At the end of September, I spent a day visiting a number of churches and church activities in Essex, which even today still warm my heart, even though the warm days of September seem a long time ago!
The visit to the Mid and South Essex Area Partnerships focused mainly on Chelmsford and Rayleigh. My day started when I joined the Ministers’ meeting for Mid and South Essex Area Partnerships held in Christ Church URC Chelmsford – and what a great bunch of gracious followers of Jesus they are. After this good conversation, I was shown round the excellent facilities at Christ Church, and told about their good fortune of a large legacy. I was impressed to hear how they have shared their good fortune by giving and lending a substantial portion of the legacy. My morning in Christ Church concluded by joining their Celtic Daily Prayer service, held every weekday at noon, and open to all.
I was then taken from one of the largest churches in the area to one of the smallest, North Avenue URC for lunch at their regular lunch club. North Avenue has 11 members and punches well above its weight! North Avenue is on the edge of a deprived area in Chelmsford and the lunch club is one way they serve that community. The lunch club is a big undertaking for small congregation which is
made possible by ecumenical (particularly Anglican) involvement. Whilst we were having lunch Bishop Stephen and a host of clergy came in for lunch, giving an opportunity for a quick chat. Whilst I was there I also talked with two of the elders who are responsible for a youth club (North Avenue Youth Centre) run on the site (again with ecumenical support) – impressive work from two stalwart servants of Christ.
I left North Avenue to visit a Christian charity in Rayleigh, focusing on youth, called the Mega Centre. Mega Centre is housed in a huge warehouse and contains activities ranging from laser quest to table tennis and everything in-between. While the Christian context is underplayed, the love and care shown to the young people is an effective example of Christ’s love for us all. Although not a URC initiative it is supported by URC members who do a range of activities including mentoring young people.
The day concluded with an evening meeting at Christ Church URC, Rayleigh for anyone from the partnership. I spoke for about 30 minutes using the provocative title, ‘Will the URC survive?’ This seemed to work as there was no shortage of difficult questions afterwards!
Thanks to all who helped to organise and take part in this visit. I found it instructive and encouraging, and I hope you have too.
PS My answer to the provocative question … yes, but we are likely to shrink even more which will (should) impact how we use all our resources.