Church of St Clement Danes

I was pleased to call at the London church of St Clement Danes in the autumn. A grand old lady, she was founded by Vikings, hence the name, destroyed in the Great Fire, rebuilt, and almost destroyed again by Nazi bombs in the last world war, rising again in the 1950s. She retains the protestant baroque feel of Sir Christopher Wren; the exterior is grand and imposing, and this can be said of the interior, too. Everything appears lofty and high, and this should not surprise us, as it is known as the church of the Royal Air Force. Our third armed force reckons this place to be its spiritual home, and led the campaign to have it restored from 1958. Sir Arthur Harris and Lord Dowding, leaders of the RAF during the Second World War, are commemorated in statue by the main entrance. As the RAF played a significant part in dissuading Herr Hitler from his British invasion plans, it is fitting that they should be allowed to claim so wonderful a London church as their spiritual air base.

Intriguingly, one of Satan’s titles in scripture refers to some kind of aerial warfare:

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience Ephesians 2:2

Just as an enemy bomber or fighter could appear from nowhere, unlimited by terrain or the English Channel, so Satan goes ‘to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.’ This might refer to his lethal power, attacking from any direction, not just the degrees of the compass. Furthermore, it might be Paul’s expression for the spiritual dimension, which is up, above and beyond.

St Clement Danes is therefore an apt picture of the wider church. Procured by them who are tasked with defending our airspace, and almost destroyed by fire and ‘the thunderbolts of aerial warfare’, she survives -and looks all the greater for it. We Christians are involved in spiritual warfare: our opponent is powerful, dextrous and cunning. He bombs, harries, and disrupts, but like German bombers of a previous generation, his destroying days are numbered.

And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Luke 10:18