Although the word Church is used of Christian buildings, in fact it really refers to the people, those who have committed themselves to following the Way of Jesus Christ. The word ‘church’ comes from the Greek ecclesia, meaning ‘called out’ or ‘called forth’. In Greek culture citizens would be called out to assemble. The early church adopted this idea of being ‘called’ to assemble and do God’s work. Thus a church is the people and the work they do rather than the physical building.
The Nicene Creed (above) states that the Church is catholic (i.e. one, undivided), Holy (i.e. not just an earthly institution), and Apostolic (i.e. it can trace its origins right back to the earliest followers of Jesus, and particularly to St Peter, who was given the ‘keys of the Kingdom of Heaven’). Although individual churches have often referred to themselves as The Church, correctly speaking individual churches can only ever be ‘denominations’ or congregations, because the true Church is ‘one’, and arguably, it is ‘hidden’, since Jesus has said that awareness of the ‘saved ones’ would only become clear at the final judgement (Matthew 25).