A Children’s Message: Clinker Bricks


(Each Week, there is a message that is presented to those at Asbury Church, under the guise of a children’s message. These are typically some of the most enjoyed moments of the church. This message was presented on Sunday, May 23, 2010)

Many of you have seen this brick before, as it sits outside the entry way to Asbury Church. What makes it unique is it has the word pray on it.


Although there is a lot of legend as to why the word pray would be on a brick, one legend has it that it began in the late 1800’s. I am not sure if it’s accurate or just another urban myth, but I like it.

In the 1800’s the single largest purchaser of bricks was for the construction of churches all over the east coast of the country. But bricks are expensive, and no one wanted to pay full price,…especially for a church. Eventually, buyers and brick makers started to become more and more crooked in their deals.

Brick makers decided to add the word, to remind everyone involved what exactly was most important.

Imagine this scene if you would…
When people bought the bricks for their buildings and homes, they would come down to the brickyard and go through a whole pallet full of bricks…fresh off the production line.

One by one, they would comment on a brick’s color, its shape, or its strength. By complaining that the bricks didn’t look sturdy, they would attempt to get them for cheaper. With each inspection they would cast the bricks aside.
The more faults they found with the bricks, the cheaper they could purchase them for. Those cast away bricks were called clinkers….remember that….its going to be important later on in the story.

After this went on for decades, one manufacture would use the moment, to humble the less than honest brick buyers.

When they started to complain about the quality of bricks, he would pick one up flip it over, and say:

“You are probably right,….a strong brick is crucial to a strong house…. That’s why we remember Isaiah 56 when we make our bricks…. My House should be a house of prayer”

In that moment, the brick maker would remind the church builder that one of the key ingredients of any house is what stands at its foundation. In that moment the church builder would think profits or integrity. Overtime, things got more honest.

Now,….remember those cast away bricks? What were they called?


The clinkers were actually those that were found in the piles of bricks that were truly not pretty. Maybe they were the wrong color, or odd shaped. They were still bricks, but they weren’t pretty. They were a brick manufacturer’s worst nightmare.

Well, I want to tell you about another time when bricks were bought in the early 1900’s.
It turns out there was a congregation in Gates, NY who had outgrown their church. As a congregation they decided it was time to build a new building.

There was a great deal of debate at the church as to what type and how big it should be built. Turns out that half wanted a brick church, the other wanted wood. Eventually in the discussion, an argument broke out between the Pastor, who wanted brick,…and another member who wanted wood.

The two sides came to a compromise; both would draw up plans for their church and price it out. Whichever was cheaper would be the church they built. Those that wanted the wood church had thought they won.

When it came time to present the idea, it turns out that the brick church was significantly cheaper. When everyone asked, why the Pastor’s bid was so cheap he told them he was planning on buying the “Clinker” or defective bricks to build the church.

An uproar arose in the church…You can’t build our church with defective bricks, that’s insanity! Some screamed.

After the uproar died down, he stood up, and said simply…

“Maybe a building built from less than perfect bricks would remind us that all true churches are built from less than perfect people…And in the end….our faith…and our building would keep us humble.”

Guess what?

The pastor won, and the church was built with the less than perfect bricks,…and still stands today.

But the story doesn’t end here….. there is another church…. On the north shore of the sea of Galilee,…near what was once Capernaum. It’s actually less of a church and more of a chapel.

It’s probably half the size of the sanctuary at Asbury.
The builders decided that they too would use clinker bricks because they liked the symbolism.but they took the idea further.

Instead of using mortar to hold the brick together,…they hired people to rub and grind each brick individually until they fit perfectly and uniquely together.

Each brink was rubbed by hand against another, and the walls of the church are considered incredibly strong. Even without the mortar, the joints of the bricks were several times stronger than if they had it.

There belief was similar to the church in New York….
A Church is built by less than perfect people…. Yet despite the imperfections,…the real strength of the church, real community, and real love can only truly be realized when we live and rub up against each other…until all the parts that form weakness disappear and we fit together perfectly.

I like that idea.

I was thinking that maybe its time to remind each other that this place is certainly not perfect, and made up by perfect people….
Sometimes things don’t happen as they should…and sometimes we fall….
But what we all need to remember, as we grow in the church, and learn what we are all about….
Its those imperfections, and the willingness to share in the journey,…that makes this place strong.

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