Formby Fire Station

Formby fire station, on Merseyside, is a building I rather like. Whereas some, such as my local (bottom photo), are purely functional nods to utility, this design is different. Birmingham-based architecture firm, Seymour Harris, describe the materials they used:

The palette of materials…is black and white brickwork set as a backdrop to vibrant red steel cladding and black steel to the two appliance bays 

A building is an immovable object, a set piece, yet there is a real sense of movement here, even urgency. This is in keeping with its purpose, and the flashy colours and contrasts of red, white and black further add to this. A fire station should be a place of action, a throbbing store of potential energy; it impatiently waits for the phone to ring, the bleeper to sound, before bursting into action to go and rescue life and property from fire’s wanton rage. This building, though stationary and fixed, has all of that in its architecture.


Worse than traditional fire stations, churches are even more solid and stolid in their design. Fat pillars and thick stone walls speak of an inertia and heaviness. Whereas this might remind us of the faith’s consistency amid the culture’s shifting sand, it may also speak of an immobility, indolence and languor. The puritans were godly, Biblical folk, but why did they send out no missionaries? Why did the Victorian denominations allow themselves to drift into heterodoxy? Why does the present-day church not seize the wonderful opportunities that mass-immigration has brought?

It was the Roman poet Horace who coined the Latin phrase carpe diem, loosely translated ‘seize the day’. Yet it’s a Biblical principle also. Esther was appointed to ‘such a time as this’; in the ninth of Ecclesiastes, Solomon counsels to make the most our present; Paul tells the Ephesians to capitalise on every opportunity, on account of the days’ wickedness. May our service be more redolent of Formby’s dynamic fire station than many of our thick, bulky church buildings.

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.

Col 4:5