Buckingham Chapel

Who said the Anglicans always have the best buildings? Buckingham Chapel in Bristol’s Clifton district must be one of the grandest nonconformist chapels ever built. We non-Anglicans often built in a plain, utilitarian style (like our Salem) or in a pretentious elegance attempting to keep up with greater reserves of wealth and sophistication from which the state church could draw.

Buckingham Chapel remains a solid evangelical witness to this day (note the biblical texts on its wall, which our local planning office all but forbade us to erect). Yet this beautiful construction was nearly the church’s downfall. Its own website cheerfully explains that the owner of the land stipulated that the church building be styled in a way that was “suitable to the dignity of the neighbourhood”. Furthermore, Richard Pope, the architect and sometime colleague of the famous Isambard Kingdom Brunel, agreed to waive his fees on condition that the money be dedicated to the ornamental part of his design. The cost of the building dissuaded several early pastors from leading the church, not wishing to oversee a congregation saddled by debt. Thankfully, the church paid it off and continues to this day.

Fine buildings are sometimes a burden to those who worship within them, and may even be a distraction during worship. On the other hand, plain buildings may cause us to forget the solemn majesty and beauty of the God whose worship we there meet to offer. So whether we worship in the high gothic and civic grandeur of Buckingham Chapel, or the rustic simplicity of Salem Chapel, let us look beyond masonry and mortar and look to God Himself. Next month marks this church's 175th anniversary- may the Lord bless it and the place in which it is found. 

And it came to pass, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, that he worshiped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth. Genesis 24:52, NKJV