On Sunday October 9th it was our chapel’s 154th anniversary and we had invited Rev Tim Hurren who is an Anglican priest who is on the team of our Wesley Church Centre and at St Peter’s Church. Worship opened when we sang ‘Great is thy faithfulness’ before Tim led the prayers. We said Psalm 46 together responsively. The first reading was Genesis 28.1-17 before Tim’s first reflection on the theme; ‘Where is the church?’
Tim asked us to consider what God might saying to us as individuals, as a church, as part of Harrogate Churches together. We paused for prayer before we described Wesley Chapel’s location in Oxford Street Harrogate. Jacob had an encounter with God and built an altar of stone to show it was a sacred space for him. People see a building as sacred but it is the Holy Spirit which brings life to people. Churches are not just boxes for activities but places where God’s people gather to hear the gospel and preach it. The world around us is very spiritual and yet we are not able to share our faith naturally. We have mission shaped buildings but we need to be mission shaped people. Tim can imagine Jesus in our churches with his hands tied behind his back. The church is commanded to spread the gospel not just invite people in. We are to feed the hungry not just their physical hunger but also their hunger for a more meaningful life; broken relationships to be healed and hunger to be connected with God. Where is the church? House churches have a multinational character, prototypes of God’s Kingdom. For most of us the church is a place which puts on services. Is the purpose and unity of God practised there?
We sang ‘Lord your church on earth is seeking’ before 1 Peter 2.4-10. The second reflection was on the theme of ‘What is the church for?’ The church is not heritage, not a holy club or a social service but it is for discipleship, community and spreading the gospel through the Holy Spirit. We sang ‘We have a gospel to proclaim’, before Hebrews 13.1-9 and 20-21.
The third reflection was ‘Where is the church going?’ Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. The risen Christ is calling to us. Tim has a picture of Jesus standing at the end of time with arms open to welcome us. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. Tim and his wife have a motor caravan for holidays and they do not need to go far away just to the Dales. They have stayed in wild places on the road to Helmsley on their holiday trips. On one occasion they made a deviation to Hornby Church, where a true event occurred in the 18th Century. On a summer’s day three ordinary men who had been cutting bracken, snoozed when it became too hot and had strange dreams that God was calling them to make a big change in their lives. A famous preacher, John Wesley, was coming to Newcastle. Three men went on foot to Newcastle and committed their lives to follow Jesus. They formed the first Methodist group in Hornby; the church was so scandalised that they were hauled before the magistrate for riot, as they were not properly educated. The landlord expelled them from their homes, but later they managed to get their hands on some spare land, where they built houses and a chapel was opened on July 7th 1757.
Today dreams continue to inspire new visions; Carol a member at St Mark’s Church had a vision of a Christian Hub in Harrogate. This God given dream led to many churches in Harrogate working together to set the Hub up; it is just across the road from our Wesley Chapel and will provide a place of support for people in need, alongside our Chapel, St Peter’s Church and Springboard, formerly our chapel caretaker’s home, now the drop in centre for showers, advice and food next door to Wesley Chapel. Tim challenged us on our chapel anniversary about what our dreams were; the three men to whom God had spoken led to Methodism being set up in Hornby and Carol’s vision of the Christian Hub, which is just being launched.
Tim then led the prayers of intercession and the collects for the day. The final hymn was ‘Lord for the years’ and worship concluded when Tim led the prayers of thanksgiving and gave the blessing. It was a challenging service.