GLIMPSES OF THE KINGDOM IN MIDDLE ENGLAND
Being “A church at the heart of the city”.
Wade Street Church, a URC/Baptist LEP in the centre of the small city of Lichfield, is constantly trying to reach out to the surrounding community by engaging with the life of the city and using those opportunities both to model and to proclaim the values of the Kingdom of God. Lichfield is a prosperous, middle class city of 32,000 people in Staffordshire, around 20 miles from the centre of Birmingham, and has many festivals and other events which take place during the year. WSC encourages its members to become involved in all aspects of the life of the city and has gained a reputation for its welcoming and hospitable outlook and its engagement with the many different initiatives which help to improve the life of the citizens (Foodbank, Late Night Listeners, Schools’ Work and so on). As a result, the church has grown in terms of Sunday service attendance and attracts many community groups into its premises.
Where did the idea come from and where did it start?
The church’s vision statement is as follows – “Wade Street Church is a church where lives are being changed by God and his people look upwards in worship, forwards to growth and maturity, and outwards in care concern and evangelism.” It became obvious as the minister and elders reflected on this that if we were to look outwards, there was plenty going on that we could tap into. We decided to go where the people are.
Who is it for and what needs is it meeting?
It’s for anyone and everyone. We are trying to meet people’s deepest need for an encounter with Jesus at some level.
What preparation did you do?
We looked to see where people gathered – festivals, events, shopping centres – made ourselves known and looked at how we could effectively be a part of what was already happening.
What resources did you need and how did you find them?
Often the resources are a part of what’s already happening – a stage and sound equipment at the Jazz & Blues Festival, for example – and we were able to harness the skills, gifts and expertise of the people within the church, having used the regular preaching and teaching of the church to equip and enthuse them to share their faith.
Who have been your partners in this project?
It depends on the event, but includes such diverse partners as the City Council, Lichfield Arts, Churches Together, The Lichfield Bower Committee – basically anyone organising something we can join in with.
How did the congregation get on board?
Through the enthusiasm of those already involved and the encouragement of the church leadership.
What were the key steps to get from idea to Day 1 and how long did it take?
The minister and leadership started the ball rolling and it wasn’t long before others joined in.
What legislation did you have to deal with?
The usual Health & Safety, public liability insurance and Food Hygiene guidelines.
- IMPACT ON COMMUNITY
What impact has this project had on the life of the community?
It has enhanced the community’s view of the church and has offered help and support to various community groups through the participation of church members and the provision of facilities (mainly the use of our premises for meetings, rehearsals and performance space).
How has this changed the relationship between the church and the community?
It has undoubtedly improved it – in both directions. The church is now invited to participate in various events and has a noticeable presence throughout the year in what goes on in the city. Lichfield Mysteries Community Arts calls WSC “The church that likes to say ‘Yes’!”
- IMPACT ON THE CHURCH
How does this project connect with your faith and mission?
It makes real the words of the vision statement – and its shorter strapline, “A church at the heart of the city”. It grows out of our conviction that the Kingdom of God refers to God’s benevolent sovereign rule over all creation which Jesus came to inaugurate and will eventually bring to consummation on his return. We are offering glimpses of that here and now.
How has the life of the church been transformed by this project?
People can see that being a Christian is not simply about “getting eternal life” but about making a real and tangible difference here and now. For many of the congregation it has given them a greater confidence in their faith and in their ability to share it in both words and actions. The congregation has grown as people have invited their friends, family & colleagues to events.
Additional resources and weblinks
LICC material on Living on the Frontline – www.licc.org.uk
Tom/N T Wright’s work has also been influential
Wade Street Church, Wade Street, Lichfield WS13 7BS [email protected] 01543-253003PDF