Let me introduce Rich and Anna Houghton to you. We have known them for many years having been first connected in Kidlington. Anna works as a primary school teacher and Rich works as a project manager for a design agency. They have two children and are fun-loving people that love sharing life with others in Banbury.
There's a church just north of Oxford that we're family with! Although its exciting, being actively part of a wider family of churches may be a new idea for some of you, so we want to tell the story of how we got there, and how relationships are sustained today.
Chapter 1: Oxfordshire
In the 1970s, UK churches were impacted by a new movement that came to be called both the ‘charismatic renewal’ and the ‘house church movement’. It placed emphasis on authentic community, participation in worship, spiritual gifts, and meaningful discipleship.
Recently I came across this tweet, which could sum up pretty much all that needs saying on this topic: "Church is a Spirit-filled family, not a weekly experience."
Assistant Pastor Sanjay Mahtani often puts it this way: "OCC: Community is our middle name!" And I can sometimes be heard to complain, "We don't go to church, we are the church!"
A couple of weeks ago I was talking to one of the leaders in our sister church Lifehouse (Bicester and Banbury) about the opportunities presented in Bicester as the town undergoes planned growth from 30,000 to 80,000 people, with 18,500 new jobs, by 2031.
We were talking about the sort of church we needed to be to respond to what God was doing in the town. In our conversation one phrase stood out starkly: "A church for those not yet there."
Jesus has given us this wonderful mission to go into all the world and make disciples. God has done so much for us, so we want to tell everyone how great he is! Jesus tells us “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” When it comes to mission, we usually remember the second commandment. We believe that God is just, and one day we will all face his judgment.
I've just come back from 10 days in Africa, where I was serving in my role as 'Operations Director' for our international Salt & Light family of churches, at our biannual conference, this time in Nairobi, Kenya. I've seen again the value of diversity, which is what this blog is about! For more on what I learned from the conference, read my blog a few days ago.