I could not keep my uncomfortable experience on the steps to myself. But, to my immense relief, I found whenever I shared my story visiting leaders and members in the following days several others shared my disquiet. Indeed, some of the most elderly yearned for witness and service that really would make a kingdom difference. They talked about the church being at a crossroads. I was far from being alone. And, what is more, this concern showed itself when we visited planning the next prayer agenda.
Reflecting on the initial five prayer agenda items we knew that some needed to continue - like finding a new church organist and the whole pattern of church worship as well as remembering our missionary. But now new prayer needs had emerged. We prayed about what we should pray about (!) and on June 24th 1980 the prayer diary introduced a radical new item.
Let us pray for a clear vision of God's will for our city centre strategy - particularly the use of our premises.
That night someone prayed with passion: 'Lord help us to see the right uses of our strategic buildings that we might not waste any opportunity to use our resources.' Several affirming 'Amens' showed how this struck a deep chord. The strong undertow of regular focused prayer was beginning to pull us deeper into big issues about God's mission in central Cambridge.
Beside the church was a small shop with a caretaker's house sandwiched over and behind it. Behind alongside the passage way that led into halls was a patch of garden that had once been a graveyard. Owned by the church, the shop was dingy and depressing. Its last occupant had sold (or tried to sell!) sewing machines but it now stood increasingly unattractive with still a few dust-covered machines barely visible through dirty windows. Could this unprepossessing place be of any value to God's mission? It opened straight onto the busy pavement. Even as we began praying about using our premises was this novel possibility right under our noses? Why not develop it as a coffee and gift shop as a means of outreach to those passers-by who concerned us? Perhaps you can imagine our excitement!