Monday, July 24, 2017
A Cambridge God Adventure (2) At a total loss.
When I wrote that I had no solid shining picture of the future that is an extreme understatement. I was shaken to the core. All I felt was a profound sense of inadequacy and bewilderment! Bluntly, everything about leading a city-centre church was overwhelming. My first church at Leamington Road, Blackburn in Lancashire had been a strong community church. A large proportion of its congregation lived within walking distance of the church and congregations 300 strong had all ages in a genuine family community. For a 27 year old minister it was exhilarating and humbling. Not once did I experience a shortage of leaders for all its activities. I revelled in working with a full-time church social worker, Enid Bichard (appointed by a special fund in the Baptist denomination) as she developed the Community Room on the ground floor as a vital meeting place for the north-west Blackburn community and launchpad for many initiatives.
I never remember asking myself whether the church had a future. Yes, I did have a major building problem with very serious dry rot (that's another story) but, in terms of God's big picture, church life just flourished in body, mind and spirit.
But now in the centre of Cambridge I felt at a total loss. With a prestigious history since 1721 and a building holding 800, the average morning congregation in 1980 had declined to less than 100 people and in the evening less than 20. Elderly, with no obvious residential community and no students attending, there was only one other family with young children alongside ours. When I was disturbed on the church steps I really had no idea what God might do. Really! None of the lessons I had learned from Blackburn were relevant. At the beginnings I had no clue.