We are now the Olive Tree Church. Since our official coming together, lots has happened. Who and what are we today?
I have to say, following on from Steve/Martin that some of our hopes and dreams have been thwarted by events beyond our control. But God has remained faithful and, where we seem to be on an uphill struggle, His strength and guidance have been the strong bedrock of our journey.
Today, ministry wise we are still looking for a full time Baptist minister – possibly; we have Joanne working with us part-time. But ministers in both denominations are in short supply and our particular circumstances make it more challenging.
We also have our community worker – Mary Huffman, sadly not with us due to the death of her mother in NZ. Mary has been involved with us since 2015 and now is an employee of the church supported by grants. She has made many contacts with our community, running a gym, craft group, English classes on a Tuesday at the Tree. Since September she has been responsible for the pastoral care within the church – supporting the pastoral team and making many visits with Joanne to the housebound and sick. Her input has been invaluable.
I must say, that as a church, we continued with the pastoral team set up used within the Methodist denomination. Such a blessing to know all members and friends are cared for by the team leader. Perhaps no more so than when March 2020 arrived when the words lockdown, zoom and pandemic became everyday words. For folk isolating at home, a phone call or a doorstep visit was such a boost to being locked down!
Our buildings, which presented us with many challenges in our deliberations on becoming one church, have become places for the community to meet once more.
Here at the Tree we hold our services every Sunday morning, with children’s group meeting as well. On a 4th Sunday the children’s group have Messy Sunday where the whole hour is spent in the hall and parents stay as well. This is as a further outreach to our Messy Church, held once month on the 2nd Saturday. Jesus For the World church meet in the hall on a Sunday afternoon. The Scouts and Guide movements have returned after lockdown – albeit with reduced meetings due to a dearth of volunteers. Monday afternoon Stay and Play has reopened and around 10 families are regular attenders; Christian Aid lunches happen monthly, as does Fellowship Club, both offering opportunities to meet, chat and eat!
Our busy day here is a Wednesday – the clinic has returned on a Wednesday morning, slimming world happens in the parlour and early afternoon an art therapist also uses the parlour. This is the day with the Sunday afternoon Church which provides us with additional income.
The Branch too is a community hub.
Oasis, the charity run by Gill Boyd, formerly in St. Augustine’s, have developed the new room into the meeting centre. This has been a success story for Gill and the church. Gill now has much more user-friendly space for her work with the ladies and their families in the local area and we, as a church, have a steady rental income. Churches of God use the premises for 2 groups on a Sunday. The nursery has been there for several years now. The Karate club meet 3 times in the week. All providing us with a regular income.
But we are not about buildings, though their use and upkeep are part of our existence. We are about being the people of God, here in this place. The pandemic gave us some challenging times but returning to worship as a group of believers has been encouraging and uplifting. We are grateful to be back worshipping and working together to be God’s salt and light in this community as well as in our lives.
I give thanks to God for the last 8 years of our working together and becoming one fellowship. I’ve been privileged to be a part of this journey, as a deacon, a member of the steering group and on the leadership team.
When the formal act of acceptance of the constitution was taken – on Zoom! It was commented the smile on my face was huge.
Today it is again. I am excited by what the future holds for us, what God has in store for us if we pray earnestly, listen attentively, and respond willingly to his abounding love and call.