So the issue facing most places of Christian worship in an increasingly secular Britain is what to do with the massive legacy of buildings sequester to it by Victorian England. Already most chapels have gone from the rural villages I know and churches are increasingly closing, or administered as united benefices in clusters of three, four, five or more.

The Unitarian Chapel I attend in Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead NW3, is no exception to the challenge of attendance, finance and the weight of responsibility. One of the ways we have survived, and indeed continue to thrive is that we have a wide catchment areas of worshippers - being in zone 2 of London helps that and makes transport easy for many, including non-drivers like myself. The daft pricing structure of property in London, especially north London, makes real estate valuable and so investment in our estate and buildings is possible by nature of our rent income.  We also have an ethos, and have enjoyed Ministers, who are in every sense inclusive of all, including all from the LGBTI communities.

 

And so it is that our chapel today performs many different and varied functions: it is a place of worship (principally at weekends), in the daytime of a week it is a school, in the evenings it is a venue for concerts and the like and during school holiday time in particular due to the quality of the building, it is recording venue for musicians and singers.

All of this is good news, but also places another pressure upon the building and its mission purpose. Faith.

For Unitarians, life and logic, science and compassion are all key elements. We believe in human nature, dislike conflict and anger, and advocate peace, dialogue, inclusion for all. And so to advance these principle and to ensure that our Chapel harbours some of these elements over the course of the summer I undertook a small project.

Due to the school use, the Chapel office location, and the shortage of storage we have, our altar and chancel space has become rather busy. Working with our new Settled Minister, I undertook a project to clear the chancel of all but of unnecessary things that were hanging around: boxes, hymnals, files, flower vases and more. We have had the pews polished and cleaned, made them available to sit in, removed an old unused fire at was behind the altar table - in short we have restored the Chancel to being clearly, dominantly and glowingly into sacred space.

Due to family related issues, I have been away from Chapel for three weekends. This weekend I was back. I may be kidding myself, I may be misleading my eyes and my brain, but the shine, the gleam and the simple cleanliness of the Chancel was evident to me at least. The stained glass beamed down, the oak pews looked welcoming, the altar table was set back and proud.

This was a place for me to pause, reflect and gather myself ready for the week ahead. It felt like a spiritual breakfast, setting me up for the day and it was based on simplicity and a sense of a job well done. Nothing to do with what I regard as the negatives of dogma or doctrine. And those factors please me greatly.

I hope you are having as good as week as I am.

Ed Fordham, Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, London NW3.