Oh, how I love our little church. By that, I mean the people. It is all about the people and not the building. It is a place where laughter and tears can flow freely, and where everyone is made welcome, and is always aware of how much they are valued, just as they are. We bring brokenness, which can only be made whole and beautiful through the love of God.
Today is a perfect example of that. Everything happens in the church building, because we don't have anything else. Picture this........Sunday school for the children is up at the altar, hidden behind curtains. The teens usually go off to a hall nearby, because there are so many of them now (which is just fantastic), but today they couldn't get into the hall, so all came back and used the vestry instead, so it was a little noisy, but that didn't matter either. The toddlers have a corner in the church to play in, and they are happy. The kitchen is at the back and has shutters which open into the church, and today, Jean and I were on coffee duty, so during the last hymn, we zap in there and start making tea. And coffee and hot chocolate. And there are cakes and biscuits and sausage rolls and Jean's famous cheese straws too. And people line up for their refreshments and then stand around or sit in groups chatting - all in the church. No-one leaves.
The worship band keeps playing after the service, while the prayer team are scattered about praying for people who ask for prayer. The vicar, Adrian, stays in the front of the church and prays for anyone who asks as well. And there is dancing under the bell tower while we sing. The dancing with brilliant flags waving, which is so incredibly moving. And the sermon...........well today, it was challenging and I learnt so much. Thought provoking. It usually is.
The food collection keeps growing, as do the blankets Mum is crocheting, and there is a real need within the walls as well as at the homeless charity we support with our donations. We are calling it the People's Pantry now. And a place has been found which allows anyone to go and help themselves without embarrassment, if they need food. The collection of supermarket vouchers is also growing. All through the months up to Christmas, people drop gift tokens in a box, which get distributed to those who are struggling.
And then. like today, we get hilarious added extras. One of the congregation gets donations of shoes from a local factory which are no longer needed. So he distributes them to the homeless shelters in towns around, but he was drowning under a sudden influx of huge numbers of shoes, and he had nowhere to store them, so he brought some to church and anyone could buy a pair for £5. All the money went straight to the charities. So, at the end of the service, after a very moving worship session, Adrian announced that prayer and worship would continue for those who needed it, and that the "Shoe Shop" was open, and refreshments were being served. And so it was that, when I looked around, I saw children dancing, people laughing as they tried on boots, people standing around in groups or sitting chatting, drinking hot chocolate and eating custies, people crying as they were prayed for, .....so much. A community together.
I needed boots. So did Jean. But we were on duty, so we decided that if we were meant to have boots, the Good Lord would make sure we got some. And after everyone was fed and watered, I went to have a look, and do you know, there was one pair of boots in my size?? Warm snuggly boots. Perfect boots. And when Jean went to look, yes, you got it, there was a pair in her size too. The fact that most of the congregation will be appearing in the same boots from now on is irrelevant. We will all have warm feet and are enormously thankful.
There was much rejoicing, believe me. For those who could not afford the £5? The shoes and boots were free.
I don't know how to communicate the joy that everyone feels at our church. And the message today that Christmas is just the beginning of a wonderful story which is still not over...............
I am so so so thankful I belong, am part of it. This is a real adventure we are on......................