Sometimes when we meet Christians and we sense the love of God flowing through their lives, it is as though the spirit within us is thanking God with an almighty “Alleluia!” As our Wessex tour continued, to Fareham, and Hythe and then crossing over to the Isle of Wight, our spirits were indeed proclaiming “Alleluia! Alleluia! Give thanks to the Risen Lord” or was it more “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” according to Leonard Cohen?
Paul Bedford treated us to a trip up the Spinnaker in Portsmouth, which gave us wonderful views over Portsmouth and beyond, across the Wessex synod we were visiting. Taking us then to his church at Fareham, unfortunately we only had time to look around the church building and see the context of its community. But here is a wonderful example of a church, of which the United Reformed Church has many – and we must not take for granted. Nearly 25 years since it was rebuilt and during that time has found new expressions to serve its community. By now, it is a faithful community of Christians following its own mission statement “sharing Jesus’ love with the world today” through the traditional church sacraments, activities and events, socials and music, Bible study and Prayer-share. But there are also things that other churches may not have, such as a healing ministry and tending the church garden. Well done, Fareham for doing the ordinary things of life in God’s extraordinary strength of love – wish we could have met you all.
Those of you more into Leonard Cohen than modern choruses will know “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” and may know that Cohen said “there many different hallelujahs exist” They certainly do, and the poignancy of his song becomes real when you meet people with great stress and pain in their life, and yet can find a “hallelujah” to sing. Our time at Cornerstone, Hythe was for Lynne and I a very moving experience – to hear the story of this fellowship was itself a very moving and uplifting one – Alleluia! But then we were privileged to meet just some of the many groups of people meeting at the church who are facing stress and pain in their lives, but finding hope through others supporting them, signposting where help is available, and sharing the love of Jesus one with another. We thought the ministry of the church into where a community is vulnerable is stunning. Thank you to their minister Eddie Boon and all the ministry teams. Hallelujah! (Now rising to a Handel chorus!)