God of Scouting Surprises: an unexpected call to Emmanuel Church

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Some years ago now Gerard Hughes wrote his book God of Surprises in which he reflected on the inner spiritual journey in which Christians are all engaged. The book focuses on those who have a love/hate relationship with the Church to which they belong or once belonged. It appears nothing much has changed; the pressures have probably increased greatly, and anxiety levels about the very future of the church are at breaking point.

I have witnessed this on many occasions as I have visited churches in my area in Swindon and Wiltshire, and one of the greatest areas of concern has been the inability of local congregations to attract the younger generation. All that many congregations have now are the memories of the days when they could hardly cope with the numbers of young children in their church.

The question is – are there other possibilities to explore when it comes to ministering to young people?

Emmanuel URC Haydon Wick is blessed with a small but thriving children’s ministry for which we are extremely grateful, however there is always the recognition that trying to maintain that ministry and connection with children and their parents and carers remains challenging. Which is why when children come looking to the church for inspiration, one has to sit up and take note!

Just recently I received an email from the leader of the local Beaver Colony, asking if there was any possibility about forging closer links with Emmanuel. She talked about whether we could host a St Georges Day parade service, Christingle as well as other options. I must admit being initially dumbfounded at the request, but after some initial conversations I suggested that she contact the leaders of the Cubs and Scout groups meeting in the same building to see if they shared her enthusiasm for making connections with our church. The response was an overwhelming “Yes.”

We are now at the point of making arrangements to meet together to discuss the possibilities for future links. This whole experience has reminded me once again never to limit God in the way he works. Sometimes he truly is the God who surprises us with solutions from places we never expected!

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