Many tears were shed in our Covenant Service at North Shore Church in Blackpool this morning, it has been an emotional week and many of us find ourselves in a vulnerable and emotional place. North Shore Methodist Church sits on the edge of one of the poorest Council Wards in the country, poverty, homelessness and poor living conditions involving HMO’s are only some of the issues faced by the community here. The church itself is seeking God’s way forward as we welcome a wonderful and diverse group of people through our doors week after week.
The building is used by many different groups, these include the First Steps Centre who serve the elderly, and families in many different ways from social activities and meals to keep-fit classes and cookery classed. Others include Alcoholics Annonymous, the local branch of Street Angels, and Liberty Church, newer groups are health related offering stress management courses for those suffering from depression and anxiety. We are also home to the Comfort Zone, Blackpool Circuit’s drop in project for homeless and vulnerable people. This week we have opened our doors all night to welcome rough sleepers under the national guidelines for SWEP ( severe weather emergency protocol), because the tempreatures have been so low, we are the only church in the town to offer this!
All of this and yet we face questions about our future, money is tight and our Grade II listed building needs a good deal of work doing to it to make it not only fit for purpose but safe. Some members of the congregation hark back to the glory days when North Shore welcomed holiday makers and services were packed, when there was an active drama group and a choir, but all of those are gone, and yet for those with eyes to see God’s glory is made evident among us even now! The glory of God is evident in the inclusive and overwhelming love with which people are recieved, we welcome the poor and the rich, we welcome the broken and the whole, we welcome the people of a broad range of theological understandings, we welcome anyone regardless of their sexuality, I think our rainbow should read LGBTQI &S , that is we welcome straight people too!, and if you think you won’t be welcome we welcome you! Please don’t think I am being flippant here for some of the tears shed this morning were in response to the Anglican Primates decision regarding the Epispocal Church in the United States, we feel for the pain of out sisters and brothers around the world as well as within our community.
In many ways we reflect the broadness of Methodism under one roof, North Shore is a special place and has taught me so much about welcome, vulnerability, grace, and love, it has helped to carry me through a difficult time, but right now it is vulnerable! Change is always difficult, and the greater the change that is needed the more uncomfortable we become. So there we were this morning praying our Covenant Prayer with sighs and tears and aware that the Spirit intercedes for us in inexpressible groans, and I suspect that we are in many ways a mirror to what God is doing in our churches throughout this land. We are being pruned and trained and still we are bearing fruit, this morning we welcomed two new members, current members are recieving words of knowledge, others describe being called to a fuller committment, in short there is more to be done by this church in this place…
So if you are a praying person please pray for North Shore, you might like to follow our facebook page to see what we are up to, if you are in Blackpool we’d love to offer you a welcome, we are entering a new chapter, and as the Minister of this church I am moving on to minsitry in another part of the country but will always be grateful for the gifts North Shore has given me, most notably unconditional love.