I wish I could talk you with me to a chapel service. Daily chapel services enrich the community life here in Durham. St. John’s College, the Wesley Study Centre, and Cranmer Hall all share worship opportunities at the Church of St. Mary the Less. The Norman building was founded 1140 and sits in the shadow of the Cathedral. It was believed to have been used by those guarding the Castle walls as it sits near the walls closest to the River Wear. The building underwent extensive renovation in the mid-1800’s. Since 1927 it has served as the chapel for St. John’s College.
On mornings that I am not needed as home, I would leave early to make the chapel services. As I walked past the Castle and Cathedral over the cobblestone streets, I could hear the bells of the chapel calling the people to gather for prayer. Even in the preparation for the service, I felt strengthened knowing that I was making a trek that God’s people had made for nearly 900 years.
Services are often led by those training for ordination. They bring their rich traditions to the services as we unite in prayers, singing, and Scripture reading. In the old space they share the same message of Good News in new ways. They embrace the history of the expressions of God’s Word while looking for new ways to share that life-changing message. I have been blessed to receive their ministry. There are many people who will be blessed by their ministry as they head out to serve in the years to come.
Since I can’t take you with me, I thought I would do the next best thing. Here are some of my favorite scenes. Just one final thought: The Church is not a building. The Church is her people. So no matter where you find yourself today take a minute to sing, to pray, and to read the Scriptures. You may be surprised at the way God blesses it!
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;[a]
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.