“Shine as a light in the World to the glory of God the Father”
On sunday I spoke about our emerging ‘vision’ at St Michael’s. I don’t see vision as necessarily just meaning what we want to achieve in the future. Vision is also the ability to see clearly what God is already doing. It’s taking time in the midst of all our activity, and often busyness, to look at the bigger picture of how God is using us and what is he directing us towards. There is a certain “now and not yet’ aspect to vision. The danger is that we can get frustrated and lose hope when trying and failing to reach a goal but neglect to see and appreciate the work that God is already doing all around us. Understanding that our vision is an ‘emerging’ one is important because it leaves room for God to surprise us, take us on unexpected adventures and even correct us if we move away from it.
Our vision is not always clear. In fact there has been many times in my life when my vision and purpose has felt cloudy. I try to do the right thing and take the right course but I am unsure whether I am actually doing so; like a mountain climber trying to get to the top of a steep mountain you can feel unsure of your footing and which route you should be taking to get to the top. That’s how it can feel at St Michael’s. We are a local Church trying to work out what it is to follow Jesus and be his Church in Byker. We want to reach out to people, we want to love them and most of all show them God’s love. Yet it can be unclear as to how best we go about this. We can feel frustrated. We can often feel disheartened. Sometimes we can look at other Churches doing similar things and feel that they do it alot better than us. The path to be a welcoming and loving Church can be a bumpy and uncertain one. (It’s true that we can be the ones who overcomplicate it! We can spend hours talking and agonising about it when perhaps we just need to get on and do it.)
I wanted to write down a few things that I thought are integral to St Michael’s emerging vision. I’ve mentioned them before as these are things that we have been developing and working on for some time. They have emerged through the Church and through our relationship with other MINE churches and others in the community. I would say that they are things that St Michael’s is already good at. They are our strengths as well as being things that we need to work on and get better at.
Children’s and Youthwork.
We have a vision to disciple and be with Children and Young people in the Community.
The discipleship of Children and young people in Byker has been a really important aspect to the work of St Michael’s and MINE. It’s demonstrated by the ongoing work of MINE Youth running youth Clubs and Mission weeks in Byker and Walker, in partnership with Scripture Union. But it’s also rooted in the DNA of St Michael’s as demonstrated by the history of the Boy’s Brigade and the generations of children that have been discipled and taught through it. We have found that children’s and youthwork is difficult and demanding. The experience of MINE Youth has been a journey of constantly having to adapt and re-adapt our approaches and models of working with young people. Part of the work of the Church is modelling ‘being with’ children and young people and allowing them and equipping them to be full members of the Church. As an Intergenerational community, all of us have value and a place but we should take seriously the precious responsibility of being with children and young people. That is not to side-line children’s and youth work to peripheral activities and groups around the Church, though these have a great deal of worth, but making this work central to the Church’s life, worship and mission with room for them to make an impact on the whole Church. I think this is something that we often want in theory but fail to get right a lot of the time.
Mentoring and 1:1 support I think could be key to being with children and young people. We want Children and young people to know they are of value and are loved. We want them to know and understand God’s vision for them and having mentoring and prayer partners is a unique and special way the whole Church community can be involved in this vital work. Developing our Trainee programme with MINE is another incredibly valuable initiative, offering young people in Byker the opportunity to serve their community and shape and influence the local Church.
We have a vision to reach out in friendship to the people of Byker.
To be a local Church is to have a presence in the Community and we shouldn’t underestimate how vital that presence is. The danger is that as a Church we can get so preoccupied in busyness we forget the simple but important task of being there for prayer, support and advice. Lots of other organisations in the area have the task of performing and providing a service for people. The Church too has a role in helping people but we have a crucial role as well in being with people.
The Cross Café has been a great way we have been an increasing presence in the community, offering friendship, food and support to its regulars, and building links to other organisations in Byker. There is much to do to develop this work so that we can widen and improve the support we are able to offer. Important too is building a bridge between this work and the worshipping Church Community. Our work reaching out in friendship does not just centre on our buildings: Our work with Avondale House, our ministry in Care homes, our engagement with local businesses and the task of living and being in Byker are all ways we are and should continue to be a presence.
Part of our friendship to Byker should be also standing up against injustice and what we see as wrong. We want to see the people of Byker empowered to know their voice can be heard and that they have the tools they need to engage in political life. We are excited to be members of Tyne and Wear Citizens but there is much work to do to find out how community organising can actually help us and impact our life.
We have a vision to restore and develop St Michael’s Church Building.
This should not be are only vision, it should be part of our vision. In fact it should embody our vision in stone. In many ways it can feel like our most difficult task, and it has the danger to consume all our time and energy. ‘The Lighthouse Project’ to restore the building has a desire to see St Michael’s Church building used as a place of worship and community for generations to come. It recognises the importance of the building, not just as a piece of important heritage, but also as an inspiring place of transformation. We are of course already using the Building: we’ve pitched our tent and it’s been great to see us as a community learn to use the building again, with some frustrations of course. Part of our emerging vision is imagining how the building could be developed. But it needs to be a building that reflects the wider community and an outward looking, mission focussed Church.
Like a lighthouse the Church has the power in big and small ways to shine a Light in the community, to guide and direct people away from darkness and towards God’s love. It’s does not necessarily draw attention to itself but instead shines alight on the ways God is already working and the truth that all of us has a light within us to shine.