Home Mission Update: The Stowe
The Stowe has been supported by Home Mission since 2009 when one family moved into a brand new housing development in Swindon, ready to unconditionally bless those who moved in. Owen Green, minister at The Stowe, has sent us this report about how this young church is continuing to grow.
Covenanting to the journey
‘God, send more workers, for the harvest is plenty, but the workers are tired?’
This was the prayer of The Stowe two years ago, and God did, just in time! New people joined, unusually many of them were already Christians, some who already lived in the community, some who moved in, and others who felt God’s call to join us but who lived elsewhere. Praise God, I was part of that group when I was called to co-minister with Alison Boulton.
These new ‘old’ Christians were to varying degrees perplexed by what it was they had joined. The Stowe had echoes of previous churches they had known, but somehow it was different, and soon they began to make suggestions, outwardly sensible, about what we could do to make it better.
But better isn’t the same as authentic, so when God called the trustees to focus on the ‘DNA’ of The Stowe, to guard that which we had been called into being for, a new phase of Stowe life began. DNA Sundays were conversations about what the DNA meant and why it was important to us. The heart below ‘emerged’ as a representation of the DNA, which could be summarised as; ‘Laying down our lives, stepping out of our comfort zones to unconditionally bless people of all faiths and none.’ These conversations led to a desire to covenant together. This wasn’t a rushed process, allowing time for all to join the conversation, until God spoke again, through the comment of one who said; ‘I get it now, you’re asking us to covenant to the journey.’ This ended the questions; we couldn’t tell people what we were going to do, but we could promise them that we would journey faithfully together in living out the DNA. And that’s what we have done.
God is so gracious. He gave our growing little faith community the space to understand who we were and what he was calling us to before the next phase of development.
Initially planned for two years before, Middle Wichel is now taking shape, the 1000 homes are on their way, the secondary school is being built, with planning permission in for the pub and hotel, and the medical centre and retirement homes to follow. (The picture above shows the ‘turf cutting’ ceremony for the school). We could not have contemplated what being The Stowe and being present in this context would look like until we had covenanted, yet we had not set out to get to the point of covenanting before we started. It was God who drew us together and prepared us. Like the groundworks for the secondary school, God was doing the groundwork with us.
So now The Stowe is being invited by the ‘Wichelstowe project team’ to work with them helping to facilitate whatever community is formed in the new housing. We have held our first event, run by those who have covenanted in The Stowe, inviting people to name and write their dreams, wishes, prayers for the new community on our ‘Dreamboat.’ It’s a dreamboat because the development overlooks the picturesque canal.
And we have begun working in partnership with Wroughton Parish Church. God has been good to us here too. What could potentially have been a challenging relationship has seen us both recognise, around the communion table, that it is God’s mission to which he calls us both, it is his table to which he invites us to come as we are, that his provision is abundant, that it is Christ in us that is the hope of Glory, not The Stowe or Wroughton Parish Church, and that there is still space at the table for others to join.
Praise God for answered prayers, the groundwork continues, but the harvest is still plentiful, so the workers need to be deployed now.