We are pleased to be celebrating our 116th anniversary as a church in 2020. Despite the unusual circumstances, we still worship, share in fellowship and feel the presence of God just the same as our founding members in 1904.
Church Anniversary services are about looking back with thanksgiving, learning from the past and then they are about moving forwards. We celebrate the achievements and faith of so many saints at Kempston East. Many we shall never know by name but they quietly and faithfully kept the faith and passed on the baton to the next generation; for that we are truly grateful. But if it’s only about looking backwards then what of today and the future of the Church? We need to ask ourselves questions about the church, organisation and our own faith.
Why does it exist? What in a sentence is it doing today? What will it have become in, say, 5-10 years? What does your church have to do in the next year in order to become the church you wish it to become in 10 years time? What are the values which you will not sacrifice in order to see your vision fulfilled? What is your strategy? These are not easy questions to answer, but the real shock is if we have rarely asked them. These four points may help us:
1. Building a Personal Faith
Looking at Acts 2, which is a snapshot of the early church where building a personal faith was vital. Is our faith the same as 50 years ago or has it changed? I am not talking about the core beliefs but our experience and knowledge of our faith. Hopefully we have grown and John Wesley’s rule on doing good all the time means we have an active faith.
John Wesley’s rule:
Do All the Good You Can, In All the Ways You Can,
At All the Times You Can,
By All the Means You Can, In All the Places You Can,
To All the People You Can,
As long as Ever ......You Can!”
2. Building a People of Faith
Ezekiel 37 is a picture of walking through the valley of dry bones and being given a vision by God of new life. I am not suggesting that Kempston East looks like a valley of dry bones, but when we celebrate Pentecost it is a reminder that the spirit created a fellowship and community of faith. The Church is NOT a spiritual sanatorium in which to hide from the world but a mission station where folk are cared for and equipped to engage with the world. Ultimately, it’s not about church meetings but MEETING with the living God that really matters. We are in the business of ‘Building a People of Vision’ in our 21st century post-modern culture.
3. Connecting Locally
The church in the book of Acts connected with folk from a wide range of backgrounds. In fact the wrong sort of people got converted and Kempston East should be attracting the wrong sort of people as well as the right kind. In the words of Archbishop William Temple the Church exists for the benefit of its non-members. The church that doesn’t evangelise will fossilise and we need to constantly re-connect to the local community.
4. Connecting Globally
The New Testament Church communities connected and supported each other. However I sometimes think it is easier to contact with people around the world than locally. I have spoken to Church members by phone - one was on a beach in Corfu, another in Shanghai - and with a Methodist Minister from Ghana ringing up from his village in the jungle. Perhaps it would help to see Kempston East as a part of a global church worshipping locally.
If we want the Church to be around for the next 116 years we need to allow God’s spirit to continually renew its life. A good question to ask ourselves, do you still have faith in a Great God?
Kempston East, Happy 116th Birthday Blessings
Rev. Michael Giles
Kempston East Minister