We’re continuing in series of blogs on getting serious about loving the city, and particularly, since it’s our context; London.
Right now, the inner city of London especially I believe needs more Christians to commit to stay to see London and the nation transformed, I’m convinced of that. Sure, I’m biased, but I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I didn’t believe in the importance of our, Westminster Chapel’s vision and mission: our prophetic promise, unique diversity, strategic location, radical calling and massive opportunities. We’ll endeavour to unpack those points in the weeks that follow but…
With roughly half a million people arriving in the capital every four years, soon to reach 10,000,0000, there’s massive of opportunities for all sorts of people to make a massive difference.
Author of This is London Ben Judah tells us that “every week two thousand migrants unload at Victoria Coach Station” – that’s less than ten minutes walk from Westminster Chapel. That’s like the whole city of Bath arriving every year on our doorstep. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…
In this series of blogs you’ll hear how different people are responding to God’s city call. We believe God is stirring many more to be living sacrifices in the (inner) city of London, to be city lovers: truth-tellers, peace-makers, hope-spreaders.
Today’s blog is by one of our elders, Stephen Sloan:
In the 1980s’, our Chapel afternoon Sunday School involved minibus-ing in local children from the blocks of social housing flats in Page Street. This is an area just off Horseferry Road – about half a mile from Chapel. My wife Gillian and I, plus our family were then living on the Northern edge of Greater London in High Barnet. As we herded the Page Street kids into the minibus each week I can remember from time to time thinking, “This is a great place for gospel work – but I could never live here.”
Some years later, our minister R.T. Kendall said to me, “Have you ever thought about getting a flat in Victoria?” I waved this away: parachuting in to SW1 on Sundays (and for some mid-week meetings) and then back to the leafy suburbs suited me personally. Candidly enjoyable though my Chapel life was, living 15 miles away enabled me to somehow ring-fence my church life. As we’d drive out of Castle Lane heading home at the end of the day, much though we’d enjoyed our Sunday, there was an element of, “well that’s all done for another week, and now back to the ‘normality’ of life and work in Barnet.”
Our experience of God’s leading (so far) has never really involved blinding light revelation or dramatic re-direction. God’s method with us seems to have been a series of gentle nudges and small steps. I think the nudging began in the early 2000s; the children had grown and gone; driving into London was getting more and more tedious; the prospect of retirement came into view.
Perhaps most significantly, we both began to sense the value of having a “base” nearby to the Chapel with the opportunities that that would provide. We weren’t ready to move from Barnet at that point but (rare for us) we did a bit of forward planning, mortgaged the Barnet house and in 2008 after a bit of searching bought an ex-council flat – 75 yards from Page Street!
We didn’t move in permanently for a number of years (again, small steps). During part of that interim period we were able to make the flat available to some Chapel people to live in, followed by part-time occupation by us and then, in early 2015, after selling up in Barnet, moving in full-time.
We have had no regrets! Life is simpler after downsizing: minimal maintenance/cleaning(!), modest heating and lighting costs! We can walk to Chapel. Our church family is closer. I say the flat is our “utilitarian box” – it’s big enough to entertain, host Life Group and occasionally put someone up for the night. As well as having a space for hospitality, it’s provided a base from which we are (slowly) beginning to get to know and connect with neighbours. It takes a long time to establish relationships with people but we are trusting that in time they will be exposed to the challenge of the gospel and brought into the good of all that’s going on at Chapel in these days. Paul Gardner recently shared in a service his sense of an incoming tide of the Holy Spirit approaching London and the Chapel. We’re trusting that God will use his having deposited us nearby to play a faithful role in whatever the outworking of this move of God looks like.
The Psalmist said; “ Lord you are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (Psalm 15 v 5/6) David isn’t of course talking here about a physical place or location – rather about being well-positioned in the purposes of God. For this season in our lives, we think we can affirm the truth of these lovely verses. The flat is a great benefit but the place we really want to live is the green pasture of his goodness, seeking to be faithful in his plans and purposes for us.
What a thought-provoking testimony! Could God be calling you to ‘move-in’ for the sake of the gospel?