I photographed quite a few beach huts in Devon a couple of weeks ago. A row of immaculate, equally proportioned, brightly painted huts tucked in beneath the cliff in Dawlish looked as if they had never been used. Only two had the doors open. An elderly couple were seated in one drinking cups of tea, while a single gentleman was reading a book in another. The others were all locked up. But they looked nice.
Down on the back beach at Teignmouth it was different. Several of the weathered higgledy-piggledy beach huts were in use just before sunset when we were walking on the beach. I don’t have a photograph, but one looked really inviting as a large group of people were sharing drinks around a table just outside the beach hut. They were laughing and soaking up the last of the sun’s rays. Similarly in Scarborough last week, there were several beach huts in use. This is where my son Nick and his wife Anna have clubbed together with friends and family to rent a beach hut for the year.
A beautiful brightly painted beach hut seems to be of little benefit if it remains locked up for most of the year. Contrast the Dawlish huts with Nick and Anna’s beach hut, which has been regularly used and brings much pleasure to the group of people who share the costs of this hut, just like the well-used beach hut I spied on Teignmouth beach. Surely a beach hut comes to life with the doors open and a group of people nearby.
Beach huts should be a base from where to explore the beach, the rocks, and the sea, where all sorts of treasures wait to be discovered. They can be a place of sustenance where one can return to brew tea or coffee, and rest a while. They can be a place of shade and shelter. Shade from the sun when it is at its hottest, and shelter should the weather turn and the heavens open. They can also be a place where we can change – from clothes into swimming costumes, and back again from wet costumes into clothes.
I was wondering about comparisons between beach huts and churches. Some beach huts are hidden away and hard to find, some are outrageously expensive and out of reach of the average person. Others show evidence of use and of standing up to the storms, while others although pristine on the outside, never seem to open their doors. The church I belong to overlooks a busy city centre street. This summer we have been opening the church doors each Sunday and serving refreshments outside the lobby before and after the morning service. One thing I have observed is that passers-by have begun to notice that there is a church spilling out onto the forecourt, where previously they may have never noticed that the church was there. In the same way I can’t but help look into a beach hut that is open and being used. If your church was a beach hut, what sort of beach hut would it be?
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NLT)