Park Baptist Church
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presented to the congregation during the morning worship service on Sunday 01/01/2017
I’d like to share with you something that happened to me in this church many years ago. It’s not something I’ve really talked to anyone about, but it’s something that has encouraged me and strengthened my faith and actions in recent years, so I thought it’s probably time I plucked up the courage and shared it! And I also think it’s relevant to where we are as a church today
I’m not normally the type of person that God talks to in pictures or visions, or someone that receives a word of prophesy; it’s just not normally a part of my relationship with God. And if I’m honest, I probably view people who do have this God-given gift as being way above me in spirituality and faith!
So, it was quite a shock when I experienced something very unusual for me. I think it was in the mid-80s, and it was during a service in the old church before half of it was knocked down. For this to make any sense to those of you who joined us after the building works, I need to explain a little about how the church looked at that time
The church extended out to the road, the entrance being where the flats are now. The pews, as they were then, faced this wall, with an upper balcony seating area around the edge. There was a door over there which lead into this room and could be seen from the pews below
Now the important thing is that this room looked nothing like it does now, it was an old badminton hall, with rough wooden floorboards, it was battered and run down, mostly used for the youth club, a typical old church hall, unchanged in years
So on this particular day, I was sitting downstairs at the back of the church during a Sunday service. I’m not sure who was preaching at the time, but my attention obviously wavered and I found myself drawn to the door over there that came into this room. I felt compelled to look at the door and the room beyond. And as I looked at that door, I saw a picture or a vision of the room inside, this room! Instead of a dark and empty church hall, the room was buzzing, full of people of all ages, there was an air of excitement and joy, music, the people were alive with enthusiasm, the room was fresh and bright and colourful. There was a vibrancy that is hard to put into words. I just felt a sense of something really special and amazing that was going on in that room. I knew this didn’t come out of my own thoughts or imagination, I knew this was a spiritual experience, and I felt that God was showing me a glimpse of something exciting that would happen in the future, it was some kind of promise or encouragement to me. In those moments, it really made an impact on me, it was a wonderful sight, so uplifting and entirely different to the drab, as I saw it, old fashioned church that I was sitting in!
It was the strangest experience because I knew exactly what lied beyond that door. I’d spent a lot of time in this room in my teens, playing badminton and volleyball and then jointly running the youth club in my 20s. And it’d not changed in all that time!
But I didn’t have a clue what it all meant! And it was well before any talk of dry rot or demolition! I didn’t tell anyone because I thought they’d think I was a bit mad!
So time went on, life was very busy bringing up 3 children and teaching, the years merged together and my memory of what happened in those years is blurred. I was still attending church but sometimes very disillusioned with the worship and yearning for change, but too busy myself with family and work to be proactive and get more involved. So the vision experience faded into the background and must have been pushed to the back of my mind, almost lost in my memory
What followed for the church was a very long and difficult struggle with ministry leadership, struggles with maintaining a large, old and decaying church with a diminishing membership. And, eventually with dry rot spreading through the building, the difficult decision was made to demolish the main church building and refurbish this section of the church. Through all this process, I didn’t remember the vision I’d seen! (God must’ve thought I was very slow!). Until one day when the building was complete, I realised what an amazing meeting space this was; beautiful, light and welcoming, and it was like a light-bulb moment and the memory of what I’d seen several years earlier flooded back. It was one of those tingly, thrilling moments when I realised that this was it, this was what God had shown me, it was the promise of things to come, He had plans for this church and this was only the beginning
It wasn’t an easy time that followed; we’d had years of energy and resources spent on concern about buildings and upkeep, rather than outreach and growth. And although the building was modern and new inside, real change is often slow. I admit there were many times again when I felt like I needed to try another church, but now my mind always turned to that vision I’d seen of a lively, thriving church and it stopped me from leaving
I now believe that people like Alan Easter and Derrick Hill who were Moderators for Park and Derrick as eventual minister, lead us through this difficult period for the church. God had provided these strong and faithful leaders as well as dependable and long serving deacons like June, Robin, Judith, Martin, Brian King and Brian Robinson. These people were key to enabling Park Baptist to continue as a Christian presence in the town and we should thank God for their long and faithful service
So, I suppose I felt I wanted to share this with you now, because although I believe that God is still fulfilling that vision, look where we are now! I wouldn’t have dreamed that we’d have a thriving, Portuguese speaking congregation and a growing English speaking congregation meeting and worshipping in this very room, the badminton hall! And now we have an excellent leader in Peter and look forward to exciting times ahead in collaboration with Jorge leading the Portuguese church. Amazingly, we are now beginning to think that we are outgrowing this building, so who knows where God is leading us to on the next step of our journey. It is often only when you look back that you can see God working out his purposes and realise how faithful he is
I thank God that His vision has encouraged me over the years and helped me to remain faithful to Him in difficult times. I pray that you too will be encouraged by God’s faithfulness to Park and excited about where he will take us in the future. I’m sure there will be challenges ahead but He has a work for us to do! So we pray that he will continue to give us His wisdom, strength and love as we seek to do his will in 2017
Park Baptist Church
14a Crown Road Great Yarmouth Norfolk NR30 2JN