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Beyond the Lone Islands

Friday, 15 October 2010

Permission To Move Hell


Looking through my pictures of the inside of the old church at the museum park (see Unexpected Flashbacks), I also spotted this one (above). I have thought of posting about it before, but never got round to it.

In old churches with painted ceilings you often find Heavenly pictures, with clouds and angels. You can see an example of that in one of the photos in yesterday’s post, over the pulpit.

Sometimes, at the back of the church, like here over the organ balcony, they also included illustrations of Judgment Day and/or Hell.

In the village where I lived as a child, we had that kind of church. It was a stone church, not a wooden one. But it had a painted ceiling including both Heaven and Hell. Now my family weren’t churchgoers, so I didn’t get to (or have to) look at those pictures very often. I’m not sure I even ever took any particular notice of Hell (which just like in the photo above was situated over the organ balcony) until in junior high school I got a teacher who came from the same parish, and who loved to tell a story about it. It took place before we kids were even born. I don’t remember all the details now, but in the mid 20th century, the church was to go through a major restoration. I think the building was to be made longer, and the tower added. Anyway, it involved the old painted ceiling in a way which caused headlines in the newspapers: “Will X (=name of the parish) be allowed to move Hell?” And after long – and I presume heated! – discussions in the episcopate council or whereever such things are decided, the answer was presented in new headlines: “X allowed to move Hell”. 

No small achievement for a country village church!

But of course the Church has always believed in the right to stir up both Heaven and Hell:

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.

(Matthew 27:50-52, NIV)


The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

(Common Worship translation, Church of England 2000)

The earliest appearance of the full text we know as the Apostles' Creed is from around 710. Shorter versions go back much further.


PS. Yes, I’m moving this post up from earlier in the week. Since I also had another post that day, I think some of the regular readers perhaps missed this one. (If hell can be moved once, why not twice?)


Sandra said...

well you title grabbed me first thing. YIKES i thought, what is she up to today? great story and picture. i do not want to sit in chruch and look at that for sure. amazing what churches do and dont do to me. thanks for sharing this story

Ginny said...

Well, I never thought I'd find myself saying that you have written a truly hellish post, but you certainly have! Cute and interesting story. And I'm glad you re-posted it, because I never saw it the first time! You probably knew that, because of my lack of a comment. Oh, what an awful ceiling! I don't appreciate churches that feature hell and fire and brimstone sermons and try to scare their parishoners into shaping up. My husband is the substitute pastor of our church right now, and we would never think of doing that. But many do.

DawnTreader said...

"The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." - Luther

"The devil... the prowde spirite... cannot endure to be mocked." - Thomas More

These two quotes are included at the beginning of C.S. Lewis's book 'The Screwtape Letters'; which by the way was dedicated to his friend J.R.R. Tolkien (1942).


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