I always get a buzz when I enter the Ministry Centre. And each day – I do not exaggerate – at least one person will tell me, usually one of the many visitors to Cafe Vista – what an incredible building God has blessed us with. So we honour him for his faithfulness and provision, a real endorsement to our step of faith, or more accurately, to our many steps of faith. In fact, it often seemed at the time more like a 25 mile hike through East Anglian wetlands with the occasional thunderstorm thrown in. But that’s ministry!
In fact, a new ministry may be opening us for us as I am regularly contacted by leaders of churches about to embark on a building project. They know it is going to be tough. What lessons can we share with them?
To that end I am putting together a history of the whole Ministry Centre project, from the very first days in 1989 when Pete Chalk and David Dennison opened the Building Fund to the present time as Peter Bootle begins his work as Ministry Centre coordinator.
So over the last few days I have been trawling through all the extensive files and press cutting – and in doing reliving the project. Not always an easy ride, as you will remember. We learned so much over those 22 years, both as individual Christians and as a church. Here we have an invaluable curriculum of faith.
What was really instructive was to revisit 1994. That July our newly appointed head teacher, Barbara Stevens, moved the infant department of Christ Church School out of the old school building and into the main school site. And so during that September we had a series of meeting in the building to discover God’s purposes for the place, to take hold of his vision for future ministry. In addition, some 17 church members sent written submissions.
What strikes me now reading all the documents (remember LocoScript, Alan Sugar’s gift to the world?) is how our views were incredibly restricted and lacking any ambition for the building itself. Our idea then of being radical was to contemplate removing one of the walls dividing the classrooms. That’s it. One church member, who 15 years later was to do sterling work in the building of the Ministry Centre, wrote: “Unless absolutely necessary, I wouldn’t want to knock down the current building.” When I told him this yesterday, he simply could not believe he had written this!
In contrast, our vision for the use of the old school building was ambitious – an extensive ministry with all the age groups, lots of different activities serving the local community, even a welcoming area “with refreshments and snacks.” One person simply wrote in their submission: “Drop in centre.”
You have the sense that we were feeling our way forward with a sense of adventure and opportunism.
The result – a mismatch between what the old school building could offer, even with a wall removed, and the potential flowering of different ministries. So we had to choose – between making the ministries fit the building or making a building to fit the ministries. That was our first crucial decision of faith. We could have scarcely imagined then the implications of going for that second option. But we decided to take God at his word and set off on a long and difficult adventure of faith.
Looking back, what made all the difference? Answer – to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. (Hebrews 12:2)
From last week, thank you for your comments to my letter on Tesco taking on the Church. Take a look at this – thanks to Joyce Leach:
Incidentally, you can read this letter (and previous mailings) on my blog on the church website www.ChristChurchAughton.org and also on our family website.
And finally, I have now started a Christ Church twitter feed.
Open a Twitter account, search for @ChristChurchAug and sign up to follow. It will change your life – it certainly will change mine!