We are slowly moving forward towards making the vision that we were given in 2014 a reality. We are right to move slowly because it is a big undertaking, but we also need to keep moving because the need for what God has told us to do is growing. Every week we are meeting people that we could help better, and bless more, with different facilities.
In March, church members received a paper about the proposed new development, which we are calling The Bridge. At our most recent Church Meeting we had the opportunity to discuss the development looking at these questions:
- What excites you about the project?
- What concerns you about the project?
- Are the aims of the project clear?
- What challenges do you think we will face?
- Are there any elements that we should add or drop?
- What are the most important things that we can do moving forward?
So, to recap for those of you that have not been part of this journey from the beginning, what is The Bridge all about? In October 2014 we received a vision for the use of the other land on the site – to replace the old building that we make limited use of currently. There was quite a lot to it and you will find copies of it in the Gathering Area, but we can summarise it like this:
Our vision is to transform lives by growing a Christ-centred community where meeting with Jesus provides hope, help and healing, enabling us to be who Christ intended us to be.
We went to work on this and spent a lot of time researching projects that churches had founded. As a result of that we came to the opinion that this should not be seen as a social action project that the church was sponsoring, but as an extension of our community life in another form.
Our overall vision as a church is to be a community of believers living according to the Bible’s teaching, where people become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. It is as a community of grace, redeemed by the work of Christ and indwelt by the power of the Holy Spirit that we seek to live as God’s family. The Bridge simply extends that to build community with those that do not yet know Jesus and seeks to enable them to meet him. We want to reach out to the least, the last and the lost and those who have no eternal hope. In doing this we want to provide opportunities for people to see who Jesus is as they meet him with us.
We decided that it would be wrong to wait on this vision until we had built something. Instead it seemed right to press ahead and develop ideas that were an expression of how we want this community to develop. So currently we have a number of ministries that will find their home at The Bridge. These include Exchange, The Breaking Bread Café, The Food Pantry and Celebrate Recovery. What they have in common is a response to need at a variety of levels without at any point labelling people as ‘needy’. We are seeking to establish dignity in all that we do.
At its heart, The Bridge is to be a space for people to come together and meet one another. For us to demonstrate who Jesus is by sharing our lives and allowing him to speak through us. It’s about bridging the gap between the church community and the local community. Ultimately we are seeking to be a place where people receive God’s blessing.
To build this community feel within the centre, we are looking at a residential community at its heart, so that this is not an empty building that we sometimes occupy, but a living, breathing community with a rhythm to its daily life. Some people are worried about the idea of having residents in this building for a number of entirely legitimate reasons.
However I believe that the rhythm of communal living will be the backbone of the life of the centre. It will draw others in to a pattern of life that we will seek to establish. Prayer will be at the heart of communal life. Following a prophecy that we received recently it became clear that a chapel – a house of prayer – must be part of what we do: a space reserved only for prayer.
Residents will have their own room but share facilities together under the direction of community leaders (who will also need their own accommodation). People might become residents for a variety of reasons but there would be strict admission criteria and individual contracts. We would not be under any obligation to accept anyone that we did not feel would fit with this extended family. Some from the church may wish to become part of that. We might want to keep a ‘spare room’ for visiting missionaries or people that we were putting up on a short-term basis.
We envisage that some communal space and some smaller rooms will be necessary. We expect to offer the Bishop’s Stortford Money Advice Service its own room there as well, as this would fit with the objectives of the centre. We will need space for other existing programmes like the Language School, and places where we can offer mentoring or life-skills training.
The communal space might also be used for informal worship services and we also expect that we will run some kind of course like Alpha.
One of the key aspects of the building is that it will need to be flexible enough to be used in different ways if the needs change.
If you are not already praying about The Bridge, please do so. We will be collating people’s feedback and coming back with further proposals in due course. We also want to make sure that everyone knows what’s going on so we may have some briefings on Sunday mornings. We will advertise these well in advance.
I quoted 1 Peter 2:12 at the recent Church Meeting. It says:
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
- Pray that we may be effective in finding ways to share Jesus with our friends, neighbours and the local community, through our words and deeds
- Pray for the right people to become part of the team leading the next stage of this project
- Pray for those who are already making use of our facilities that they may see Jesus in all that we do
- Pray that we will be listening to what the Holy Spirit is telling us and that we will keep in step with him
- Pray that The Bridge will be a place where he brings blessing into people’s lives
- Pray for decisions about appointing architects and beginning the design process
Yours in Christ,