As we explored the Dutch community of Haarlem yesterday, we took a wandering walking tour through the historic city center. We enjoyed several stops at local bakeries,
were amazed and blessed with the many pleasant lanes where “green-fingered” residents make every effort to enhance their environment,
and admired Dutch quilting technique.
What I found most compelling was that, whatever street we walked would eventually intersect or end at a square, and at the center of the square, we’d find a church — Grote Kerk, Nieuwe Kerk, Bakenessorkerk, Waalse Kerk.
These churches were once the center for neighborhood gatherings, worship services and charity outreach, in essence the center of community life. I came away with a bittersweet feeling, impressed and glad for the long-term impact these places have on a city like Haarlem, but sad, too, that their depth and vibrancy seems weakened in today’s culture. It’s not that a church at each major intersection is necessary, but having them there does bring important sacred things to mind. The fact that Christians are called to be the church wherever we are, whether we’re connected or associated with a building or not, encourages and challenges me. At the center of each day, each activity, each person-to-person connection, I should bring sacred things to mind, too.