Today I preached at Arbury Rd. Baptist Church Cambridge to celebrate the 50th. anniversary of the 'new' church which was built when my father was minister there. For me the anniversary had two sides.
The first concerned the congregation's celebration and fresh commitment. 50 years ago the people dared to build for the future under my father's ministry. In the hall next door a series of exhibits told the story and a fascinating much-thumbed album gave insights into 1960's people and the happenings. God fired the vision for a new church on the large lawn in front of the current buildings and people prayed, gave and dreamed. From the membership an architect - Bob Wyatt - gave his skills of design and oversight free to the church. And marvel upon marvel this high steel and brick structure arose, costing about sixteen thousand pounds! I guess some people opted out but how wonderful it was that the great majority opted in! Of course, time has passed. I asked for a show of hands and less than 10 people signaled they had been there when the new doors were flung open on January 29th. 1965.
But, wonderfully, the story goes on. Today, it was thrilling to see the congregation (admittedly smaller than it was) under its new minister using the building to the full. The best part was reading his anniversary letter by which the church is challenged about God's vision for the future. He, with other leaders, spelt out some long-term possibilities (which, yes, involve fresh building) with some short-term possibilities. A special offering was taken up. Here was no exercise lost in nostalgia but one of faith and hope. All anniversaries should be like that, shouldn't they?