Monthly Archives: June 2016
‘Oh I think I landed in a world I hadn’t seen when I’m feeling ordinary when I don’t know what I mean
Oh I think I landed where there are miracles at work for the thirst and for the hunger come the conference of birds’
Have you ever felt that you want to express your feelings but uncertain how to turn them into words and prose. When you feel like who am I to verbalise such thoughts but when you feel that you have a headful of dreams of things you want to do and see happen and that basically your overwhelming worry is that you won’t see many of them come to fruition. That’s where I find myself, buckle up, let me try and explain what I am feeling, here we go…..
I find myself now, a week shy of my 49th birthday, as being someone whose eyes fill up with tears far more regularly than at any other stage of my life thus far. Anything and everything can do this, from watching an underdog achieve something unexpected, the loss of a life, loss of a potential or an opportunity, a regret, a sadness or often a success. A family moment, a word spoken in kindness, an action or gift. TV programmes such as DIY SOS, Long Lost Families, The Big C and Me …. The list can go on. I fill up with tears in my eyes a lot. I hope in no small way it’s because I have compassion, empathy, a pastoral heart. I hope it’s because – I care!
Having now officiated at over 2000 funerals locally in just a little over 6 years, having led many services for people who have died that were younger than I am now and countless who were younger than I would like to live to become, I have learned beyond any question that this life is precious, its significant and is also vulnerable and that all of us must grab this life we have been given and squeeze as much out of it as we are able to.
If we were to imagine that we are looking at a rose, each one of us would view of it differently depending upon our position, proximity, I guess even the thickness of our rose tinted spectacles. Also, our feelings, levels of enthusiasm, commitment, would affect and shape our viewpoint and appreciation too.
So as I sit staring into my parents in laws garden in Suffolk with the sun shining into a conservatory and reliving memories from just two nights earlier seeing Coldplay live at Wembley and them now playing in my headphones, my mind focuses upon the church communities of Watford and how I currently view the expression that together we are demonstrating to our town. From what I see and know, from my perspective and through my filter, is what I am seeing a cause for celebration or concern?
Regretfully, I am asking myself this – ‘Is the temperature within our town cooling and possibly cooling at an alarming rate?’ Go with me, let me explain what I am feeling.
It was on the 7th March this year that I commented on two agencies that were closing within the town. I based my comment around the names of these ministries asking were the town losing ‘Gods Presence’ and had ‘Gods Storehouse’ of blessings to the town now closed. Three months later, I revisit now the same subject but with an increasing amount of concern and seriousness – and I don’t normally do serious very well!
Watford is a premier league town. Premier league football club, shopping, night life, transport links, businesses and proximity to London. We are in a town that has so many amazing attributes. This town deserves, it needs and we should demand a town wide church that is Premier League to serve, minister to, love and connect with the people and offer those who live, work or play here to be able to make their peace with God.
I cast my mind back just a few years and recall feeling optimistic that the expression of God’s love within the town was strong, unified across the different expressions of church and the many agencies that were serving the town as well. I remember feeling that we were on the cusp of something significant. However, in just a few short years many of these have closed their doors and others appear to be cutting back rather than bursting into full bloom.
Presence shops, one in Intu shopping centre and one on the High Street along with the Spa have closed.
The Storehouse book shop has ceased trading and closed.
CML, a training course equipping people to be theologically trained to serve and be effective both in and outside of church settings has ceased and the number of interns that the town received has been lost.
Kingswood Baptist Church closed its doors in 2015 after serving that community for 64 years.
The Fathers House Trust was hugely effective for a few years before sadly coming to its end.
There are, I understand, developments and refocusing taking place within the Watford New Hope Trust, but am not well enough informed to comment on what these are.
I am though genuinely saddened about the moving on of two amazing staff members who have served the Watford Town Centre Chaplaincy. I pray Gods continued blessings upon them but am concerned as to whether the ministries that they have developed will continue or might this be another casualty about to beset our town’s Christian witness?
As we hurtle towards the year 2020, there should be a clear vision for our town. There is only ONE church in Watford. We just meet in numerous locations and express our faith and worship in individual and unique ways. But together we are ONE church.
You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Watford is our Jerusalem and our Judea, our home, our town, our community. We must be passionate, committed and united in making sure that every ward across our town is brimming with Good News stories of a community of faith-filled people who love God and serve the people in their numerous situations.
The Christians Across Watford website has 58 church communities listed as currently active in our town. That is an impressive collection of churches. Alongside these there are a host of fantastic faith centred agencies like Watford New Hope Trust, Alternatives, Watford Schools Trust, Foodbank, Town Centre Chaplaincy.
There are other opportunities to make a difference too within the town at different times of the calendar with other projects like Operation Rudolph, The Noise / Helping Hands, Bandstand Service, Good Friday Walk of Witness, Praise at The Palace, Flourish Womens Conference – and there are many more.
I want to be hearing far more Good News stories of what is happening within our town and be enthused and encouraged knowing how in so many ways the Christians in this town are being witnesses and offering people opportunities to make their peace with God.
So when back in March when I made a point of questioning whether Gods ‘Presence’ was leaving the town and asking who will be in charge of the ‘Storehouse’ and pass out the blessings to the town, I was then just using wordplay to recognise the ending of two town centred significant ministries. 3 months later, my emotions have changed and I find myself genuinely concerned about the current status of the town and watching a lot of pruning and not sensing or hearing that there is much growth. Maybe this is my proximity to things, my perspective, and my filter. However, if my perspective is how it is, then we need together, to step up and discuss how, under Gods guidance, this trend can be reversed.
Having been the Chaplain to Watford Football Club for in the region of 12 seasons, alongside now my ministry in supporting families through leading funeral services, I have a particular heart for connecting with people, who may not currently connect with a faith community, by offering gentle pastoral support and a positive expression of God’s love to them whilst seeking nothing in return. It is from this perspective that I find myself particularly worried for the future of many of the chaplaincy roles and Street Angels that come under the accountability of the Town Centre Chaplaincy.
I think I might stop here for this piece of writing. I have more thoughts, reflections and maybe even a suggestion or two. Initially, I would like to see what response this generates. Some of what I may have just said might need a few moments to reflect upon. I hope it stirs a reaction in us, I hope that you hear my heart is to build greater unity and responsibility regarding our town – these comments are certainly not criticisms of individuals, churches or agencies.
A couple of things in closing. One, if you have been personally offended by anything I have said then please don’t bother replying. Instead, please understand this, I am genuinely sorry if you are upset but this is in no way personal about anyone at all, so it wasn’t aimed at you in the first place therefore, don’t be offended. Two, if you have a beef about some aspect of the church in Watford this isn’t an invitation to air it here or to start a discussion about ‘Where do Dinosaurs fit into the story of creation’.
But if you share a passion to see the town of Watford increasingly served by a united, vibrant group of churches, agencies and individuals then I am keen to hear thoughts and opinions from you.