Last night I watched a new television programme that Gordon Ramsay has put together. His aim is to take a group of prisoners at Brixton Prison and train them to become kitchen staff. There are always problems with any programme that Gordon Ramsay presents which revolve around a need to wash his mouth out with soap and water! Last night his language was worse than the prisoners. Setting that to one side, his aim, as it often seems to be, is worthy. He wants to take a group of repeat offenders and help them to make changes in their lives. Pretty quickly though he ran into a major problem.
Most of these men are so used to prison that any change in their routine is extremely threatening to them. In the first episode a fight nearly broke out because Ramsay sought to get them to eat together instead of in their cells. This meant that one prisoner didn’t have his bottle of ketchup, and he couldn’t conceive of eating food without it.
It appeared that the real prison that these men faced was not made of brick walls, steel bars and razor wire but was inside their heads. It was a prison of ideas. They were locked into a routine, into not having to take any responsibility for themselves or their actions; to having no responsibility for anyone else. They felt secure in high security. It’s little wonder that they can’t make it on the outside and keep going back.
Now I’m not writing this as a piece about prison reform, however needed that might be. I want to point out that when people are used to a routine, when they are grounded in certain ways of behaviour; certain ways that the world seems to work; then there is a major problem in bringing change.
From the end of this month major change is coming to us. Next month the most major change in the life of this church that any of us have ever experienced is coming. At the end of July we say goodbye to the Church Hall. Our last service will be held there on Sunday 29th at 18.30. It will be the end of an era for many of us.
Only last week someone mentioned this to me. This hall holds so many memories for so many of us. For some it is the place where they accepted an invitation to give their lives to Christ. To others it it’s the place where they served God through giving their time to young people. To others it is a place of prayer where they met faithfully to seek God and intercede for others.
It is hard to let go of things and it is hard to embrace new things. In September we will be in the new Baptist Church Centre. It will be exciting but also daunting. We’ve worked so long for this and now we finally have it. There is a sense of something being fulfilled but at the same time only just beginning. We will need to celebrate God’s faithfulness to us but acknowledging the past and looking ahead to the possibilities.
Change is difficult. Some of us will be disappointed by the new building – it will not be what we expected. Some of us will be overwhelmed by it and the possibilities it affords because we have never had everything together in one place before. I am convinced that this new building represents the best that we could have given all the problems we have encountered. Looking back it has been very hard work and I am so thankful to all those individuals that have made this journey possible. Most of all to the Lord for His provision for us. Whether we are sad about leaving a piece of the past behind; excited about what God may do in the future; apprehensive about the task that we face; however we feel, then let us remind ourselves of God’s word to His people in Babylonia:
“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
Yours in Christ