The Ministry Centre is now just one year old – and what a year! A feature of God’s grace is that everyone (i.e. everyone) thinks that this in a truly wonderful building. One of my memories from the opening day is Hector Horrocks with tears in his eyes – “such a beautiful building and so well constructed.” We truly can bless God for this outcome.
And it is great to see new ministries beginning to appear, using the rich resource of our new building. Tomorrow the men’s breakfast (from 8.30 am) and no doubt later today I will be making my way to Café Vista. One of the ways the Ministry Centre has impacted my own ministry is that I find myself spending much more time with people as I drink my cappuccinos. You’d be surprised who you meet as we look over Clieves Hill.
What is starting to happen (and here another ministry may well develop) is that colleagues from other churches with similar projects are seeking our counsel. Only this week I had lunch in Cafe Vista with Gary Renison who followed Eric Bramhall to All Saints, Childwall. They are embarking on an ambitious project to remodel their church and build a new church hall. And as a result, they have drawn a lot of flak, including some hostile coverage in the Liverpool Echo.
For the one lesson of our entire project is that the greater the strategic importance for the Kingdom of God, the more intense the spiritual opposition. That’s something you soon learn in ministry, clearly evident in the Gospels. I have just been reading John 5 – 18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill Jesus; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
Even as Jesus opened his heart and made himself vulnerable, so those in authority resolved to destroy him. It can’t have been easy – being crucified never is.
But it something as Christians we need to always be alert to, even anticipate. If we are going to do anything worthwhile for God, there is going to be hassle, flak. But such opposition can be strangely encouraging.
Way back in 1981 when I served in the Diocese of Chester, Michael Baughen was appointed our new Bishop. Even before he arrived I saw a newspaper heading – “Hate mail for new Bishop.” I knew then that his was going to be an outstanding ministry.
Looking back at the whole Ministry Centre project, each stage of the process has been fraught with difficulties and setbacks. I well remember in 2002 the architect for our first building saying that the planning stage would only take two or three months. It took five difficult years and ended with the plans being rejected on appeal.
However, this was time not wasted. We had learned from all our mistakes, we now knew what we needed. And it took just three years from the appointing the new architect to the opening of the Ministry Centre.
But the project is not over yet – no fat lady yet stands in the wings. Today Peter Luscombe finishes his job of getting the Ministry Centre up and running. This has been a far more difficult and demanding task that I had anticipated, such is the complexity of modern buildings with a myriad of systems and electronic devices. We can thank God for his provision of Peter whose background made him uniquely qualified to do this hugely important job.
So we are now at the final stage, as advised by the Diocese, of seeking to appoint the right person to oversee the running of the Ministry Centre with the main emphasis being the coordination and care of volunteers. For one of the main features of Christ Church is the huge number of people involved in all kinds of ministries, something we need to nurture and resource.
So we are trusting God for the provision of the right person. As John Shaw observes: “We have been trusting God right through this project for his provision. He has provided so far and there is no reason why he cannot keep on providing.” For above all the Ministry Centre is God’s response to our faith in his promises. We can praise him for all that is past; we trust him for all that is to come.