areas – and been sorely missed during the enforced closure.

However, that closure opened other opportunities for all of us (and Brightwell church) to join together for worship on Facebook and YouTube (search: “Martlesham Benefice”). Further evidence, if needed, that “church” is so much more than a building, old or new. It’s a loving community.

When Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my church,” (Matthew 16:18) he wasn’t planning a construction project. He was speaking to Peter, whose name means “rock”. God loved Peter, a fallible human being like us, and God loves us – wherever we worship. And that’s not romantic fiction.

Revd Heather Cooke
Martlesham with Brightwell

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