Thursday Thoughts: Greenfield Church’s 40th Anniversary

Thursday Thoughts is a new weekly series where, each Thursday, I’ll share something that’s going on in my head that I hope will be helpful for you. Hope you enjoy – please share your thoughts in the comments!

We’re nearing the end of a hugely hectic spring and summer of celebrations of our 40th anniversary; 40 years since Urmston Baptist & Congregational Churches became Greenfield Church! There is still one very important event left, of course: Urmston Choral Society are performing a concert for us on Wednesday 28 September. We’ll have more details nearer the time, but put the date in your diary now!

It’s been a good, if busy, few months. We’ve had:

  • A reunion service, where we were delighted to meet up with old friends from our church’s past 40 years;
  • The General Secretary of the Congregational Federation, Yvonne Campbell, come and lead our service;
  • A Flower Festival, in conjunction with other churches in Urmston;
  • A fantastic worship evening led by Dave Bilbrough;
  • A Barbecue and party, where we were terribly British and sat outside to eat, despite the un-BBQ-ish weather that day!

Phew! And of course, there’s been all the celebrating, remembering, looking through the old photo albums etc. All of which has been great – and it’s been really interesting for me to hear some of the stories of times gone by and people and events that are important to the current members of the church; events and people that have helped shaped Greenfield Church, in big and small ways, down the years.

But, reflecting upon all this, there’s a few things that our celebrations have brought home to me:

1) I’ve been (rightly) put in my place. There’s a temptation as a minister to have this working assumption that it’s all about you and what you’re doing and what you hope God is doing through you. In a way, that’s unavoidable and probably good and right. But you can assume that you and your time at the church are the only things that matter. If I was tempted to think that, the anniversary celebrations have reminded me that’s not the case: this church has a good, rich history and will (God willing!) have a long and rich future as well after I’ve moved on. I’m just one part of that. A little perspective never harms anyone!

2) God is faithful. Yeah, like I should need a reminder about that! But he is – and it’s good to be reminded of this. Greenfield Church has had its highs, but also some very deep lows when its very existence has seemed in doubt. God kept faith with us and pulled us through those times – and we’re still here.

3) Church anniversaries shouldn’t just be about the past. Which sounds a little backwards, but I mean it. We’re here for a reason: not just for our own comfort and enjoyment (thought those aren’t bad things), but to love and serve this community and to share with the people we’re amongst the Good News of God’s love in Jesus. This has been our goal down the years and one of the fascinating things about the anniversary celebrations was seeing how church magazines, orders of service, adverts, even constitutions and minutes had expressed that goal, that mission. But we can’t just look back on all that: it’s as much our mission as it was 40 years ago. So we need to think about “year 41”, about how we’re going to keep on doing that, keep on working towards that goal, in the next 40 years.

4) We’re celebrating a good thing! The coming together of two churches from two different traditions is something special. And when churches and Christians seem to be known for arguing and insulting each other, when society seems horribly divided (like in the aftermath of the EU referendum), the story of how 2 churches came together and became known as one church is an important one to tell. It can give hope that the divisions we see all around us can be overcome – through Christ Jesus.

5) For all these reasons and more, churches should definitely celebrate their anniversaries!

6) We’re exhausted!

Posted by Stephen

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