Light on stone

The nave of St Peter's ChurchWhen I enter St Peterís Nottingham, I look up to the stone and brickwork and follow the light. For, as much as I love the architectural details and the historical features, what draws me again and again is the interplay of light (especially sunlight) and the materials of which the church is built. There is something about St Peterís which calms me and helps me focus and prepare myself for prayer and worship.

It is as if by looking up above me I can lose myself in the immense variety of texture, random patterns, weathering, decorations, aging and repairs, and the serendipity of light bouncing off the surfaces. Oddly enough though, I do not feel that I am losing myself so much as grounding myself, leaving aside unnecessary details of my life, or putting my life as a whole before God and saying "well here I am, this is the whole thing, and another fine mess Iím in." God, if inclined to answer, would probably say:

"Mess? What mess? All shall be well..."

At least, that is what looking up at the columns, and the roof of the church, does for me. I cannot tire of this view, and it continues to refresh and delight me, for it is there always, yet it is never the same - it changes from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, through the seasons. It is not unique in this effect, of course, but it is something for which Iím extremely grateful, and itís there for anyone who enters - regular members of the congregation, casual visitors, those with beliefs or none - and it has the potential to affect anyone who takes the time to slow down and allow themselves to be still and quiet.

In this sense, then, St Peterís as a building is an oasis, a source of refreshment, a way into quiet and reflection - and in the hurry and stress of twenty first century life such places are necessary for our well-being, without being sufficient. For a church is dead if it lacks a community, a congregation of friends who come, singly and together, for whatever reason and with whatever baggage of history, beliefs or scepticism.

I feel it is particularly appropriate that in St Peterís Church I should be drawn to the rock, because Peter is the rock on which Jesus built the church. My old school motto, at St Peterís School in New Zealand, was "Structa Saxo" (built on a rock), and if we can do it, that is where we want to build our beliefs.

Roger Cowell
© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 23rd December 1999