Today we had 333 people in church for our Service of Thanksgiving for the 750th anniversary of the church. It wasn't just a celebration of history, but a celebration of the Good News today. During the last few months we set ourselves the target of collecting 750 good news stories; in fact we reached 801 by today. Stories of hope and new beginnings, of new family members and pets, of God's faithfulness, of the help of friends, of the support of families, and many more. We wanted the church to be seen as a focus of good news, and then, in turn, being able to share THE Good News of God's kingdom and life in all its fulness.
I was moved to hear people telling stories of how faith and prayer had helped them in difficult times, and how they had found encouragement by discovering the support of the church community. This is as it should be.
I said in my talk that the church is not here just to make people happy, but to bring hope; it's not here just to entertain, but to encourage. To use an example of wartime: it's the difference between cheering people up momentarily with a sing-song and telling them that we will win through in the end.
We have a wonderful cake-maker in our congregation, Nancy, who excelled herself today by making a cake so rich it needed 2 strong men to carry it. On top there was a meticulous model made in sugar of the church. I haven't got a photo yet, but I will display one later.
Sometimes the pressure of church leadership gets to me and the effort seems like climbing the North Face of the Eiger. But today it was all worth it as we experienced the real joy and gladness of the kingdom of God.