I’m sure you’ll agree that we’ve been through quite a few months of surprise and change as a nation and within the world at large. No one could have predicted what was around the corner and there’s continuing fallout we are experiencing as a result. Everyone has been affected in one way or another including God’s community of people.
Daniel (2:20-22) cried out:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
For wisdom and might are His.
And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.
We are all being challenged to navigate a new landscape – our rhythms have been abruptly challenged and changed during the process of lockdown and fallout has happened.
Ruardean Hill Baptist was already asking big questions about its future. We were recognising that many youngsters in the Forest (and wider afield) were struggling with identity issues, eating disorders, depression and were self-harming. What is the church at large doing about this? How might we connect and bring hope, love and acceptance to such people? Is there a way we could help strengthen the next generation? Through much prayer and sharing a vision was beginning to emerge but then lockdown happened!
During that time we all learnt to use zoom and continued to ‘meet’ and worship together regularly. We learnt a lot about waiting, being still, letting go, and listening. We shared our reflections with one another. God was at work and in the process of rewilding; we sat, we watched and we learnt.
When we physically came together again there was a very real sense that now is the time to ‘push out into the deep’ and trust in this new, unknown, landscape and so forestbeacon.org was birthed; a place and a space where anyone was welcome!
These are our very first steps but so far we’ve held some retreat type days where we’ve observed and encountered the woods opposite the chapel. The exploration has continued as we’ve attempted to express our experiences using art, stillness, reflection and discussion times.
In order for this to happen and to allow the new space to start forming we’ve had to let go of some things too. Yes we recognise we are God’s family and that it’s important to worship and learn together but even this can happen in other ways. And so we made a deliberate decision to only meet once a month for gathered worship instead of weekly. What came next was almost by surprise, we decided to use the gift of zoom each weekday morning for prayers. Who would have thought it but the benefits are tangible! We’re experiencing a deeper spiritual closeness as we sense the support of both God’s Eternal Presence and each other in our day-to-day lives. Individuals further afield are hearing about this and sending their requests for prayer. There’s a deepening happening plus an air of expectancy and encouragement. According to Brene Brown’s research, choosing courage and vulnerability opens us up to love, joy and belonging, and brings us closer to what she calls, ‘whole-hearted living.’ I’m glad we’ve had the courage and been brave enough to lay a number of things down, giving space and opportunity for the new to emerge.
Grace Tucker, Pastoral Leader, Ruardean Baptist Church