I spent some of my day off yesterday visiting the Natural History Museum at Tring. A wonderful place housing the fascinating range of animals collected by Lionel Walter Rothschild. Compared to modern museums, this one is distinctly hands-off and literally stuffed full of (or full of stuffed) animals, birds and insects. Yet the range of creatures on view is stunning - from a small flea to giant seals, from hummingbirds to Buffalo's and everything in between.
It was interesting to actually see what extinct animals and birds looked like in the flesh, as well as look close to at birds and animals only observed alive from a distance. How wonderful is God to give each its own distinct colour, pattern texture and characteristics! It has also made me ponder the word 'preservation'. Whilst I might cringe at some reasoning behind taxidermy, Tring Museum is a good example of preserving what something looks like for the good of science and history, in the same way as photography captures a moment in time of a person, or building, place or occasion. Yet not all is contained in the creatures I saw - only the outer appearance in the skin, or the shell - everything else has been removed.
Perhaps this is something for us to hold in balance when thinking about our church buildings, as ancient and yet living places? I think we are beginning to get the balance right, not preserving everything in them for all time, nor throwing everything out and losing their distinctiveness forever, but preserving what is good and unique, whilst continuing to make our churches functional sacred spaces. The beauty of those creatures I saw yesterday could be admired and attributed to the Creator, the same should be said of our churches.