HAVE you ever watched a TV show about people and the homes they build?
One program I like tracks the progress from grand dream to completed reality.
A house in France was built from discarded car tyres packed with soil and finished with adobe walls.
One in Britain featured solar collectors for hot water, solar panels for electricity and triple glazing to let in light while trapping heat.
The designs express the values and philosophies of the owners.
By the time they have met the challenges of bad weather, design complications and budget blowouts they are heavily invested in more ways than one.
Building or redeveloping a church can be a similar experience.
Relationships can become strained as groups articulate how the building might reveal God, the place of preaching, the importance of music, of access.
Even before the designing is over and the quotes are in, some may want to give up.
Around Queensland there is great variety in churches.
Some are simple timber buildings constructed from local timber by volunteers on donated land.
One church used to be a squash court.
Elsewhere people gather in homes, schools and public buildings.
There are not many cathedrals in Queensland, but some Uniting Church buildings are large and beautiful and host the events and rituals of community life.
This year Frontier Services is celebrating 100 years of serving the people in outback Australia.
Much of what they do happens well outside church buildings.
Some of our members have an attachment to traditional buildings while others have embraced contemporary designs.
Perhaps the same could be said of the internal architecture by which people engage their beliefs.
For some, there is comfort and attraction in traditional beliefs and orthodox ideas, while others seeking something more modern may choose a journey of deconstructing and redeveloping.
The writer of Psalm 84 describes the loveliness of the dwelling place of God.
I am reminded of an episode of The Simpsons when Homer becomes a missionary in a foreign land and convinces the natives to build a chapel.
On its completion he remarks, "Well, I may not know much about God, but I have to say we built a pretty nice cage for him."
The God that I believe in is not confined to the timber, stone and brick buildings that we call churches.
God longs to dwell in our hearts. Some scholars suggest the words translated from Greek and Hebrew as "belief" are more about deeply held views than assent to a series of propositions and ideas – belief which at its heart is about relationships.
At the Bremer Brisbane Presbytery retreat in September, Rev Ian Smallbone reminisced about his involvement in the Christian folk group, Family.
They had a hit on the radio in the mid-70s with their song, "This House Runs on Sunshine, Peace and Love".
My hopes are that the churches we build will help people connect with God, and that the communities we construct will be known for values like peace and love, as well as the others named in Together on the way – faithfulness, truthfulness, humility, compassion and justice.
While church buildings can be beautiful and grand, modest and functional, it is even better if they enable the people of God to be hosts to the community and to invite others to experience God as shelter and refuge.
Read more about Family at: www.angelfire.com/in2/familys/home.html