Karen reminded us in the May pastoral letter that churches are not primarily about buildings but about God and people. Jesus had to remind the ‘church’ of his day that the 10 Commandments could be summarised as ‘love God with all your heart and your neighbour as yourself’, and the truth of these words has not changed. Ultimately we will not be judged on the state of our buildings or our technology, but by how we have served our Lord and the people He has put across our path. Buildings and technology can be wonderful tools to this end but they can never be the end itself.
So what have you done with the challenge that Karen gave us? Events like the Flower Festival and Alpha are events for inviting people. They are not there primarily for our own members but as a tool for inviting people who do not normally go to church. All our churches, Hawkenbury, Rusthall and Tunbridge Wells, have such events.
For most people the Festival of Flowers, and similar events, would probably be the easier because there is less commitment involved. If people like flowers, and tea and cake, they will probably enjoy the Festival and at the moment there is probably quite an interest in seeing what the refurbished church looks like. Make use of that interest.
A bit more challenging is to invite your friends on Sunday afternoon so they can stay for tea at 5 pm and the service at 5.30 pm. This will not be a normal service in that we will continue to sit around the tea tables; it will be worship ‘cafe style’ and may be more acceptable to some people than the traditional formats. I know members from Hawkenbury and Rusthall are planning to attend this service, please bring your friends as well. If people prefer a more normal format then they can be invited to the 11 am service. We need to be sensitive to what our friends like.
Tunbridge Wells Alpha, which is open to all churches in Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding villages, is a bit more challenging again. Many members from our three churches have attended an Alpha course. This involves a commitment to 11 Tuesday evenings starting on 26th September and a weekend away for those who can make it., although it might be easier just to invite people to the first evening, ‘Christianity, boring, untrue and irrelevant?’ because if they don’t like it they need not come to any more.
This course is for people who are asking questions about the Christian Faith and there are many such people about. It may also appeal to people who just want a good evening out. There will be good food, good music - secular as well as Christian - an interesting talk and an opportunity to discuss and ask questions in a small group. The setting in the church at Christ Church on the High Street is superb and the whole evening, apart from the group discussions, will take place in the sanctuary.
The key thing to remember is that it is faith that God commends us for, and faith involves taking risks. It was God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah to the people of Israel, who said, ‘Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back, lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left...’ (Isaiah chapter 54 verses 2, 3a) I believe this is the challenge God is putting before our churches today. We have a choice. We can stay where we are or we can ‘spread out to the right and to the left.’
We pray for God’s blessing upon you as we all grasp God’s plans for our lives, and for that of our churches.
Bob and Karen