Matterdale Church: God for All

I called at the Cumbrian church of Matterdale this summer. It is highly unusual for being an Elizabethan building, as most church construction abruptly stopped at the Reformation, only to be reignited in the Victorian era. As heavenly rewards could no longer be purchased by generous building programmes, and any you did build may fall foul of the next monarch’s theological preoccupations, all the trouble and expense was not really worth it. So Matterdale's lovely roof beams, candelabras with candles and square (rather than gothic) windows, help us see what a late Tudor church was expected to be like.

Inside, I was struck by a modern vinyl banner which greeted visitors to the church on arrival:


This simple mantra it proclaimed, which has been the Diocese of Carlisle’s evangelistic war cry since 2015. It seems to be organised by something called the Northern Mission Centre and says it is aiming ‘to support creative and innovative mission. We are pioneering at heart, supporting both Time Honoured and Fresh Expressions of church across all denominations to reach deeper into the communities they serve.’

I commend all evangelistic endeavours, especially those in the large denominations which have a natural tendency toward inertia. Yet the title ‘God for All’ struck me as particularly weak. Three short syllables are catchy, and it certainly expresses the universal regard that God has for our race. The theology behind the initiative seems sound enough, but that header ignores the role of Christ Jesus in mediating between humanity and God. He is the way, the truth and the life; through Him alone can anyone approach the Father. There is no God For All except through Christ For All. Someone shared with me how in Watchtower depictions of the millennial kingdom, there are always butterflies, verdant trees, and people of different races all looking suitably happy, but there is never Jesus Christ. He is not shown, because He is not the door through whom JWs pass. Likewise, the Islamic and Hindu faiths will gladly talk about God and how we ought to seek him, but never Jesus Christ. God without Jesus is God for none.

God for All’s prayer I quote below, and I truly pray it:

God for all, you reached out to the world in your Son Jesus Christ.

Help us to reach out in faith and love and witness to all.

God for all, you send your Holy Spirit to empower and gift your Church.

By your Spirit help us grow in unity,

grow as followers of Jesus Christ,

and grow your kingdom in Cumbria and in this world


The Elizabathans of Matterdale might not have constructed the most impressive of churches, nor would they have been as tactful and polite as modern churchmen, but they knew far better the essential importance of Jesus Christ.