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Newport Pagnell URC seeks to “be the presence of Jesus, not simply talk about it”

mead rAs Newport Pagnell United Reformed Church progresses its plans to build a community centre to cater for the needs of families, people with disabilities and many others in the local area, Victoria Paulding of the Mead Centre Vision Team explains the significance of looking outwards, beyond the walls of church buildings, in living the life of Jesus today:

When I started attending Newport Pagnell United Reformed Church, the vision of the Mead Centre hooked me almost immediately. The aim is to provide a space in our local area that supports those who have nowhere else to go in our town. Those with addictions, those who are lonely, those who are hungry, those with additional needs or living with dementia. All of these people are often ignored, and we want to bring an end to that.

The vision of the Mead Centre is for it to be a place where Jesus’ love is shown through what we do. It is about walking alongside people, showing them love and acceptance, and allowing ourselves to be changed in the process. We need to be the presence of Jesus, not simply talk about it.

The church has been adamant from the beginning that this is not a ‘church project’; it is a gift to the community. The project is being driven by members of the church and those outside the church working together to provide a space that changes lives.

Often, I feel as if the Church is very well-intentioned, but finds itself removed from society. Despite being someone who has been heavily involved in the Church throughout my life, outside of that, I live and work in a largely secular world and regularly see how irrelevant church seems to the majority of people. To me, the Mead Centre is about ‘being church’ rather than ‘doing church’.

I remember one of our church members talking about power. Historically, the attitude of the Church to mission has been that the people inside the church have something that other people don’t have, and it is our responsibility to help “those poor people out there”. Straight away, this creates an imbalance of power.

I believe that there are many people outside the church who live a more Jesus-like life than many Christians, and that there are many people who experience and know God, but do not use that name to describe their experience.

The ethos of the Mead Centre is about removing the power imbalance and walking alongside each other, especially those who are neglected and ignored, allowing ourselves to be changed in the process. After all, much of Jesus’ ministry focused on the marginalised and oppressed. 

In the Church, we are programmed to serve others. There is no doubt that it is important to serve, but I think that it is even more radical to allow ourselves to be served and to be changed by those who are marginalised, just as Jesus, when he invited himself into the home of a tax-collector.

I believe that when we walk alongside people, when we share with each other, when we truly listen, then we open ourselves to learn more and to experience God more deeply, just as the disciples did when they met the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

Podcasts, videos and other resources to help promote the development of the Mead Centre can be found on the centre’s Facebook page.

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