"I SUGGEST that this church should stand under the good hand of God for three things: for edification, for the conversion of those who are without, and for social righteousnes" said the Bishop of Guildford at a service to consecrate the rebuilt parish church of St. James, Abinger, on Saturday evening.
All the 160 seats in the nave and the north chapel were occupied by villagers and visiting clergy for the moving and simple ceremony. Part of the previous church is Early Norman. It was largely destroyed in August 1944, by a flying bomb.
The new building is starkly unormented inside, but gives a lovely set of space with its white walls, plain windows and light furnishings. There are as yet no pews, organ, or pulpit, these being among the many things needed for the church and for which a £4,000 appeal has been opened.
There was a dramatic start to Saturday's service when the Bishop knocked three times upon the closed door and his voice was heard outside saying, "Lift up your heads. 0 ye gates."
Handed the key of the church, he entered and traced the sign of the Cross and the letters Alpha and Omega on the stone floor. The Bishop preceded up the aisle by a procession which included Mr. D. M. Moir Ca... (Registrar of the Archdeaconries), Archdeacon of Dorking (the Ven. E Newill), the Rector of Abinger (Rev. C. T. Chapman), the churchwardens (Messrs. R. G. MacInnes ... A. Randall), Mr. R. I. Bennett (representing Messrs. Trollope and Colls, the builders), and the banner of Abinger Mothers' Union.
The Registrar pronounced the Sentance of Consecration, which was signed by the Bishop, who said. "I do now declare to be consecrate, and for ever set apart from all profane and common uses, this House of God."
A collection was taken for Bishop's Challenge Fund. During the service a harmonium was played by Mr. F. White, who has been blind since birth, and the choir led the singing. In In his address Dr. Montgomery Campbell first stressed that people should never think they had reach the highest standard of which they were capable. "We must advance week by week in holiness, and ... up in the love of God." Secondly, he said, the church must stand for conversion. "We think readily of churches as spiritual club houses: this idea must be banished. How, though, can stone, window and roof do anything in the task of converting a heathen? Partly by preaching of the Word of God, And the place must be felt to be holy by he who is without. This atmosphere depends not on the preacher but on you who worship here."
The Bishop asked the congregation to bring love, effort to worship, in the highest aspirations to the church, that a feeling of them may be behind. And there must be no inhospitality or resentment towards a stranger. The Bishop's last point concerned "battling for the Lord." He said "There are many arrayed against the forces of God in His Kingdom. Let such things as these be in your minds and translate them into practice so that this church can achieve the purpose for which it was built here."
The Bishop remained the night at the Rectory, celebrated Holy Communion at the church the next morning, and preached at matins.