All Are Welcome
We have been living in difficult times, but there are signs of light at the end of the tunnel, of things beginning to return to normal, or finding a ‘new normal’, at least in this country. There is still uncertainty about foreign travel, and Covid cases are still rising, though without the same rise in hospitalisations and deaths which we saw earlier in the pandemic. There is, therefore, a sense of optimism, of hope, for what the future might hold.
I am quite excited about the future of Hayes Free Church, and I hope that you will come to share in that excitement in the weeks and months ahead. As we come out of the pandemic I believe that we have a unique, and God-given, opportunity to re-think, to re-imagine and to re-boot our mission and outreach, and, I hope and pray, to have a real impact on the community of Hayes as we explore new ways of reaching out and of creating disciples. While some of you may be eager to re-start church-led activities, I recognise that others may not be able to commit as before, and so the Elders and I have been exploring possible partnerships and ways of sharing the load.
One of those, which, with your permission, we would like to explore, is with Deep Water Baptist Church. As you may know, we have been joining together for occasional services, both on Zoom, and last Sunday (27th June) at Hayes Free. These have been opportunities to share in worship and to get to know each other a little bit better. (If you weren’t able to be at the service on Sunday and would like to listen to it, please let myself or Malcolm know as CD’s are available). We hope that we may be able to hold more joint services in the future, with the agreement of both church meetings.
On Sunday afternoon, the Elders and Deep Water Deacons met on Zoom for an exploratory meeting, to explore possibilities for working together, as two churches with a shared aim – to respond to the Great Commission of Matthew 28 - to go and make disciples in Jesus’ name.
There was a sense of wanting to build on the skills we have learned through the Hayes Community Foodbank, which has been successful not only in supporting the community, but also in building relationships – within Churches Together, but also with local people who have volunteered as packers and drivers. If that model works for the Foodbank, could it also work for other activities?
Also, there was a real sense that the two churches can complement each other and may be a natural fit. Both churches had a Toddler Group and Messy Church before the pandemic – could we bring them together? We had the Friendship Group for older people while Deep Water had an art group. We have the Guides and Scouts and Parade Services which sow seeds of faith among young people and their families.
As we talked, we realised that there could be areas of natural progression and growth in discipleship. Families from Messy Church could be invited to a Parade Service. Rangers and Explorers doing Duke of Edinburgh Awards could help with Messy Church. Some of the young people might be encouraged in their faith by a Youth Alpha Course or we could develop something for their parents. Messy Church and Parade Services sow seeds of faith which we could foster and develop.
There might be opportunities to expand our work with older people, perhaps working with other partners such as Age UK or Bromley Council. That may lead to a growth in the Sunday morning congregation.
We also talked about new possibilities, particularly for online worship which reaches out to a different group of people. At the moment we are providing CD’s for those who are unable to worship in person, but it might also be possible to video the service, or even live-stream, if we had the resources and expertise.
Lots of possibilities. Lots of ideas and suggestions which need to be fleshed out and explored. We may find new opportunities or identify needs which we could support and develop – as the Foodbank has grown we have discovered that the need may have been there for far longer than we realised. We’re not planning to start anything immediately, but to prepare for the autumn, as Covid allows.
So what are the next steps and how can we each get involved? Firstly, I’d encourage you to think and pray about, and for, both churches and the people of Hayes. Bring any comments, questions and thoughts to the Church Meeting on 25thJuly, when we will be discussing this important and exciting proposal to begin some joint working with Deep Water Baptist Church. If we are to do so, we need to respond quickly, and be ready to move onto practical ideas at that meeting or soon after. We are, therefore, looking for volunteers from across the two churches to join one of three planning teams – for young people, older people and technology. If you led a group pre-Covid, we’d love you to be involved now, but please don’t feel bad if you can’t or would prefer not to. If you didn’t, but have a heart for a particular age-group, come and join us. If you have any ideas for ways to reach out, let us know. If you don’t feel able to get involved with leading an activity, there will be lots of opportunities to join in – faith grows best when people from the churches are available to walk alongside participants - to engage in friendly chat, while others are running around trying to keep order!
Please get in touch with myself or one of the Elders if you have any thoughts, comments or questions, if you would like more information, or to volunteer to help in any way.
With love and blessings,