How the years have passed- ten of them- since I left Newcastle Church. Then the weeks flew by like days; now they go faster still. My health doesn’t allow me to do much now. I attend our meeting house in Sevenoaks when I can, and I enjoy this very much, but I still miss my old church in Newcastle and think of my 25 years there, full and part-time.
Yours was the only church of my working ministry, and I bless the day that I made my way up the Great North Road with a car-full of books and a head-full of sermons. The congregation were so welcoming and friendly- and kind- and I immediately felt at home.
I still receive your Calendar and I see there are several new members, which cheers me a lot, although you still have problems with the building. I know how hard it can be to be positive in these circumstances, but we never know what lies around the corner, and I hope and pray that our Newcastle church will survive in one form or another.
The difference between a church and a club is transcendence: the church goes beyond material life. It helps us to face the sometimes harsh reality of that life and it accompanies us even unto death and it points beyond. I know that it may be unfashionable today to believe in the soul and its survival of death. I have the greatest respect for people who have developed a materialistic philosophy that will comfort them in their old age, but I can’t keep my eye from looking along the horizon, which gets bigger and wider every year.
Humans have developed in only 200,000 years, which is a mere drop in the billions of years of astronomic time. How much more will we know in another 200,000 years? How better will we understand the spirit? To say that the life of the spirit is just an imaginative by-product of a development of viruses is to be as dogmatic as the most stubborn religious person. The ones who can best defend their beliefs are the agnostics, who state not just that they don’t know some spiritual fact, but that the fact is unknowable. All the rest- materialists like Richard Dawkins and people praying at home or in church- make an act of faith. Some go one way, some go the other, and neither of these can defend their position as well as the agnostics, who manage to get along without faith or certainty. The materialists and the religious people have to make an act of faith because they all reach a point where their reasoning fails them.
Materialist faith offers us nothing beyond what we can see. Religious faith – with as much reason as possible- offers hope, comfort, life and joy. It may be hard to prove what lies beyond the horizon, but we know that it is there, and because religious faith works differently from that of materialism; you can’t compare the two. The language is different, so are the mental attitudes, because the religious attitude looks beyond the world of things to the transcendent, to the spirit, and that is what the church can do. Life is more than the life that we can see- not only after we die, but on either side of us as we travel along, because the spirit of God is always with us. And beyond our little lives, we may see that the horizon goes all round us, promising us hope, comfort, life- and yes, even joy.