Glyn and Emma Moreton update 29/03/2011
Old Town Community Church – Ordinary people, an extraordinary God!
On the 26th December 2010 Glyn and I became the new pastors of “Old Town Community Church”. We are very much enjoying the role (a steep learning curve) and finding it an immense privilege – along with being very challenging, adventurous, stretching and at times tiring!
We believe that people are made up of body, mind and spirit so when we work with,and minister to people, we try to keep this balance in mind. We live in an area of social and spiritual need, and with our present climate of cut backs and uncertainty, many feel insecure and anxious. The needs around our community are diverse ranging from rough sleeping, drug and alcohol problems to dire poverty, debt, domestic violence, teenage pregnancies, abuse, dysfunctional families and loneliness. Crime is ever present and depression a reality for many. So our outreach, support and love aims to meet people where they are at. It is a balance to work with people not doing everything for people.
It can be easy (but isn’t actually helpful) to create dependency! It can be easy to see a person’s need and think ” we can fix that/ change that / do that” and simply do whatever is needed without getting the individual involved. Of course, there is a place for one off helps, and spontaneous acts of kindness.
However, in order to help people move out of negative cycles, or recurring problems and behaviours (which can be linked to anything e.g. relationships, spending, theft, drug dependancy, etc). It is vital to work with people making sure they are desiring input, that they be consulted / empowered / participating and eventually taking responsibility. If we simply do everything for the person and attempt to “fix” their situation it can create difficult situations where expectations are built and sustainable change can’t be achieved.
Generally, if someone has a sense of “ownership” for something, (be it an object or a personal choice) they are more likely to take responsibility for it and have a vested interest in maintaining it! Initially some people need a lot of direct help, support and intervention. But ultimately we are aiming for healthy interdependance. This is empowering and educating as people realise that change is possible and can then become inspired about serving others.
This is when it gets REALLY exciting! Seeing broken people becoming God’s ministers, and the means by which He cares for others. (Read Isaiah 61 to see age-old this cycle of transformational development!)
We want people to come to know Jesus and this usually happens through relationship. In fact one of our young mums told us yesterday that she was struggling outside the doctors surgery with a screaming toddler in the pouring rain, and 2 ladies standing under an umbrella were trying to give her a Christian tract… I think she told them where to stick their tract!. Far more genuine and sensitive is to recognise the whole person and start with love, care and friendship. RELATIONSHIP is a key word for us! Perhaps if the 2 ladies had sympathised with her and offered a possible hand our friend would have felt cared for rather than irritated!
We don’t have a church building but at present meet in the local pub. It seems to be more common for a church to buy the pub and then use it, but for us we are actually sharing the working pub. It is totally down to God that we are there (as the community centre we were meeting at had to be closed for refurbishments and the land lady, generously insisted that we meet at the pub!). So the pub is presently our home! We went into the pub with our eyes wide open as many of our folks have a history of alcohol abuse, and going into that environment could potentially cause them to stumble. But by the grace of God, it has been all positive and a real witness to the land lady and her family.
So along with the open house and practical running of the church, we have other areas of work too. We run a weekly drop in called “By The Way”, a furniture recycling scheme where people in need can access donated furniture, a recovery course for women called “DOVE” which runs over 20 weeks and goes through many key areas in life. Men’s work, youth work and we often work alongside social services in becoming part of an individual or families support group. And lots of other stuff too.
When people know that we can offer holistic support we get a number of requests for help. Earlier this week the headmaster of a school contacted us to ask if we could maybe help a family. We went to the address (a notorious area) and met a parent with lots of kids living in total chaos. The school were concerned as a number of the kids weren’t attending school. we were able to talk with the parent and get an understanding of why things were so chaotic. They didn’t realise that support groups exist and they had various entitlements. So we were able to listen to the heartache then start linking them to various agencies who are geared to assist these situations. One of our aims is to continue building a real sense of community and link people together, so it was good to be able to take our next door neighbour to this chaotic house where he (as an electrician) was able to fix their cooker!
On first look some of these chaotic situations seem impossible to improve! However, over time people can begin to regain some control of their lives and experience a different way of thinking and living. This most effectively happens through having a caring community, recognising their need to take responsibility, and ultimately through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Sadly there are also times when we need to inform social services about situations of neglect or violence. This is always difficult and tragic but bad situations can’t be left.
This coming month (April), we take a group of people from the estate (32 to be very precise!) to a fantastic family centre called “Knowles Tooth” which is a big, not posh, country house geared up for families. It has amazing facilities! The ethos is that it caters for groups that are from tough situations where a holiday would not normally be possible. It is very generously subsidised by the Chichester diocese otherwise it would simply not be possible to undertake a venture like this. We took a group last year and they loved it. This year we have lots of new people coming along who have had no previous connection to the church. So we are praying that through this they not only get a holiday but begin a new journey with Jesus!
So, as you can see life is busy and can easily tip into over – busy! But we are all thoroughly enjoying this new role and look forwards to see what else will happen over the coming months and God – willing years. This is God’s place, His work and whatever happens we want Him to get the glory.
If you want to hear more stories like: how someone lived for years on the streets and was found by the church in a real mess, they did a church course and subsequently became a volunteer then got a job! Or how another person was able to be reunited with her child (such was the transformation in her life proving her to be a fit parent) they were able to have their child back with them after being taken in to care.
Or someone coming into the church looking for handbags to steal for the next fix but got fixed by God instead! Or a former rough sleeper with many criminal convictions, who is now a strong Christian and a homelessness prevention officer. or the lady who was a former occult fanatic and attended the DOVE group and prayed that if Jesus was real that he would reveal himself to her. Well he did and she met Him face to face and was transformed! Lots more could be added here! If ever we decided to write up all our stories it would definitely be a best seller!
Come and visit us, you are very welcome!
So that’s enough for now! We appreciate your prayers and support in this role and appreciate that many of you have journeyed with us for many years! Thank you!
May God bless you and encourage you in every way,
Much love, Glyn, Emma, Sam & Carys xxx