I was standing inside a very dark church and felt sad that it was in this dark grey place people met regularly to worship the God Christians believe is the Light of the world. I became aware of a faint light off towards the right. Turning I saw what resembled a barricade of dirty, dusty black wooded chairs, the sort you might have found in an old Sunday School class. They were stacked in a most curious and haphazard way from the floor right up to the darkness shrouded ceiling high above. Some of the chairs were lying on their sides, others upside down and others at all sorts of different angles, as though thrown together. For all this though, they were curiously interlocking like a barricade.
I moved close enough to touch the chairs and peered through the gaps to see what was on the other side. I saw what looked like a huge hall with an ancient flagstone floor and an equally old stone wall, both in pristine condition. The whole room was filled with a bright white light, making the walls glow a golden honey colour, as though garnished with olive oil. I was overcome with a desire to get into that space.
Gently tugging a chair it easily dislodged, creating a plume of dust and leaving a gap through which more of the golden light flowed, like the first rays of dawn piercing the darkness of the night sky. I was amazed just how easily it would be to remove the barricade, though because it was so high I knew that process could be dangerous. But I knew those dirty old chairs could soon be gone and the light, which I believed was God’s blessing, would fill every part of that building and even flow out to the community around.
As he left the church I found himself standing out in the countryside, with a cool wind blowing in his face. I was on what looked like a single track road and to the right, behind a hedge, was a dilapidated ancient church building. It resembled all the quintessential English village churches I’d seen. The only difference was that if there had once been a village here, it was long gone and the church now stood alone in a field, miles from anywhere.
I turned to look at the rolling hills and noticed by the colour of the trees that it was autumn. As I turned back to the church it had completely disappeared, gone without trace. I looked over the hedge and could see no evidence of the old church. The whole field had been ploughed and tilled and seeded and what looked like winter wheat was already beginning to grow.
Both parts of the dream may be about the future of the Church in the UK. In an age when the Church is seen as increasingly irrelevant, the first part suggests that some of the more traditional churches still have the potential for new life and vitality within them. But this can only be realised by God’s renewal and that will mean change, including the removal all barriers that have been either wittingly or unwittingly erected in the past.
Such change will be painful for some, especially those who have become so used to the darkness that they cannot conceive of any other legitimate way of doing church. But the light of God’s renewing and revitalising Holy Spirit is available. Therefore the challenge for these churches is to pray and then embrace the necessary God initiated changes.
The second part of the dream suggests that some of the traditional expressions of church that have been in the UK for centuries will continue to become so irrelevant they will disappear, like the church in the field. But just as the field had been ploughed and re-seeded, so new and innovative expressions of church will grow, continuing the ancient values but in ways more adaptive to the seismic cultural changes that are taking place.