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"IT IS A PLEASURE TO SHARE WITH YOU in celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Church of the Incarnation. [This] is a good occasion, too, to ask the question: Does the Church matter and, if so, why? To answer that question we have to consider a prior one, namely the purpose of God in creation. As I understand it, it is to bring about an inclusive, universal society characterized by a profound mutual care that draws deep on the depths of love in God Himself. ..[The] Church is not a club for people who happen to be interested in religion. It is not a gathering of likeminded people. It is nothing less than human society itself in the process of being recreated; a new humanity; a sign of what God is trying to bring about in His creation....

"Before the 4th century or at least the mid 3rd, Christians did not erect special church buildings.... The obvious reason is that Christianity was subject to spasmodic but fierce they needed to keep their heads down. The profounder reason is that they thought of themselves, of their Christian community, as the locus of God's presence in the world....

"The author of I peter [writes], 'Like living stones, let yourself be built into a spiritual house' (I peter 2:5). The focus of God's presence in the world was no longer to be an edifice but a people of flesh and blood: the risen body of Christ, of which we are the limbs and he is the head. So whilst giving thanks for the 150 years of this building we remind ourselves that the building exists not just as a witness in stone but to help shape us into a community in which, through his mercy, Christ is pleased to dwell."

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A matter of time
December 30, 2002

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