We’re hitting the ten year mark. Sarah and I moved to Smethwick in the summer of 2010 and I officially started work in September that year. However, we had been visiting from the previous Autumn and after the church voted to appoint me we spent quite a bit of time up here, getting to know people, doing some preaching, leading a youth weekend away and becoming gradually involved in some pastoral issues.
Like any local church, Bearwood Chapel isn’t perfect and like any pastor, neither am I. That means there have been plenty of ups and downs, I’ve made mistakes and had to say sorry and change things. I’ve also had to challenge things as well and hopefully there have been good changes as a result. But there have been lots of encouragements along the way too and I thought I’d highlight some of them here.
- We’ve seen a growth in the number of young families, couples and twenty-somethings. This has been numerically -when we came there was a gap in this age group partly because young people often moved away to University and did not return and partly because demographically it coincided with a difficult patch the church went through about 10 years earlier leading to the loss of some families. I believe it has also been spiritually, we’ve seen people growing in their faith and their gifts.
- The church has become more diverse with people from different ethnic and class backgrounds. We have had the privilege of walking with several families through the challenges and pain of immigration and asylum processes. We have had the joy of seeing several given leave to remain.
- We have seen growing intentionality about evangelism. Sharing the love of Jesus means telling people about the Cross. We have welcomed OM teams, hosted special events including The Difference Festivals and Freedom Week. We’ve made a big thing of Christmas and Easter. We opened a High Street Presence and we’ve been involved in door to door and High Street contact. We use social media including facebook and twitter as well as the website to communicate good news.
- We have planted, two new congregations – The 9:30 Service and Sunday Night Church as well as Nueva Vida a Spanish speaking congregation. We’ve also helped others with revitalisation and planting.
- We’ve been involved in equipping and training people for Gospel work. This has included those who came to work with us for a time like Hannes, Gaby, Mattias and Ruth and have gone on to serve elsewhere in full time or bi-vocational roles. It also includes those who trained on the Union Course. But also we’ve seen people trained and mentored into Bible teaching, leadership and ministry roles within the church family.
Being part of a church family and not just a hired hand means you get to share in the all the joys and all the sadness that the family share. We’ve grieved at the loss of well loved elderly church members who we still missed but we’ve also rejoiced at births, new jobs, graduations, marriages and baptisms.
We look backwards thankfully God has been faithful and good and trust God for the future of the Chapel and the work of the Gospel in Bearwood