Shortly after planting All Souls’ Southey, I began to look towards Hanham and thought “Soon we will be planting another Church here in Hanham”.
Yet there was a challenge, how to extricate myself from the Church I had just planted, I’ve found in churches it is easy to start things but much harder to pass them on to someone else (like getting chewing gum stuck on your finger it never becomes fully unstuck).
People and the team were settled, the thought of doing it all again there was little energy for. Indeed there was a fear that if we invested too heavily in Hanham we might damage what we already had.
Perhaps if I could have my time again maybe I should have been more ruthlessly stepping out in faith?
We did try holding more worship services intentionally in Hanham and talk the vision of transformation, of mission, of Church planting, health and Kingdom advance.
We began to use the name ‘The LATE SERVICE’ as the Service was at 7:30 (originally 7:00) on a Sunday evening.
We didn’t get much flack from Churchy people as they seemed relaxed about the word “Service” but the word “Church” is much more emotive amongst existing congregations.
I remember the level of nastiness I got when we planted a Church from people who professed to be Christians.
Surely if you love Jesus then seeing people reached should bring you joy not anger and resentment?
Yet with hindsight I wondered if I used the language of planting and of Church whether we would have got Church?
Yet we soon discovered that Christians in Hanham were more wedded to the idea of people coming to THEIR Church BUILDING than people coming to meet their Saviour.
We did services in two struggling Churches in Hanham and the numbers were pretty good, but when we moved from their Church hall/Church a neutral venue in Hanham out numbers of Christians/Church goers from Hanham nose dived.
We kept pressing on.
We tried running Alpha in Hanham, as we have lots of pleasant relationships with people that were warm to us when we saw them, yet probably coming to Alpha was too much too soon for the people we had got to know (the second time we have tried this and failed, I think too often we over-estimate the steps people are prepared to make to explore faith).
Only one person from Hanham came, and they already attended some of the local Churches.
All our other guests drove from where we had the Church plant across the parish to go to Alpha.
So, after Alpha instead of having this group of hungry new (or returned) Christians hungry to see Hanham transformed for the Kingdom of God. I just had the few friends who had helped me out on the course all feeling that bit more tired.
From there we re-started the late services back in Hanham and we tried to gather a team, always a good start.
I remember having a season where there were just 4 of us worshipping and praying, and three of us were ordained and crawling into our 4th service of the day.
A guy from one of my Churches joked, that I had managed to plant a Church without any members. Although a little tongue in cheek, that comment hurt me more than I let on at the time.
Gradually however we began to get some guests that were hungry Christians wanting a top-up, wanting to pray, wanting to go deeper.
We had some wonderful times, but yet this wasn’t the dream, we were paying out to be in a neutral venue and filling it with people who’d be more than happy to be in a more traditional Church building, and we had hired a funky and very unchurchy youth centre (at £25 a time with no income coming in, praise God we always managed to pay our rent for just over a year!)
As this very Christian group met up, I felt I wanted to pray over August up on Hanham Mount, where the Kingswood story started with George Whitefield and George Wesley preaching to the miners of Kingswood and seeing a massive and wonderful revival breaking out.
So we met up on Sunday evenings.
We had typical August weather -it rained and it rained and it rained! And yet despite the rain people kept coming and praying. Convinced (by naïve optistism)that if we had had such a wet August we might have a really nice September, we kept going for September. And still in rained and it poured. And yet Saints kept on coming out to pray with their umbrellas.
On Sunday, the last Sunday in September, wet and bedraggled, someone said… “Is it happening next week?” and “What’s happening when you go?”
I cleared my throat and said “Well…”
(To be continued…)