Thursday, 16 April 2015

Going Back

On Sunday I preached at the church where I served between 1987-1992. It was my first appointment after ordination and was basically a five year curacy/apprenticeship working alongside a much loved and experienced older minister.  I remember Fuller Baptist Church in Kettering as a large, vibrant and loving congregation.  These were early days for me and I was constantly overawed by the tasks given to me.  Preaching to over two hundred at morning service seemed an enormous responsibility, as did being given overall charge of not one but two youth groups.

I've been back to Fuller quite a few times since moving on.  On every occasion I've been welcomed with a deep friendship that seems to melt away the years in between and last Sunday was no exception.

As the offering was received on Sunday I sat on the platform and looked out on a sanctuary I know well.  For a moment my mind went back to those days in the late eighties - ghosts of the past seemed everywhere. I remembered where people who are no longer with us used to sit - and I missed them being there!

My old church in Kettering has changed!  And that shouldn't surprise anyone!  It has continued its journey with committed people supporting it and ministers serving it.  On Sunday I was thrilled to hear a talented music group in the morning accompany our worship and a splendid organ and choir enhance our evening praise.  I met people who were once in our youth group who now bring their own children to Junior Church.  I saw on the notice sheet the figures for the previous week's offering and noted just how generous this congregation is.  I heard of exciting plans for the refurbishment of the Victorian sanctuary and the fact that the Coffee House we established twenty five years ago is still opening its doors to the Kettering public each weekday.

Us ministers often worry about our churches when we leave them!  But the truth is ministers only ever journey with a particular church for a limited period of time.  Members of churches, on the other hand, often stay around for generations.

My colleague at Amersham often reminds me, wisely, that it isn't just down to us and that we need to 'leave room for the Holy Spirit'!  On Sunday I rejoiced at the many good things I detected are happening at a church I used to serve and now watch, prayerfully, from a distance - and I'm grateful that although I was called elsewhere the Holy Spirit stayed and their story continues.

With best wishes,

Ian

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