During the Soviet era in Russia many churches were put to alternative uses. One that particularly stood out for me was a church that was converted into a swimming pool. The dim lighting, the pictures of saints on the walls, the deep blue of a ceiling painted with stars, all contributed to an atmospheric swim. The water in the pool was pleasantly warm. Those swimming there commented on how rested and refreshed they felt after leaving. Although I would not be pressing for our churches to become swimming pools (and that church in Russia has now been restored to its original use) I think that the image of the church as swimming pool is surprisingly apt. At its best it’s a place where we can let go of some of our protective layers and take delight in allowing God’s love to bear our weight, just as water does when we swim. Peace can seep into our hearts and minds, melting our worries and putting us in touch with a bigger picture where not everything depends on us.
Floating in God’s love requires practice in letting go. We don’t necessarily trust the water to bear our weight. We have to test it. Someone may have to help us. In the same way the church can encourage us to try out God’s love and to practise trusting in him as someone who loves us. Our songs and prayers, our receiving bread and wine all encourage this. They can lead us to experiment with bringing our whole selves to God, warts and all, trusting that he welcomes us as we are.
We can join with one of the saints, who addressed God as follows; ‘Dear Lord, you are a deep sea, into which the deeper I enter, the more I find, and the more I find, the more I seek…my soul delights in you, Eternal Trinity, Sea of Peace’. Catherine of Siena
May we, like St Catherine, discover that ocean of God’s love and learn to revel in it.