Facing Remington Road, our church building has three sets of doors that are painted red. Recently, they all received a new coat of red paint: A huge THANK YOU to our senior warden and his wife, John and Linda Day, for taking on the project of sanding, filling in the cracks, and painting.
Red doors on churches is a centuries old tradition. It is believed to have begun in medieval England, when churches were deemed outside of secular law, and were therefore places where anyone could seek refuge and sanctuary from pursuit or violence. No one, not even the Sherriff of Nottingham would dare pursue a criminal or violate the holiness of a church with violence of any kind. The person being pursued could enter a church, plead their case to the priest, and ask for sanctuary. Red doors came to signify this special sanctuary. In a related way, red doors are also symbolic of the blood of Christ. There is a connection here to the story of the Passover in Exodus chapter 12 when the blood of a sacrificial lamb was spread upon lintels and doorposts of the dwellings of the people of Israel to protect them from the last and most horrible plague that God sent upon the Egyptians because of their oppression of God’s people. When the angel of death saw the red blood on the door posts it passed by that house. In the Eucharistic prayer we say, “Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast.” Our liturgy references this story and the notion that in the same way that the blood of the Passover lamb represented safety and salvation for the people of Israel who were bound in slavery in Egypt until God set them free, so too the blood of Christ shed for us on the cross becomes the sign of our salvation, sanctuary, and freedom. The red door symbolically says, “Here is a place to find spiritual sanctuary and peace that is a result of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.” The red door is a sign to all who are weary, tired, our pursued by trouble, that within they might find the peace of Christ. But not just within the doors or walls themselves. The peace of Christ is found within the community of Christ, within our proclamation of the word and within our sacraments. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the door is the same color as the wine found in the chalice of Eucharist.
Seeing the beautiful new coat of red paint on our doors is all the more poignant for me coming back to the building after a time away on vacation. I cannot help but think how it is impossible right now–and frankly unsafe–for all of us to pass through these red doors together at the same time and receive the safety and sanctuary and sustenance of Christ’s Body and Blood as one church body gathered in our beloved church space. This remains an excruciatingly difficult time. But the doors and the building itself are reminders and symbols—important, but not the most important. The peace and love of Christ is within us as a community that strives to stay connected in many ways despite the dangers and strictures of this time. As a sign and a real bond of that love, if you cannot make it to one of our small Eucharistic gatherings in person, please do watch online, and join us for nightly Compline. If you are comfortable with it, I am more than willing to bring Communion to you at your home (or front porch or lawn) as a tangible connection to the gathered Body of Christ, the Church. We can do this carefully, and in ways that minimize risk. There is, of course, always risk, and we each need to weigh very carefully what is the right engagement with Holy Apostles for us and our families at this time. Whatever is right for you and your situation, whether it is staying home and attending online, coming to an outdoor service, or attending our small 10AM Eucharist, please know that Jesus offers you sanctuary, solidarity, and peace, and that nothing can separate you from God’s love.