(A long walk to a new home!)
Last week I celebrated the bravery and faith of folk who have crossed the world to find a new home. Recently I visited a church, Westgate Peterborough, who have the same bravery and faith to move out of their home, not across the world but across the car-park! Bravery because it took great courage to leave behind many things precious to the congregation, not least the great burden we all carry – this is what we are used to, what we like, what we are comfortable with. When any fellowship leaves its building it is also a step of Faith , that we are in God’s hands, and seeking his will, hoping we are doing the right thing, and trusting God will guide us forward into new ways of engaging with our community. That was the impetus that led Westgate to sell their old building and move into their small but modern premises at the back of the car park, refurbished for today’s worship and community use.
I spent such an inspiring and encouraging day with their minister, Lesley Moseley. First we visited the church at Whittlesey, a URC-Methodist LEP that really seems to work. I arrived in the middle of a carers and toddlers group, first session back after summer holidays, and the hall was bursting at the seams. Did you know that over 50% of pre-school children in the UK attend some facility run in a church building. What an amazing opportunity we have to make friends with all these families! This church is heavily involved with the secular festivals in the town, they had just had an at home holiday time for the elderly, and week in and out is busy serving their community.
From the old to the new, keep me travelling…
Then it was on to Westgate to hear their story of recognising that membership numbers were dropping, and those left were getting older, with a huge historic building that was a millstone around their necks. So, they sold it! I did have the privilege of going into the old building and to see the beautiful way a Portuguese-speaking church have refurbished it for their particular needs. Yet, it was more a privilege to see how our congregation is using their remaining buildings to relate to the needs not of themselves but of the communities around them. At the end of the day we were joined by the minister, John Filsak and folk from St. Andrew’s, exploring the challenges facing our churches – challenges for which our response needs to be one of bravery and faith.
One special way was the following Saturday when Muslim and Christian women handed out bottles of water to city shoppers – with the expression that separate we are but a drop of water, together we become a mighty ocean!