I meant to post this last night, but frankly I was so shattered I came home and crashed spark out on the sofa instead!!
But what I’m gonna post simply has to be posted as it’s an expression of praise to God and deep gratitude for the people He’s blessed me to work, worship and serve alongside – namely Hill City Church. Last night was our Christmas outreach event – Cold Barn Carols. We have traditionally run a carol service for the community ever since the church was born 4 years ago (though last year’s was snowed off) and they have always been worthwhile.
But this year’s was very, very different!
It was different for two significant reasons:
We’re not a big church. We have no desire to be! We are small church trying to reach a small, tough council estate community. Our church home, Cold Barn Farm, holds 50 people comfortably. We managed to acquire 20 extra chairs which pushed seating up to around 70. By the time everyone had arrived it was standing room only and a fair estimate is that we had anywhere between 80-90 people in attendance (that might not sound impressive to ‘big church’ people, but to those who know our church, our venue and our community – it’s EPIC!!) That’s the most people we’ve ever had at one of our services. What’s especially exciting is that many of our Hill City regulars were unable to attend, so there were literally dozens of new faces, all from the estate, with us for the very first time. Many coming because they were personally invited by Hill City friends, many responding to the flyers they’d received. Some we’ve been praying for for ages! Hill City has always been about reaching our local community – it was fantastic to be able to both serve and bless so many last night.
2. Witnessing the phenomenal community of grace (a.k.a Hill City Church) in action
The previous 2 Christmas outreach events have been much more small scale (though not insignificant!) However they have been far more exhausting for myself, Michelle and a small team of committed helpers, as the church in the past has been smaller, with less people willing to get stuck in! But God has been at work at Hill City over the last 12 months (I’ll blog more about that next week), so this year was a quite different experience! This year, I saw a church at work – a proper one! Literally, an army of Hill City saints rolling up their sleeves and serving…together…with joy and enthusiasm…for the glory of Jesus! Let me tell you what that looked like in reality:
Last year about 3 of us flyered Trevethin (in the snow). This year I delegated flyer distribution to our gospel trainee, Nathan. Through diligent planning He managed to involve most local Trevethinites in flyering the estate. I heard a fantastic story of one of our families doing their flyering on the way home from church, their 5 year old son dashing from door-to-door thinking he was Postman Pat! Nathan also took responsibility for purchasing Christmas gifts for the scores of kids who came. He and his wife Sue spending hours sorting and rapping them. The gifts were brilliantly chosen, age and gender specific, and it was great to see so many happy kids go home with beaming faces!
Then there was the venue! 2 weeks ago we couldn’t fit more than 45 in the hall (which was already proving problematic for church!) Believing in faith that we were gonna be rammed, I must confess that I wasn’t hugely looking forward to sorting out the logistics! So when Mr Matt Ford decided to just go ahead and set the WHOLE venue up (including collecting 20 extra chairs) I was blessed. Then to have him and the family also stay right to the bitter end and help with the pack down and tidy up – I was beyond blessed! Nuff respect to Jamie, Gemma and Chloe for the same thing!! Ordinarily I would have been home by 11. Last night I got home at 9! Oh yeah, big up Andy Toovey for his ProPresenter ministry too!
Providing food has always been a massive part of how we seek to bless our community, so the fact I advertised a ‘Christmas Banquet’ kinda put pressure on us to deliver. Historically me and Michelle have always taken responsibility for this, but with a large family that’s been struggling with sickness of late, it would have been a bridge too far for us! Step up the Tooveys and the Seabournes who between them put on an epic spread. Quality food, everyone got fed. Buzzin!
Finally, the service itself. I’d asked 4 people from the church aged 12-60+ to do the readings for us. Michelle had also asked some of the ladies from church to form a singing group. It was only after we put the programme together that I realised that ALL of those taking part were converted and baptised at Hill City in the last few years. Their courage and willingness to put their faith on display in front of so many friends and neighbours was so inspiring!
So all in all, a fantastic Christmas carol concert that simply couldn’t have happened without so many faithful Hill City saints playing their part. They ALL served with excellence and with joy and I believe God was smiling over the whole thing! Dozens of local people heard the gospel read, sung and preached. As well as all the kids getting Christmas presents, many of the adults also went home with free CDs, tracts, gospel beermats and New Testaments. All left well fed, well looked after and well blessed!
Well done Hill City. It was amazing to see you in action. I love serving alongside you and sharing this gospel adventure with you! May we continue to grow in grace together and may God continue to save, stretch and amaze us!