Last Sunday I visited Leamington Road Baptist Church, Blackburn, where I was pastor 1972-79. An interval of 30 years made for high emotions, as many former members turned up to share in the morning service. I found myself leading everything, speaking to the children, preaching, praying and ending with the Lord's Supper. (I haven't done the whole works for years!) Afterwards, 70 sat down for a hot Sunday lunch, to reminisce and give thanks.
People I had baptized, married, visited in bereavement, and at other critical times, poured out memories. What was gloriously refreshing was how positive these were. I met children who were toddlers back then, and are now strapping adults fully committed to Christ. One couple I married are now key leaders in the church, never having been away and such vital 'living stones' in the church community. So many friends, appearing nowhere near 30 years older (really), still belong and serve. So many rich conversations!
I know circumstances sometimes ensure positive memories. At funerals for example, we always try to think of the best of a person. But this was a community still solidly there. Yes, its surroundings have changed dramatically (- now predominantly Muslim). And numbers are much smaller. It faces tough issues ahead. But it's there, still seeking to be God's people doing his will - a testimony to his grace. While I've been all over the place, they have stayed devoted at this place. That commitment thrilled me more than I can say.