Thought for the Week – 21st May 2023
We recently had a visit from the church architect at Billingsley, which coincided with a person updating a book on Shropshire churches. We spent a few minutes admiring the rather fine Norman-style door and the splendid, perhaps medieval, wooden porch at Billingsley. There is prayer dating from the late 8th century that a Saxon cleric named Alcuin apparently fixed over the door of one his churches; It reads –
“This is the gate of heaven, the door of eternal life: it leads the traveller towards the stars. On entering, a person may penetrate the heavenly mountain, if he takes with him faith and hope as his companions. Here forgiveness may be sought, if the pilgrim enters with a devout heart, and on foot. Here also a sinner may shed his evil acts and with tears wash this sacred threshold. Then purged by tears of repentance and adorned with humility, he is worthy to enter the holy places of God. I believe that Jesus in his mercy forgives their sins, so that whoever enters sad will emerge more joyful.”
I like it and have toyed with displaying it on some of the church doors in our benefice. But, on rereading it, I was struck by some words of the late Bishop John Robinson, which I have also recently featured. John pointed out the dwelling place of God is not the church, either as a building or even as the company of believers; it tis the world. With that in mind, should Alcuin’s prayer be on the outside of the door to welcome people into a building, or on the inside to challenge visitors as they leave?
Rev David Poyner