March 2014

Is the drawbridge up?

We have all been to visit castles with their high walls, moats, gates and the remnants of the drawbridge. In Medieval society, a drawbridge was used by the people of a castle or walled city to prevent outsiders from getting in – and insiders from getting out. The design purpose of the drawbridge was primarily for military defense, so enemies could not even get to the gates. It basically told passers-by to stay out. It allowed people to stay huddled in their fortresses and keep the rest of the world out. They would build a moat or place the castle on a ridge surrounded by a precipice so that it could be completely secured and impenetrable…until you lowered the drawbridge or some other means of transversing the divide could be conceived and constructed.

When the drawbridge was lowered the castle and its occupants were essentially unprotected. Even though they were then vulnerable to attack they also had access to those in the villages, region, community, etc. Trade and people could come in and go out. Life could go on and prosper. But if things ever got tenuous or uncomfortable and ‘messy’, the occupants could quickly raise the drawbridge and close off access once again.

In modern society, we do not see many drawbridges at people’s homes, businesses, or churches. However, metaphorically, we still have erected them in many aspects of our lives. We have contrived theoretical drawbridges and moats around so many components of our existence. We try to keep ourselves ‘safe’ from outside influences and by doing so, shut out the harmful as well as good that could impact our lives.

In relationship to our churches, many of us have done the exact same thing. In an effort to define who we are and feel safe in this ever changing world we have a tendency to build environments that feel cold and isolationist to the community or worse…blatantly tell people to STAY OUT. ”Church Parking Only”. “Members Only”. “No Trespassing”.

There are still many church buildings that are designed in such a way that all you can see is the front door and no sign of people doing life together. These are all akin to digging a moat and raising the proverbial drawbridge. Uninviting. Closed. Isolationist.

In an era where the community are to a greater or lesser extent suspicious of church and organised religion the tendency to close ourselves off, unless the community becomes like us, is like the castle drawbridge and moat and we look suspiciously out of the arrow slit at the strange goings on outside the wall. Safe? Yes. Secure? Of course. But when the draw bridge is up and all access to the outside is cut off it is only a matter of time until those inside starve.

So, even though the world isn’t necessarily as safe and secure as we would like, we need to keep the drawbridge firmly down, access open and movement of people and ideas enduring. What things could you do physically, visually, pragmatically, relationally, that would lower the drawbridge and invite people to do life with you?

Let’s abolish the drawbridge!


March 2014