Birkby: Enter at Your Own Risk

I called at St Peter’s, Birkby, North Yorks, this summer. Disappointingly it was locked up, for it was a nice day and its closure seemed a pity. Furthermore, a laminated sign fastened to the gate hardly bade warm welcome:

Anybody entering these premises

does so at their own risk.

The Birkby Parochial Council

cannot accept liability for any

loss, damage or injury suffered

by any persons whilst on

Church property .

Any children on the Church

property must be accompanied by

an adult, and properly supervised.

Birkby PCC

I am not certain what weighting in law this sign has; yet I hoped an accident or stroke of misfortune would not make me the one to put it to the test. As greetings go, it was not the most heartfelt I have ever received, though I do not doubt the church council’s sincerity and fear of someone offering litigation. This is, after all, twenty-first century Britain when even claiming that women don’t possess male genitalia precipitates a police interview.

The suggestion of entering at my own risk set me thinking, as such things on my travels are wont to do. If I visit or attend a church in which falsehood is taught, who is to blame, me or the church? If I attend one in which the gospel is not preached, who bears culpability, the leaders, the preacher or the hearers?

Doubtless, God will pay special attention to all those who teach error and heresy in His name, on the Day of Reckoning. Those who invited such men and women to enter pulpits, may also find themseves subject God's particular scrutiny. And people who attend churches where such things are taught, who subsidise it with their offerings, who provide an audience for lies, who perpetuate that body’s existence, must also bear a share of responsibility. If your vicar denies the resurrection, sack him, and if you can’t, hear him no more. If your pastor teaches the prosperity gospel, rebuke him, and if he will not listen, shake the dust from your feet. Yet we should also have a care for our own soul’s health, taking responsibility for it. Satan may have deceived Eve, but the both of them, plus Adam, and the rest of us, had consequences to bear. You enter a church at your own risk, and sometimes remain there at your own peril.

And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you. Mark 13:5, AV