When The Church Roof Falls In Look What Comes Out

I felt guilty. I returned to Bowthorpe Church, near Norwich, some thirty years after the contract to build it was signed under my watch. . Now, the church roof needs to be replaced. Scaffolding and a roof without tiles met my gaze. The last thing this materially poor family of Christians from diverse church streams needed was this. But this church is not a Sunday ornament for the neighbourhood, it is a living hub, and the wider community has shown how it values this hub in its generous response to the roof crisis. They were invited to buy and sign a tile. I signed my tile on arrival, and added my sentence to a special Church Roof Signatures book. I noticed that the local MP, Clive Lewis wrote: ’it’s a real privilege to be able to make a small contribution to this fantastic community hub and church. I can see the crucial role of this building and the people who worship and work in it and I salute them’. A senior Consultant Psychiatrist wrote ‘Bowthorpe Church is an example of being tolerant, inclusive and welcoming all those who proclaim that they have submitted to the Creator, including me and my family as practising Muslims’.

After lunch the local community celebrated the Queen’s 90th birthday by gathering at The Community Gardens for refreshments and music. The minister, Mark Elvin, had purchased bulk copies of the marvellous book to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday, produced by the Bible Society and others, in which her deep Christian faith and love of the Gospels shines out. Church members gave copies to their Community Gardens friends. They are at the heart of this Gardens project, as of so many others.

My sister Sally and I drove to Thetford for a meal with our old friends Paul and Rosario Hodgson. Paul is a Pentecostal pastor who now lectures at Burgess Hill International Bible Training Institute. He reminded us that four decades back he and I had climbed a haystack and did possibility praying over the area where the Gardens and Hub Church now are, at the heart of Bowthorpe’s three urban villages. Also that he had suggested we call the shop-front church centre in Clover Hill, the first of those villages, The Open Door.

Which brings me to something else that comes out when the church roof falls in. Dave, the youth leader who is now a church leader, brought his family for a holiday at my place on Lindisfarne. He temporarily thought that church roofs take up too much of members energies and it would be better to have houses of prayer. Something deep clicked inside me. This led me to research and write my recent book Houses of Prayer, which made reference to Bowthorpe experiments. Bowthorpe church leaders are reading it. Now Dave hopes to revive The Open Door as a House of Prayer.for Clover Hill. The main church is the hub, and each village has a satellite presence.

I drove to the Discipleship Group in Suffolk, hosted by Ian and Joy Copeman, which currently engages in our Igniting the Flame course. We had a significant evening exploring how to make and live a Way of Life. A Bowthorpe couple have kindly lent their house for the week. This enables me to visit the Godly Play workshops of which I am a patron, the housebound and others who come out of the woodwork and flourish for God even when the church roof falls in. And the last night - in the pub until midnight with three out of the total of four ordained leaders of The Christian Church in Bowthorpe plus two other mates having a heart to heart. I sometimes hear of vicars etc who are banned from their previous ministry location because of power politics or the fear of it. Here were three of them - the best of friends - concerned only for God's kingdom and for one another. How good is that!

Posted at 02:26am on 16th June 2016
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