St Enodoc is a beautiful 900 year old stone church in Trebetherick in Cornwall. From the 16th Century until the middle of the 19th Century it was covered by sand dunes. It was supposedly called “Sinking Neddy”. The church was uncovered and restored in the second half of the 1800s. Until its rescue, at least once a year the priest and some parishioners were lowered through a hole in the roof so that the requirements were met to claim the tithes required. Today it is in the middle of the St Enodoc Golf Club and all you need to do is dodge the flying golf balls to get to the church. (By the way, one of the residents in the surrounding graveyard is the poet laureate and writer, Sir John Betjeman.)
The life of the church building can be made into a variety of interesting metaphors: “Hidden Treasure”, “Hiding a light under a bushel”, “Competition of the gospel (church) with worldly pleasures (golf)” and so on.
For me, the story of the church building is about relevance. How relevant is a church that can stay hidden for hundreds of years? But you don’t need sand dunes to remain hidden. There are many churches who, for a variety of reasons, such as a lack of connection with the community in which they live, a lack of passion for the gospel, a of lack understanding or will with regard to the church’s mission, that are buried under apathy, selfishness and ennui.
A study of Acts reveals a young, growing and albeit imperfect church that has a passionate sense of ministry and mission. If anyone is bored or despondent about church, I encourage them to re-read Acts. The book comes alive with: The life changing encounters by Peter, exciting journeys of Paul, Apollos who preached the gospel but had not heard the end of the story until he met Priscilla and Aquila, the early church members, both men and women, who struggled against persecution with joy. They are a breath of fresh air to those of us who have been swamped by the 21st Century institutions that call themselves church.
For me, the study of Acts has been a breath of life and possibility. It is a picture of what was, but also what can be and maybe, should be.