I was though struck by a number of other things that came up during the weekend, and I thought I would share one of them here, because I think they offer an insight into some of the opportunities we have as Christians in the UK; and also because although there are differences between their situation and ours, there are also similarities.
Altrincham Baptist Church has an old building, built for a bygone age.In common with Claremont they had a rather forbidding, and not very accesible entrance. I cannot believe their gents toilets were as bad as ours!
Not far away from ABC was a community building run by the local council,which was under threat. My understanding is that the church went to the council and offered to run it for them for an initial period of 2 years.During that time the church renamed the building "The Hub" and began to turn the centre into a thriving place for everyone in the area.
This is not traditional church but it is mission!
The Hub's strapline is not "our community our place" but "Your Community Your Place!"
This must have been tough for some church members initially.As Christians it is possible to treat church as our club rather than a community for God and others
Roger told us they made a number of rules when the Hub opened .I cant remember all of them but here are 3
- They gave the building a neutral name in this case "The Hub "
- They said community events took precedence over church events- After all they had another building for church stuff, like leaders meetings and church meetings, and they wanted the community to feel this really was their building
- They said no services for 6 months .They didn't want to brand the building as a church ,not because they were trying to hide who they are but because they wanted the community to feel they belonged.
As I say some church people must have found these things hard, but great credit to them for being willing to make sacrifices in order to connect with their local community.
The church attendance stats in the UK are not encouraging. However, I honestly think the opportunities have never been greater, and with the passage of the forthcoming localism bill through parliament ,they could become greater still.
I am certainly not saying we would adopt Altrincham Baptist Churches rules for our new building but they do give us plenty to think about!The key point is that the church is not a building,it is not an institution it is the people of God and if we are going to share the gospel we need to be where people are sharing Good News with them