“Who are these people?” … “These are our neighbours”

It was meant to be the year of street parties and festival.  We were celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee year. However as is often the case, plans were disrupted by a summer wash out as the heavens opened.  Some events were scaled back others cancelled.

But we persisted in our organisation of a “Chapel Street Party” and perhaps the fact that other events had fallen by the wayside led to additional interest but we were uncertain who would turn up. The day came, we had “street stalls” for local businesses, balloon modelling and facepainting for kids as they arrived (courtesy of OM), food in the back hall and a main hall for performances including music, puppets etc.  We were ready to point people via the servant Queen to the servant King with literature, DVDs and New Testaments too.

We opened the doors and people started coming, a slow trickle at first but growing, filling the building, spilling into the field at the back, coming and going through the day. We lost count at about 800 visitors, there were probably well over 1000.

One incident struck me and remains with me.  We had spent a lot of time through the first few years trying to make decisions about how to give space to grow and still for some people it wasn’t clicking.  There were understandable nerves about change.

Sitting next to one of our older ladies who had been particularly anxious about changes, she looked out over the crowd of people from all sorts of backgrounds, young and old, rich and poor, families and singles and a variety of ethnic backgrounds, Punjabi, Polish and Pakistani. 

“Who are all these people? She asked “Where have they come from?”

“They are our neighbours, this is our community “ I replied.

She paused. Then she said “I can see it now. We must do what is necessary to reach our community.”

Sometimes there is a significant moment when our eyes are opened. I think that day opened our eyes as a church to the nature of our community, its diversity and its great need. It encouraged us about the importance of being open and available to whoever, whenever and wherever.  It reminded us that even if our building was full two or three times other that there would still be thousands more people not in church not hearing the good news.

It’s moments like this that lift our eyes beyond ourselves and remind us of what God has called us to. Bearwood Chapel exists to seek to share the love of Jesus. I hope and trust that this outward looking vision will continue. I hope that this will not just be true in Bearwood but wherever and whenever there is a hunger for the Lord.