The evening of October 1st was much anticipated by the coordinators of the church: event. We spent significant time thinking and praying through the vision, building a team around gifting and passion, as well as promoting it among the church family at Cartsbridge.
Our central idea was clear from the start. We would use these evenings to create SPACE: space for community, creativity, worship and teaching. We believed we needed to provide an event that would allow busy people to encounter God, experience community, become equipped to live as Jesus' followers and as a result, leave to engage more effectively with their world. Furthermore we sensed strongly that people in our fellowship shared the vision and were eager for something like this to take place.
The two weeks leading up to the event involved serious planning of the programme. The whole of Sunday afternoon involved us setting up the church in a way that reflected our core values. The response from the church family that evening was nothing short of staggering. Around 200 people turned up for church:! We had those from their earliest days to their senior years in attendance and this made for a special atmosphere in the building.
To capture the essence of what took place I mention our four central principles.
We wanted to make it clear that although the programme started around 6.30pm we would invite people to come for coffee and cookies at 6.15pm. There was a real buzz in the building people chatted to those they didn't know very well. Equally at the end of the evening people stayed behind and lots of conversations took place.
The people who hosted church: spent considerable time planning the first section. There was clever use of video, good interaction with the church family and a fun activity that engaged people and drew them into what was taking place. This provided a good platform on which to build the rest of the evening.
A number of people commented that the presence of God was evident as we worshipped him through carefully chosen songs. Once again our desire was to give space and freedom to enable the lyrics of songs to cause an upward response to God in devotion, praise and renewed commitment.
The overall theme for the teaching was 'Indescribable' and our desire was to explore the greatness of God and his presence in the lives of his people.
Our bible base is found in Exodus 15:11
Who among the gods is like you, Lord?
Who is like you - majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?
Our aim was to take a phrase each week and explore three key truths about God. He is set apart, high above and yet fully present.
When I look back on our first church: event my personal highlight was the space we provided for prayer at the end. A small team stood just off centre at the front of the church. As we rounded off the programme we encouraged people to come forward for prayer. A good number of people did. I mention this because this would be an unusual practice in our fellowship. Through church: we want to sensitively change culture if we believe it will enable people to encounter God.
What I have recounted is only a tiny snapshot of the first evening. How it will develop in the coming months I cannot say. However, I am grateful for what took place this autumn in Cartsbridge Church and I am hopeful for the future.