By the beginning of 1887 the building phase was coming to fruition. On the 19th of February 1887 the Vicar with others climbed ladders to participate in the dedication of the Stone Cross at the summit of the south-west turret. And now all connected with St John’s were preoccupied in preparing for the great day, 30th of April, 1887, when the church was to be consecrated.
Following the consecration the ‘Norwood Advertiser’ published this article about St John’s:
How far has St John’s fulfilled the requirements which shall make it a blessing to the neighbourhood, and give the people cause to heartily join in the services which had been held during the week in thankfulness for the completion of a noble edifice? …
While many of the surrounding clergy are preaching to empty pews, the Church of St John’s is crowded to overflowing; therefore, there is direct evidence that the services are appreciated. But this alone would not prove that the Church is doing good in the neighbourhood. Many a public building even with a bad reputation is crowded night by night, and no one pretends to say that the moral tone of a neighbourhood is improved thereby. We must look at the character of the people who attend, and the work which is being done by them…we are of opinion that a deep and earnest religious feeling is everywhere prevalent… Nor is evidence wanting of the sincerity of the congregation.
In the church we oscillate between our concern for the church people and the church building. To me both are of immeasurable importance. The first because we are the people who follow Christ, who in our discipleship decide that we want to fashion our lives and walk in the footsteps of the person who reveals to us the image and mind of God, who is Jesus. The latter, because in already walking in those steps and gathering in this church building, in our worship we capture the joy of being together, glimpses of the hidden life of God, and even, something of the beauty of heaven.
Too often we prioritise one over the other, one to the detriment of the other. But as Christians we need to find that fine line to tread where this magnificent building and the magnificent people contained within and our potential are equally nurtured, cared for and invested in.
In this time within the national leadership of the church of England buildings are a dirty word, – they are progressively being disregarded for their importance as the house of prayer set within the community.
There is a fear attached to the decadence or the demands of our medieval or Victorian buildings. Yes they are a responsibility but look around, and apart from the scaffolding over there, don’t they inspire us? house us? allow us to do good works, and encourage us in our discipleship? Is this place, St John’s not the place where things happen? It is the place where so many things happen, where we are open every day, where we do not turn anyone away. For this is the open-house of God which is for all to enter and to all there is an invitation to serve the living and loving God and his Kingdom.
This is the place where we, (amongst other places) encounter God, friends, awesome worship and music. This is the place which punctuates with sacred memories moments on our journeys in life. Do you think that wherever God might call me to go in the future, I will ever be able to forget this hallowed space and people. And is that any different for you? Of course not.
For this place is the place where we forge memories and where we day in and day out return to God. Where your children and Grandchildren are baptised. Where you were married (maybe) where you gave into God’s keeping your spouse, loved ones or friends at their funeral – this is the place of encounter, memories, depth of experience and hope.
You see, these buildings are not only consecrated to the worship of God, but they are consecrated for us to use, for our purpose, for our faith and for the encouragement of our lives.
So it is incumbent upon you, not to moan about the vicar asking for a few more pounds to repair the Organ; or fix the window. It is incumbent upon you not to moan about the person sitting next to you or who you have decided you will not even make an effort to know.
It is incumbent upon you to keep this place consecrated to the glory of God: to keep this place Glorious. This is the place where a person enters yesterday and says Fr John I don’t have much money, but this is for the church.
Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people…because you belong to God and to this place. And this place is the dwelling place, the gathering place, the social place. the place of prayer and panto, the place of worship and of God’s people in which we have responsibility, shared history and a common purpose.
These stones that have echoed their praises are holy, and dear is the ground where their feet have once trod; yet here they confessed they were strangers and pilgrims, and still they were seeking the city of God.
In celebrating the consecration of this Church and its dedication we are reminded that we have a common endeavour and purpose in being members of St John’s. We cannot pick and choose when we want to care about the building or the people, and shame on you if you do: For both give glory to God.
So the Jews gathered around Jesus and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.
We are his people and the sheep of his pasture, and this church building is the field in which we graze, occasionally looking up to see the shepherd to make sure we are not lost. And even if we do become lost, we know he will leave the 99 behind and will come looking for us to bring us home.
Do not take this church or each other for granted, do not neglect either… it is because of each and everyone one of us that both the building and community of faith stands. We are precious in the sight of the Lord, and this church dedicated to our Patron St John, is a jewel in our community. A community who looks to see if we are worthy of a place which points to God and his Kingdom.