when I visited two churches, Sawston Free Church and Little Abington United Reformed Church.
On Sunday morning I led worship at Sawston Free Church at the start of their 200th anniversary celebrations. They had told me a bit about their history. From 1700 there had been intermittent meetings of non-conformists in the village but it wasn’t until 1809 that regular meetings began in a barn. By 1810 the congregation had outgrown the barn and the land on which the current church stands was gifted to the congregation. In 1811 a new building was begun. It was dedicated as a place of worship on the 22nd March 1812 – the date on which (in 2012) there are plans for the final part of their celebrations.
But this is not a church which is looking only to its past and whilst this was a service to celebrate the past it was also a service to look at directions for the future. But where does the OWL feature? It stands for Opportunities Without Limits a charity based in Sawston which creates work, learning and leisure opportunities for learning disabled and disadvantaged people. As part of this community based project there is a modern training kitchen and cafe at the heart of the church building – the cafe being run as a partnership between the charity and the church.
It is always good to see congregations which look outwards from their own fellowship and when adaptations of the buildings make them accessible and welcoming to the community that is a double bonus.
In the afternoon I traveled 5 miles to Little Abingtonwhere I led worship with a small but warm and welcoming congregation who like many United Reformed Church congregations are linked with a larger church nearby but who have their own mission in their own place. Here I heard stories of healing and God’s amazing grace.
I also heard about ‘Songs for Sunday’ a new initiative which the congregation are launching in February, playing to the strengths they have of two musicians and an enthusiasm to reach people in that community.
Once more I came away with the distinct feeling that the United Reformed Church was alive and witnessing in different but appropriate ways in these two communities.