Dumfries and Galloway
There are hundreds of places of worship in Dumfries and Galloway. From tiny chapels to large abbeys, buried ruins to living rooms. Some have been used for centuries; others are long overgrown and forgotten.
For centuries the local church was the most substantial building in the area. It was a place of sanctuary and justice. The minister could help resolve local disputes; the poor could receive a little financial support. The passages of time and life were marked and celebrated. From birth to death the church was always there. Through war and conflict the churches survived.
But Dumfries and Galloway has changed. Declining attendance has left the old churches largely empty every Sunday.
Many churches are now remnants of the past - the remains of an authority no longer relevant.
So what of the years ahead?
The largest and wealthiest congregations will last longest. The smaller ones will close one by one when there are too few people to keep them running. A few churches will remain busy, here and there, but not many.
When we can no longer rely on the religious institution and when the boat is sinking, some will cry out 'Lord! Save us!'
And then will be the time to 'walk on water' - to meet together in small groups, in each others homes, in Jesus' name and ask the questions that every new generation must ask anew -
Lord Jesus, what do you wish us to do?
What do you want us to be?
The restoration of the church will surely come only from a new kind of monasticism
which will have nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising
adherence to the Sermon on the Mount in imitation of Christ.