Tom Rout is vicar of the Ipswich Waterfront Churches (St Helen’s, Holy Trinity and St Luke’s) and Anglican Chaplain to the University of Suffolk and Suffolk New College.
It was Friday 27th July and our holiday club had just finished. We’d waved the children goodbye, packed everything up and were getting in the car to drive home. It was a sweltering hot day and sweat poured down my face. I turned the key in the ignition and looked at the electronic display – it said 41°C. Although I had parked in direct sunlight, it’s a reminder of just how hot this summer has been.
Generally speaking, really hot weather doesn’t affect numbers at church (we’re always a bit quieter in holiday season, whether it’s hot or not). Being so big, church buildings tend to stay cooler than others, making them an ideal place to come to escape the heat. If people are in Ipswich and the weather is hot and sunny, rather than skipping church, we encourage them to come to church first before heading to the seaside for the afternoon. That provides the best of both, sunshine of a natural and supernatural kind. According to the Bible, the sun’s heat and light reflects the Son (of God)’s heat and light. The warmth coming off Jesus is greater by far than the warmth coming from the sun on the hottest summer’s day!
When it’s really hot, churches sometimes start murmuring about the need to install air conditioning or fans in the ceiling. To be honest, that’s not normally necessary in our temperate maritime UK climate. We should remember that most of the world’s ca.2 billion Christians live in hotter climes than ours, and very few of their churches have electric cooling systems. In fact, many hold their services outside, perhaps in the shade of a tree – a hot day can’t stifle their desire to praise God for his goodness towards them!
As we head towards the autumn, and the temperatures begin to fall, readers may be interested in a course the Waterfront churches are running on 4 Sunday evenings from 23rd September at the La Tour Cycle Cafe at the bottom of the Winerack. It’s called ‘321 – The Story of God, the World and You’. It’s video and discussion based, with refreshments… it’s free and open to all, no matter your faith, beliefs or background. Just come along for 6.00 -7:30pm on 23rd September.