None of the pictures in this post are finished – not even the one gracing the window of Frames and art in High Street North. And that makes them a fitting image of our church: we are a work in progress.
The image was created by Fabricio from Frame and Art from a photograph of the front of our building which he then stripped all the colour and most of the detail from using a computer programme. All that was left was an outline of the bricks, doors and windows. At our street party people of all ages, expertly supervised by Jane Beavis and Robin Coombs, were invited to colour in bricks and light the windows. The end result is stunning (if incomplete).
Our street party illustrated so many aspects of our church at its best – and hence, so many pointers to the future – while reminding us that we are very much a work in progress.
Firstly, it succeeded because so many people got together and offered their time, talents and enthusiasm to make it happen. Over a hundred people were involved in one way or another. That’s brilliant.
As we head into a future where we’ll have a smaller ministry team – much smaller in the short-term – we will need the same enthusiasm and willingness to get involved in every area of the church’s life. Church is made by many hands as the painting was – young and old, people of all races, rich and poor, women and men all working together to create something beautiful.
The street party happened because of the energy of people who are new to the church as well as those who’ve been around a lifetime. Newcomers bring new ways of doing things, new approaches and questions. They enliven the church and keep it fresh. So let’s continue to make room for them.
Secondly, the street party illustrated that we are at our best when we’re engaging with people beyond the walls of our building. The picture was created by many hands, some of which did not belong to followers of Jesus.
On the evening of the street party, after the road had been returned to the traffic and all our stalls were cleared away, I was walking down the High Street when I came upon a solitary figure standing in front of Frame and Art looking at the picture. I stopped and opened a conversation by saying that the picture had been created that day at our street party. She – a woman in her 40s – turned to me and said ‘yes, I know; I painted some of it.’ She pointed to the bricks she had coloured as she told me a bit of her story and expressed appreciation for the way she had been included in the creation of something she described as ‘quite lovely’. She went on to say that she was a recovering alcoholic who struggles with faith but is trying to get her life together. The street party had reminded her that church was for people like her.
A whole host of such conversations happened through the day, conversations that could only happen because we were on the streets and not in our building. In the coming months we need to find ways to build on what we achieved in June to nurture these conversations and extend them into God’s Kingdom.
Thirdly, the street party demonstrated that the church is concerned with the town that we are a part of. I was called into ministry by Jeremiah 29:7 where the prophet calls on Judah to seek the prosperity of the city where they’d been sent into exile (notes from my recent sermon on this text are on the church website and audio is still available).
To hear several business owners report that their tills had rung that bit louder on the Sunday we were on their street was great. It tells each of them that the church cares for every aspect of their lives – their bodies as much as their souls. And it means that we have a connection with many of them that will enable us to talk about all sorts of things with them in the future.
One idea that we are mulling over is organising a small soiree where we are able to thank them for their help in making the street party such a success and tell them a bit about us and what makes us tick.
Finally, the street party was a celebration of life, a reminder that Jesus came to bring life in all its fullness. And while that is not something we experience fully this side of the resurrection, it is something that we are beginning to enjoy now and Jesus wants us to spread it around – as we did at our birthday party.
Everyone has favourite moments from the day – perhaps we could compile a list for a future In Touch – but among mine were countless eruptions of laughter at stalls up and down the street throughout the day as people shared together and the Zumba dance to ‘our God is an awesome God’ towards the end of the afternoon, an explosion of joy and life that seemed to epitomise what so much of the day had been about.
So, what will we do to build on this wonderful event? We're already sharing ideas. We’re not looking to top the street party but we are looking for ways to build on the connections we’ve made and see God’s Kingdom come in our town more and more.