What are the Commons?

I am unashamedly re-posting this from last year.

You are all well aware of the position that I hold with regards to opening our churches for people to wander in at out of at their own risk. I have been clear that this is not because I hold to a high sacrament of place or believe that the building constitutes the boundaries of the church.

This post from last year talks of the church as a ‘Common’ place. As we emerge to take more exercise and to picnic and relax in our outdoor common spaces, rejoice in the freedoms that we have and cherish them. …….. There is a huge part of me that just wants to remove the doors from our churches and let the wind blow through them, if they were ruins they would be more sacred as a common spaces. … church without doors!!!!!!!

I promise I wont do that!!!!!!

What are the Commons?

In our family we have recently been reading and discussing a book about Piracy. In it piracy is not sanitised and made noble, but it is however seen as an inevitable act of rebellion against the removal of rights and liberties from the common man (seaman in historical terms). The author, Kester Brewin, stresses that there is an idea called ‘the commons’. This is space that is not in private or corporate ownership or bound up in copyright. It is thought, music, land, invention and food production that is FREE, free to use and enjoy by all people. In the book he describes the historic land enclosures and the annual beating of the bounds within the parishes that was literally the beating down of fences that encroached on the common land where the ordinary people lived and farmed.

Watch the TedX talk about it here.


Over the centuries we have lost so much in the privatisation of our lives to the point where our children travel all over the world looking for freedom: freedom to light a fire outside in a field with friends, to wander over land without fences. We look in this country for places of freedom: sailing on the sea, playing on our beaches, places where no-one seems to be in ownership and we are treading on nobody’s toes! Another place that is truly ‘common’ is the church. Your churches are yours by right and heritage, you can enter and you have a right to be part of the services that take place there. You should never feel that you are entering a closed club or a private building. You should never need a welcome (although you will surely get one!) because it is your space to wander in, sit in, create in, pray in.

This weekend at St Helens Church we have enjoyed the 300 years celebration flower festival and were entertained on Saturday night by the ‘Scottish Fiddlers’. They played music from 300 years that was ‘common’. The tunes they played were for the ordinary people, for the sailors, the fishermen, for isolated rural communities to dance to. As we listened, so it seemed the music was in tune with all we are trying to achieve in our churches. The inclusion, the community, the extraordinary beauty of people bringing their talents and creativity together in the flower arrangements, the hospitality and the music.

For me, this weekend – and all the many community building activities that the church supports – are acts of rebellion. We rebel against the privatisation of our lives stealing our common spaces and our precious time. To all the young people who may wonder at our tea and cakes I say: “Look closer – we are pirates!” We gather in communities of all people, sharing what we have (our time), in this rebellion against loneliness and fear of commitment and the endless pursuit of wealth. In this we gather with the greatest rebel of them all, Jesus – just read his teaching to

God Bless Ali

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