Since joining my local church last summer, I am pretty taken aback by the fellowship of St James simply because there is a real sense of an all-embracing family atmosphere. I really long to live in community and be rubbing shoulders alongside people of different ages and backgrounds. Although we all have ‘the Island’ in common, the church family is made up of, the sick, the healthy, the rich and the poor the employed and the unemployed. There are doctors, teachers, mums, dads, widows, grandma and toddlers to teens and the odd gap year student. Some have come from a strong Christian home and others have just started on their way. But we are all here and we are all here together united under Christ. We eat together, go on holidays together, go on walks, lunches and beaches together and we learn about Jesus together.
It reminds me of what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2; Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well
Paul encourages us not only to share the good news about Jesus with people but our very lives. This means sharing life in the everyday as well as ones that feel bigger. This for me means babysitting, doing crèche, helping running and speaking in youth group, handing out flyers, running bookshops. Eating with my family, eating with my friends, eating with my church family. Having shoulder to lean on when you feel weak, praying that God would make the impossible possible and upholding our overseas mission partners. Yes welcome to our crazy church family. Its not perfect, in fact its pretty messy at times but thank God he works despite our weaknesses as we are just trying to live out these words this year;
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. ( 1 Peter 2;8)
We are the people of God, royal, chosen and holy in His sight. He has called us out of darkness into his light. We want to show that light to our community and consequently God has answered that prayer;
- In December (last month) we hosted ‘A gift of Christmas’ – A completely free Christmas fair. Church family and local businesses donated gifts. Over 500 people received gifts and just when all the presents were gone, the queue of people vanished too!
- A lady who was a JW for over 20 years become a Christian though Christianity explored course.
- The women in the church host a ‘Gingerbread house evening’ where you make a gingerbread house and a short evangelistic talk is given. It was sold out before I even got a ticket!
- Womens weekend away was a huge time of fellowship and bible teaching. I was so struck by how open people were to talk about their personal struggles and joy’s of being a Christian.
- Above all, I don’t feel awkward about inviting my friends and family who don’t know Christ – in.
There is however a big vacuumous hole in my life, no Christian union, no university students (unless it is holiday time), no more UCCF. This has taken some adjusting too and there isn’t much room for pride here as the majority of people don’t understand what a CU is, let along explaining Relay. At times this has been frustrating. Equally though it is a blessing to be able to give IVP books away, point people towards thinking about the trinity and being able to lead bible studies. However, I know I have to watch my heart. I have been cynical towards other people in the fellowship and when things don’t meet my expectations or simply because people do things different here compared to other churches I have been in.
I have come to the conclusion that my Church is simply a glorious ruin. Glorious because we aim to glorify God and a ruin because we are still a work in progress. As for me, I am now unofficially ‘welcomed into’ the fellowship since the ‘welcome group’ fellowship has now split for geographical reasons. I am now going to join an existing house group within my local area. It is going to be a challenge to get to know a new set of people. I simply need to keep reminding myself of that 1 Peter passage and warming my heart back to Christ to sustain me personally and keep us sharing our lives and the Gospel with people around us as a church family.
Welcome to the family.