August 2014

July 23, 2014

Thoughts From The Cottage

Dear Friends

I recently went to the closure of a church in Sheffield where I was minister from 1987 to 1992. My emotions were mixed, sad to see the church close, happy to see old friends again. The place was packed and it was planned as a celebration. Instead of the usual dozen on a Sunday there were over a hundred on a Saturday afternoon from babes in arms to nonagenarians. The service reflected the style of the church, laid back, informal, casual but a deep sense of worship as we gave thanks to God for 105 years of witness. The hymns spanned the centuries and styles and I suspect nobody knew every hymn. Even the Moderator was kept in his place by the church secretary!

It was tempting to ask what had happened. Why had none of the youngsters from thriving Junior Church, Sunshine Corner or Youth Club come into the church? Why had, with one exception, none of the member’s children joined the church even though most still lived in the area? However it was the positives that moved me most. One of the elder’s daughters who rarely came to church in the 1980’s had become a stalwart of the church along with one of her sons. The teenage deputy organist of my time had become the organist and Saturday marked the end of her thirty-one year stint on the organ which started when she was eleven. One of the Junior Church girls who was not yet a teenager when I left was now running the cubs. A man who had remarried whilst I was there after his first wife died of MS, and himself had just been diagnosed with MS, was there and the MS is now benign. There are many other stories that I could tell that moved me as I met and spoke with people after the service.

The service did not finish with a whimper but with the Trumpet Voluntary played live on a trumpet by one of the church secretary’s grand-daughters, the Scout Group flags being paraded out and commended to their new home in a Methodist Church. Champagne, wine and cake was then shared and a great time was had by all. Most of the remaining congregation were joining the nearby Methodist Church and the building will need to be emptied of its treasures and junk and will probably be sold for housing. There was a real sense that the church had done its God-given work and it was time to move on, maybe that is true, maybe it is not. I have to say that the URC system and structures may have unwittingly hastened the closure of this church as it certainly did my former church in Liverpool.

Both churches were doing good community work with a range of activities for all ages. However the church side was numerically weak but spiritually strong. Fitting into systems like M&M and Ministerial Quota’s can disadvantage such churches. The option of a paid community worker is not there unless someone else picks up the tab. The cub leader mentioned above had looked at trying to set up a community group to purchase and run the building as a community centre but the timescale to sort it out was too short. The URC has lost another mission opportunity in an area of tightly packed houses occupied by young families and pensioners. Some places should be Mission Projects not Churches.

The question I am left with is what can this story teach us at the Beacon?


Sunday 3rd 11.00am Worship with Communion led by Ian Ring
Theme: The Church In Action – Pushing Back The Boundaries
Readings: Acts 10 vv 1-23, Acts 10 23-33, Acts 10 vv 34-48

6.00pm CfR Service of Reflection and Reconciliation to commemorate the centenary of WW1. At St Chad’s Rubery

Sunday 10th 11.00am Worship led by Ian Ring
Theme: The Church In Action – Resolving Differences
Readings: Acts 11 vv 1-18, Acts 15 vv 1-21

Sunday 17th 11.00am Worship led by Ian Ring
Theme: The Church in Action – Know Whom You Worship
Readings: Acts 17 vv 16-34

Sunday 24th 11.00am Worship led by Steve

Sunday 31st 11.00am Worship led by Terry Thompson
Theme: Another Building Block – Self Control (now we’re getting personal)
Readings: Romans 7 v 14 – 8 v 3a & Galatians 5 vv 16-25