This was the picture of Derby Cathedral at Holy Communion this morning. The redecoration project is in full swing. For the present, Sunday services are held in the nave, narrowed by the huge scaffolding structure that fills this holy space. This narrowed space means that today we have to sit next to each other and talk to our neighbours, which is counter to our true Anglican tradition, where we space ourselves out, have a roomy pew all to ourselves and leave the first three rows empty.
But today the cathedral is an incongruous sight. Or site may be more apt word because we are worshipping on a building site. It has that feel. And the smell of fresh paint and wet plaster in the air lends credence to its nature as a place of work. It would not have felt out of place if the processing clergy had been wearing high-vis vestments, hard hats and safety boots.
And yet, God was here on the building site. Okay, the hymns and chants, the Eucharist and prayers gave lots of clues that we were church-encased. But here was a new cathedral within a cathedral that now enveloped us, a magnificent structure of scaffolding poles and planks. Here was a new work of art of geometrical intricacy, a patchwork of triangles, squares, oblongs, cross braces and ladders, a holy tower of strength and stability, crafted with the sole purpose of lifting up those descendants of Michelangelo to rise heavenwards to paint the ceiling. Okay, I’m getting carried away. It isn’t going to be the Sistine chapel, more like a couple of coats of Dulux Trade Emulsion, but you get the drift.
But it did not detract from God’s presence. He was here in this place, just as he is on every building site, in the call centre, the retail outlet, the offices, the classrooms, the hospitals and the factories. It is easy for us all to associate God’s presence far more readily with sacred places and find worship only there. And yet we miss so many opportunities to worship, to pay homage to our God in the everyday event, the everyday place and to acknowledge that God is in all things, in all places, at all times.
At the end of today’s service, we crossed the road to the cathedral cafe where coffee and biscuits were being served in their interim location. I’d rather hoped for cheese and pickle sandwiches and a good hot mug of builder’s tea. Somehow it would have complemented so nicely my meandering thoughts of God in the workplace and God in all things.