It’s fast approaching the point where the pain of writing will be less than the pain of keeping this stuff rattling around my head. #change
— Nick Parish (@Longingtobeholy) January 9, 2016
New year, eh? I wonder if you’ve made plans to do something new. Our family is doing something new this year, and it’s terrifying. Thankfully it’s not only terrifying, but I’ll come back to that later.
We’re moving church.
We came to Derbyshire back in 2008. We started attending St Peter’s, a church in the nearest town, and have been going there ever since. The boys both went through toddler group, which I helped to lead. I’ve been involved in music, preaching and youth work, and we’ve got lots of friends in the congregation. We’re part of the family. There are a couple of families in particular to whom we are very close.
It’s not always been plain sailing, of course. Families aren’t perfect. In particular I’ve struggled with the church’s stance on women in ministry. We’ve even wobbled enough in the past to consider a move. But we’ve always stayed. Somehow, this is different. You see, although a church meeting last year about women in ministry might have provided a ‘nudge’, that absolutely wasn’t our ‘reason for leaving’. We hadn’t even decided to leave. That is to say, we didn’t start rushing around, desperately church hunting because we’d been upset or annoyed or stung or anything like that. In fact, we weren’t church hunting at all. No, this feels more like a call than a running away. It’s rather taken me by surprise.
Not only has it taken me by surprise, it’s also hurt. Telling our 8 year old about it back in October brought him to tears. And the tears have returned a few times since. His road is perhaps a particularly difficult one to travel – two of his best friends in the whole world are at St. Peter’s, and he doesn’t want to leave them. We’re not moving house though, and we’ll obviously be staying in touch (they spent a very joyful, active and loud Saturday with us last weekend, for example) but it will of course be a bit different. The boys will keep going to the kids’ club at St. Peter’s for the forseeable future.
It feels a bit like we’re amputating ourselves (just set aside for a moment the fact that you amputate bits that are dead or endangering the body!). And that hurts. There’s no way around that. But if we are to be faithful to what I believe is God’s call, then that pain is inevitable (even while we can have faith that it’s a journey He will walk with us).
So where are we going? Well, we’re actually moving to a church closer to home. We’ll be attending St Wystan’s, here in our village. It’s a church we’d previously ruled out for various reasons. In fact, even during our wobbles, we’d not really considered it a possibility. And that is part of the surprising nature of our move. We’ve been attending Messy Church there since it started up, and have always enjoyed it. It’s clearly a church that wants to reach out to the community, and the congregation, though predominantly ‘older’, seem absolutely committed to welcoming children and their families in. I’d love to see the gospel being faithfully preached there to members of the community who are drawn in. That’s the kind of church that I want to be a part of. There are initiatives other than Messy Church that seek to engage and involve the local community, and that’s really heartening. Since we started to seriously consider the move, I’ve been throwing out fleeces like they’re going out of fashion (I imagine my wife would tell me that they are, but I still have one to step out of bed onto every morning!). And in His grace, God seems to have been dealing with my fleeces in a way that points to this being the right move. Conversations, potential friendships, and hope.
So that leads me to think maybe this is less of an amputation, and more of a grafting. Of course, grafting is not painless or without risk. But where amputation is a cutting off, a graft is a growing together. For the most part, our dear friends at St Peter’s have been very encouraging, and for that we’re grateful. We have also been lovingly warned about what to expect and cautioned about making a move, but this has been done with grace. We’re keenly aware that there are aspects of our ‘new church’ that we’ll struggle with. But I still feel that we’re called, and so there’s only one option if we’re to remain obedient. But while this is, as I say, terrifying, there is also a taste of excitement. We are not the only ones who are joining, and perhaps this is the start of a new phase of the ministry at St. Wystan’s. Our vicar from our church in Worthing expressed excitement about being a part of a village church, and that was a real encouragement. He also pointed out that things take time, which is a useful reminder and caution.
So that’s a bit of news from us. If you’re the praying type, here are a couple of pointers 🙂
Pray that the boys would settle well into the Sunday School provision. As it stands, it seems they’ll be in the same group. They love and loathe each other, so pray for brotherly love to be the overriding thing as we adjust.
Pray that we would develop good friendships with others who are already a part of the church family at St. Wystan’s, or who God is nudging in that direction.
Pray that I would know how best to serve God and people in this move – there are lots of things that I could do and would enjoy doing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I should be doing all of them!