Over the past three weeks, we’ve had a series of talks at St John’s articulating the vision God has given us for the coming years. As part of this venture, we have published a new Mission Action Plan – which can be read and downloaded here. In this brief blog post, I want to summarise the past few weeks for anyone who wasn’t able to be there.
I began by asking the question ‘why are you at St John’s?’. Expanding on the question, we might need to ask: ‘why did I first come to St John’s?’ and ‘what makes me keep on coming?’ The question is significant – for it’s only when we are clear about why we love our church community and why we value belonging to it that we’re able to be clear about inviting others. I explained that when I first became a Christian, one of the most joyful discoveries was that there was a place where I could belong. Where I had sometimes felt like a misfit in other spheres of life, the church communicated that basic gospel message to me: you are made and loved by God – you have a purpose and a place in his family – you are significant and secure in his love.
To realise that you are fully known by God, and yet still fully loved and fully forgiven, fully accepted and fully valued, is a profound and wonderful thing. And it transforms our lives. Knowing that we are loved and valued has a powerful healing effect on our lives. My experience of St John’s is that it is a church community where everybody can feel loved and valued. It actually helps us to be so diverse in terms of age, ethnicity, politics, class and culture – because everybody is sort of a misfit, nobody is really a misfit!
So if the thing I treasure most about St John’s is its capacity to draw people into that loving, healing and transforming encounter with Jesus, then the question for me is how do we make this more available for more people. The answer is by creating more space, more time and more pathways for different groups of people to come and experience for themselves what it is to be loved by God in this community. Repitching the tent is an idea inspired by Isaiah 54:2 – which talks about stretching out to make space for more people. We want to do this with a building redevelopment, as we’re really limited by our existing building.
But we also want to do this by creating more room in our services for more people to come. The principal change to enable this will be to switch from having one Sunday morning service at 10.30am to having two serivces sinstead: one at 9.30am and another at 11.30am. We plan to begin this from May / June this year. This will effectively double our capacity. We can just about manage with around 150 adults and children at the moment – but we’re full! Two services will give us increased capacity for further growth and for more people in Hoxton to come and encounter God’s love for them.
It’s going to be a big piece of work ahead of us though. I certainly don’t underestimate the extra burden this will place on ministry teams – at least in the short-term. In this exciting – but challenging – work of mission and ministry, we all have apart to play. We would love for more members of our church family to join Connect Groups and / or serve on ministry teams. If you think you’d be up for helping on a team and serving in some particular way, please do let us know. Best way is to speak to the particular staff member who leads the ministry area you’re interested in.
But there’s another thing that every one of us can do, and that is to contribute financially. It costs about £5,000 per week to run the church – or £260,000 per year. Most of our money goes on funding a staff team to resources and lead the various areas of mission and ministry. Significant chunks are spent on running the building and operations, as well as a generous chunk which we contribute to the Diocese of London to support the mission of the wider church (including funding a Vicar and support for our local church).
We encourage everyone who feels they belong to our church family to give by standing order or direct debit. We encourage this as it makes the administration of finance easier, and budgeting more accurate – but also because it enable congregation members to really consider what they’re giving financially to the church – rather than just seeing what change they have in their pockets when the collection basket goes round!
As we pursue this vision of ‘Repitching the Tent’ and becoming a beacon of hope for Hoxton, we hope very much that you’ll want to be part of the adventure!