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Friday, 1 March 2013

We're a church now!


This article appears in the Spring 2013 edition of WEBA News, which will be sent to WEBA church secretaries during the week beginning Monday 4th March.

Being part of a church is something most of the readers of this newsletter will take for granted.

It’s different for members of ‘The Stowe’ who have recently been constituted as a church and accepted into membership of the Baptist Union and of WEBA.

“It’s great that we’re a church now; not just a club” said one member. Another commented: “It’s amazing that our little dysfunctional group has been recognised as a church”. The group are so excited about this that more than 20 of them, including children, will be travelling to Blackpool for the Baptist Assembly this May, when The Stowe will be formally recognised as a new church.

It’s four years since Rev. Alison Boulton was first interviewed for WEBA news about her plans to move into the Wichelstowe development in Swindon. A year before that, someone at a prayer meeting had suggested that they pray for the planned housing development, and Alison had “one of those moments…I felt God was saying that we should be involved.”
Alison’s plan was to let mission develop organically through various activities. The group which began to meet at her house soon decided they wanted a Sunday morning gathering. By 2012 Alison’s living room was too small and the group, now called ‘The Stowe’ began to meet in a local primary school.

From the beginning, The Stowe’s emphasis has been to unconditionally bless the community. “The line between church and community remains rather blurred” says Suzanna Miles, Church Secretary. “A number of the congregation serve as trustees of the East Wichel Community Association or serve on the governing body of the Primary School; others are involved in coffee morning, art groups, Brownies, Wichelstowe Youth Theatre, baby & toddler groups, regular litter picks, and the community garden.”

She also lists special events that have been designed to bless the community: “a Pancake Party, a Jubilee Party, the Wichelstowe Olympics and Christmas celebrations to which everyone in East Wichel was invited.  An especially exciting trip took place on an extremely hot day in July; over 120 people in two coaches headed to Crealy, Devon for the day.  All of these activities and events are undertaken as a way of expressing God’s love for the community and serving those who live here.”

Becoming a church is, of course, only the beginning of a journey. “We are prayerfully considering what options are available to us in terms of opening the Bible and deepening people’s experience and knowledge of it” Suzanna explains, “as well as meeting the needs of those still on the edge of engaging with faith.  We also want to find ways of connecting spiritually with the growing number of children in a meaningful way.” 

These are challenges faced by every one of our churches, whether one year old or four hundred.

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