Church of St George, Hanover Square

The Church of St George situated on Mayfair’s Hanover Square is as grand and daunting a building as its address demands. It is tasteful and elegant, words I tend to overuse when speaking of London's great churches. There is a beautiful contrast between the dark wood of the pews and the white-painted walls, columns and ceilings. This was a church for the great and the powerful. Its dedication and location certainly make clear its loyalty to the Hanoverian dynasty rather than the Scottish Pretenders. Lists of historical churchwardens are recorded on the balcony in gold paint; I counted several earls, dukes and knights.

When I called, the entire frontage was covered in plastic sheets like a corpse in a shroud, or a sluggard under a duvet. A helpful sign by the front door explained that the eighteenth-century portico had partially collapsed and that £400k was being raised to set it right. I suspect this is mere pocket money to some of those who live in its shadow. Yet for all its dignity, splendour and tasteful elegance within, it resembles a common building site without. An uninformed passer-by might think it just as likely a Bargain Booze or Aldi supermarket sitting beneath that plastic sheeting. It really looks common; rough, even. 

The church of God, the redeemed people across the earth who help make up the wider church, resemble the temporary frontage of St George's: crude, cheap and temporary. As Cromwellian general Charles Worsley wrote in 1653:

"The Church hath long lien among the pots: God is giving her the wings of a Dove covered with silver, and her feathers of yellow gold: she hath been conformed to Christ in his death, and hath lain with him in the grave: she that hath thus descended, must also ascend: she that hath suffered must reign…" (Refreshing Drops and Scorching Vials)

If the global church looks unimpressive, the individual Christian fares little better. He enjoys no halo or unearthly glow; his body is as feeble as any other, and it wears out and dies like the rest. Yet beyond the flesh and sinew is a redeemed heart, a Spirit-occupied soul. Beyond the dying there is life and vigour; the outward flesh, like St George's white coverings, hides treasures and glories within. 

These are they who shall one day reign with Christ, who shall be given many cities, who shall judge angels. Only by entering St George’s and passing under the builders’ sheeting can one behold and see the wondrous interior. They may not now be dukes, earls and knights, but the day is coming when the people of God shall be crowned and ennobled, bitterly envied by demons and wonderfully admired by angels.

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, New King James Version