Presence in the Community (14-05-21)
A Bible Reading: Acts 6. 1 – 4 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
The second of the Leading Your Church into Growth (LYCIG) ‘Four Ps’ is Presence, that is the presence of the church within the local community. Typically, our church buildings are prominent and visible, and certainly within a village there is a strong sense of belonging to the local church even if some of the people only come to worship occasionally. The presence of the church is itself a symbol of strength and stability, a place of peace and comfort, especially in difficult times. However, we also have a history of being part of the community in other ways through our ‘social action’.
Across the benefice we see many different examples. Not unlike the early believers in Acts, we are involved in the Kettering Foodbank with regular collections of food, and we are grateful to both those who give generously and to the volunteers who transport the donations every fortnight. There are opportunities to support the school hearing children read or through resources like ‘Open the Book’. There are those who encourage us to recycle well and to pay attention to our environment and our carbon footprint through ROAR. In similar ways, we each network with different village groups, bringing a Christian presence to the various groups simply by being a part.
Participation in local events such as Open Gardens, Groove on the Green, Barn Dances, Safari Suppers, all enable church members to be present within the community. Regular walks with Hannington Hikers attract a good mix of people, and ‘Ride and Stride’ in September attracts the more athletic.
Clearly our physical presence has been challenged during the Covid lockdowns, but we have found new ways to be present in the community through the Walgrave Benefice website and all the Facebook and WhatsApp support groups across the villagers. Access to social media has enabled us to keep in touch and support those who have been shielding, reaching out in new ways to show care for our neighbours. There are now so many different ways in which we can connect.
Moving forward, there will be new opportunities to intentionally get out and about. The possibility of ‘Well-being’ cafés within the benefice doesn’t sound too dissimilar to the support offered in Acts. As Covid restrictions continue to ease, how will you be actively present within the local community in your village? This is a vital way to get alongside, build relationships and care for people.
Loving God, always present among us, may we share your love and compassion with those in our community as ‘ambassadors for Christ’. Amen.
Song: Christ has no body now but yours by David Ogden