This was a question posed by two representatives from the Methodist District Property Committee when my previous church, a Methodist/URC LEP, was considering a major redevelopment of its buildings. It was a question we discussed at our Church Council and I must admit it was a very enlightening conversation for us all.
Comments made were that perhaps those who saw our building would think;
God is something of the past, God is unkempt, God does not welcome those with mobility issues or prams, God is shut [mainly closed big wooden doors] and worse, God is dead.
This question shaped our redevelopment so we also considered the outside of our building and how we could use the outside as a tool for mission.
Since moving over to Yorkshire we are considering the outside of our buildings as part of our Mission Intensions at Bilton and Knaresborough. At Knaresborough we have developed a very prominent but small corner outside and to date have placed on it a Mary and Joseph and lots of wooden angels decorated by one of our local schools, created an Easter prayer Garden and recently as part of the Thy Kingdom Come prayer initiative placed a single bed for our community to place ribbons as their prayer. A bed as it links to the Knaresborough annual Bed Race a major event for the town and we used the slogan ‘Knaresborough bed race praying for the human race’.
This has not only engaged the community with God in prayer but has sparked much conversation on social media, especially when three men thought it would be a good idea to kick Joseph’s head off one cold December evening. This created so much community support and encouragement to replace him, especially when he was taken away for repair and Mary was all alone. We have had one of our neighbours telling us how she has delighted in watching people so reverently tie ribbons to the bed. We have even had new people coming to church because of what they had seen on the corner. God has really encouraged us to engage more with the community in many different ways however simple and risky.
And Jesus said “No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, everyone who lights a lamp puts it on a lamp stand. Then its light shines on everyone…”
Rev Alan Crump
Minister, Bilton Grange Harrogate and Knaresborough URC