April 2014

At the March Synod meeting this year we heard some stories that got me thinking.

The first was of a small chapel URC congregation in a village which had realised that the best thing for them to do with regards to the building was to sell it and to meet in the new community centre. They then used a portion of the sale of the building for a new mission project. They consulted about what was needed there and people asked for a Cafe. St. Arbucks has now been in business for almost a year.
(Do you like the name?) There is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order for the cafe not to make a loss and to maximise its mission potential. But the congregation are free to do this as they are not fretting over the repair and running of their church building.

The second is of a very different church – the large complex that is Westfield URC, Bridgwater. In August 2011 the Church opened the Street Cafe - a mobile catering unit based outside the church with a 'sit in' cafe style area within the church. Its vision is to be able to share God’s love within a positive and caring environment through the building up of relationships. Because a number of homeless people started using the Cafe, in December 2012 the Church formed a partnership with Sedgemoor District Council (SDC), and Taunton Association for the Homeless (TAH). The Street Cafe now provides a twice weekly drop in centre and free food to those sleeping rough. In April 2013, a shower was installed and in August 2013 a washing machine and tumble drier were installed. Which meant that in February 2014 the Church became the perfect venue for the Bridgwater Flood Rest Centre. Although the Centre is officially closed, some people are still coming back to use the facilities as their temporary accommodation is very basic. What the Church sought to do, as well as providing shelter and a one stop shop for advice (the Council had officers on hand most of the time) was to offer a kind word and a cup of tea – which didn’t take any problems away but did allow people to take a breath and be ready to face the next challenge knowing they were not alone.

Two projects on very different scales. I marvel at a small church taking a leap of faith and being prepared to leave a building they loved in order to walk into a new adventure with God. I marvel too about how one mission opportunity in Bridgwater – setting up the cafe – has had unimagined spin offs and led to the Church being equipped for an unexpected crisis.

I share these stories not to suggest that Furrough Cross opens a cafe. (After all, we are surrounded by them) Or installs a shower (at 500ft above sea level we are not likely to be needed as a Flood Rest Centre). I share these stories in order to suggest that we need to be looking at our mission opportunities and wonder what adventures God wants us to enjoy. In both these stories the Churches took a risk, a step of faith that was not easy, but both have been challenged and transformed. And both know that they are not at the end of their story yet.

Let us dream dreams and see visions. Let us discover what God is calling us to do and to be. And let us not just talk but move forward with God, prepared for whatever challenges he gives us.

God bless,