Five small churches with big hearts …

On Saturday we traveled to Northamptonshire – I was meeting up with Vic Webb a friend from Northern College days who ministers in a small church at Great Doddington. Vic had invited me to this part of the East Midlands Synod.

On Saturday afternoon we revisited Yardley Hastings where our daughter had been part of the Community Team in the 1990’s.

and on Sunday we became acquainted with members of the five churches (East Dean, Great Doddington, Harrold, High Street, Wellingborough and Yardley Hastings) who link together to form the East Area Group, supporting each other and enjoying each others company at occasional joint events.

We shared in a service in which we celebrated the lives of those churches, basing the service on my three themes of small churches, lay ministry and workplace chaplaincy. Through stories, we heard about the struggles and hopes of being a small church in today’s world, we heard about an initiative, led by a lay member of the congregation in Wellingborough, to help a church fellowship to get to know one another better and I told a story of workplace chaplaincy.

Is there anything which strikes me following this weekend? Well, there is the fact that as a relatively small denomination there are links between people and places which makes it feel like a family where we can care truly for one another.

There is the fact that people want to share their stories but often don’t have the opportunity.

But telling our stories raises all sorts of possibilities as we look to the future. Stories like these small churches are at the heart of community life, both the buildings and the gathering of Christian people. Life is not always easy but they are led by the Spirit to a future which is often uncertain and yet God continues to call them on in faith.

One reading we heard from Paul’s letter to the Philippians ended with the words “I have strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me” and perhaps those words best sum up the heart of the stories we heard during Sunday afternoon’s service.

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