St Botolph’s without Bishopsgate: Holy Water

St Botolph’s without Bishopsgate is yet another architecturally impressive London Church. Faced with stone but built of brick., its interior is classical and symmetrical, with bold white columns and richly coloured woodwork. Worship there appears to be rather ‘high’ in its style, with the rector describing himself as ‘Father’ and a sign by the entrance advising people who wish to take away holy water, that bottles for £1 can be obtained from the church office.

As a nonconformist evangelical, I have never understood the concept of holy water, much less people’s desire to bottle it up and carry it home. Having got there, what does one do with it? Pour it into the pots of ailing plants, or mitigate one’s inadequate culinary skills? I do not seek to mock others’ spirituality, but such things offer me genuine puzzlement. Popish saint, Teresa of Avila, wrote:

I know by frequent experience that there is nothing which puts the devils to flight like Holy water.

Sadly, it appears to have less effect on superstition, idolatry and priestcraft. If what she wrote was correct, I’d buy a house on an island in a lake, and pay a priest to bless the waters each day. Ask for holy water at Salem Chapel and you’ll likely be offered a pot of good tea. The only truly holy water is Christ Himself, who is the water of life. He cannot be botled and carried home, but He will enter your heart and refresh you forever. 

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:13-15

And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. Revelation 21:6