“Old men and old women will come back to Jerusalem, sit on benches on the streets and spin tales, move around safely with their canes—a good city to grow old in. And boys and girls will fill the public parks, laughing and playing—a good city to grow up in.” Zechariah 8:4-5 (The Message)
It is now weeks since we toured South Wales, but I have only told half the story and there were more churches to get excited about!
Elfed Avenue United Church in Penarth
Don’t dare tell Penarth there’s no life among the old folk. We attended a Luncheon Club (minister’s husband Alex cooking in the kitchen) with over 60 people there, and “full of life” certainly describes them. Here is a church that doesn’t bemoan that our congregations are growing older, but is clearly responding to God asking, “What are you going to do about it?” The answer from minister Sue Fender and the church is to focus their ministry on the ever-increasing numbers of older folk in our communities – they need the Gospel as well as the young! Older folk are fully engaged in the life of the church which also runs an ‘holiday at home’ club, which sounds a hoot. I am sure everyone here is kept young in Spirit by Sue’s zest for life, her encouragement of everyone and even energy to do Swimathons!
City United Reformed Church Cardiff
Here is a church whose name says what it is – the URC in the centre of the city, ministering to Cardiff city centre. This gives the church great opportunities for outreach, and to engage with the most vulnerable in society. However, it also creates great challenges being a gathered church and without a distinct residential community around it. It has not stopped them in the past, and the church has a long and respected ministry with all those who come through our cities. Its reputation as open and affirming led to the establishment of ‘the Gathering’ an informal congregation of LGBT folk. The church keeps its own congregation together with organised events and their Saturday coffee time, which we attended. Yes it was good to meet old friends, including retired ministers Sheelagh Pollard and Ken Graham, who have been stalwart support to City Church. It was even better to make new friends of people from different parts of the world. This seems the future of the church – being the sanctuary in the city for all the diversity of city life.
Canton Uniting Church
Out into Canton, one of Cardiff’s suburbs for Sunday worship. How to describe Canton? Spontaneous, relaxed, easy-going, like a family, with people of all ages, learning abilities, professions or none. Funny this is a church we didn’t get any photos of people, probably because we were carried away by the worship. I lost track as to how many churches came together to form the new church. I knew one of them – Grand Avenue, which is the church from which I candidated for ministry, a church remembered for amazing community service and development. It was as though that ethos had come with the people into the new church. And I wondered what other churches had brought their gifts to enrich the fellowship. The worship felt as though lifted to heaven itself, by the music group and choir. They are of the highest professional standards, but what made them special was the recognition that this was to the glory of God – it was true worship rather than mere concert – it was more ministry than music! It was as though the worship for us was the climax of an amazing week, encouraged and inspired by the people of God in all these places. If the URC is the local church empowered by the Holy Spirit to witness to Jesus – then the body of Christ is alive! Alleluia!