It wasn’t really a tour of Wessex – more a drive along the A27 – M27, starting at Havant and driving west until it runs out in the New Forest! How many of us use the motorways to commute for work and get to holiday destinations – the hope of fast, unimpeded travel, the reality now more like chock-a-block queues. Good to get off the motorway, and start making discoveries. For us, it was to discover how our churches are engaging with their communities, even making an impact on people’s lives. A big thanks to those ministers, elders and churches who opened their hearts and church-doors to us. So many discoveries!
From this ….. to this…………….
We visited Buckland URC in Portsmouth, and saw the amazing transformation of their premises – not just from the old, cluttered and no-longer fit for purpose, to new, modern and user-friendly – but also an opening up of the church to be relevant to its community in welcome and support to all. The bringing out from our heritage all that is good into the ministry we are involved in today was symbolically represented in the mechanism of the old clock, beautifully restored – and giving its name to the community café – ‘The Clock’. Just as I love sensing God’s creativity in nature, I also thrill at the intricacy and connectivity of creation in engineering and other man-made things. As well as the clockworks, we were there in the week that a new lift had been installed – what a great improvement for access and inclusion, making more flexible use of their buildings, but also symbolising a church with open arms of inclusion.
We met with elders and members, watched a fascinating slideshow of the building-transformation, by chance met the architect of the project, and had a super lunch. Clearly it was recognised that none of this would have happened without the inspiration, experience and complete commitment of their minister Cliff Bembridge. Cliff has retired, but this is not a church that stops everything when a minister leaves, to wait until his successor comes.
We talked with David Wrighton about the ministry of IBEX. The United Reformed Church is committed to this project, which covers the central south coast area and whose strapline is “the churches working with the economy” connecting faith with work. It is so encouraging to hear how traditional models of industrial chaplaincy are being changed to meet the needs of modern industry and changing church-life. The new minister being inducted to Buckland will also serve the IBEX Project, once again showing how the outworking of the Gospel is both within and without our churches. I really appreciate the conclusion of another church supporting IBEX – “If the Physical Community is not different because we are here, we are doing something wrong.”