Last Sunday was Vision Sunday at The Belfrey. Vision Sundays are fantastic opportunities to look back with thanks and to look ahead in faith. I didn’t spend too long looking back, not because there’s nothing to be thankful for, but because I wanted to focus on the future, as I believe this will be an important year for us in growing as committed disciples, and that was the main focus. Nevertheless, there’s much to be thankful for in 2012 at The Belfrey. In particular I’m thankful for four things that became more established in the life of our great community.
In the midst of our variety and complexity of our shared life, we have one vision. And that vision – of serving God’s transformation of the North – became more deeply embedded within us in 2012, particularly as we prayed. That’s exciting and encouraging – as it’s a long-term, faith-stretching, on-your-knees-demanding vision.
The structure of The Belfrey is very simple: groups and congregations. That’s how we gather – either in smaller units (and sometimes in clusters of groups) – and in larger congregations. Simple really. And we strongly urge people to belong to both.
Our three foundations – of worship, discipleship and outreach – keep us healthy and focussed in doing the basics well. Our groups and congregations take stock around these foundations. Our 3-week Foundations course (based around these three foundations) became well rooted in 2012 as a helpful introduction to our community and is now a key part of a much more joined-up approach to welcoming and integrating newcomers into the life of the church.
In 2012 we began to articulate four key values of The Belfrey: simplicity, generosity, festivity and humility. Whilst we have more work to do in embracing these values, we’ve nevertheless begun to see signs of them being expressed as we’ve worshipped together, learned together and reached out in mission together.
These four things especially encourage me as I look back on 2012. In particular I’ve loved watching the way they’ve worked themselves out in our shared life – so they’re more than just conceptual ideas. So I’ve valued getting emails from people telling me of how God has used them in their workplace or in their street, and how they see that as playing a small part in the bigger vision of serving God’s transformation of the North. I enjoyed watching groups put on low-key evangelistic events last May during the More than Gold mission, and seeing a relatively new congregation like Grace reach 200 for the first time in the late autumn as people feel increasingly confident to invite friends and neighbours to join them at church. It’s been great hearing people tell me of how they’ve been to taking stock of their lives based around our 3 foundations, as they seek to grow and mature as followers of Jesus. And I’ve appreciated seeing our values be expressed in lots of different ways – especially the value of generosity – as we’ve given away thousands of cups of coffee, many hours of people’s time, and put on courses, events and consultations to equip others over the past year.
So there’s just a few things I’m thankful for, as God’s Spirit has been stirring and moving amongst us in 2012. I am grateful – deeply grateful – to be part of this great community that exists because, and for the glory, of our even greater God.