Yesterday evening, 10th April, we launched “New Song Café Southampton” at my home church. For those not in the know, this is a “Fresh Expression” of Church that is built around two sets of six worship songs (12 in total), interspersed with coffee, chat, cake, a brief message, prayer and opportunities for witness and mutual encouragement.
In all sorts of ways it was a great “success”:
- At least seven churches were represented;
- A number of people attended who don’t normally attend church;
- Some people had brought colleagues along;
- Attendance was about double what I had anticipated;
- Engagement in the singing was fantastic.
There is a temptation, then, to expect a “but” following a list like that, isn’t there? “It was great, but…
- …We need to not get complacent, or
- …the sound could have been better, or
- …we should have planned for more, or
- …we must remember who it is all for…”
You get the idea. All of these things are true, but sometimes, I think we should also just allow ourselves to CELEBRATE and recognise when we feel that God has done something really special.
As I prepared to lead the evening, and after three hours of setting up, I decided that I needed to just stop fiddling and fussing and prepare myself spiritually. A lot of prayer had already gone before, but this was a moment when I knew that I had to hand it all over to God. I turned to the nearest person and said, “I just need someone to pray with me.” I closed my eyes and two people just gathered with me – one was Kate, my wife, and the other a friend, Jane, who prayed into this “birthing moment”. There was an intimacy in this prayer and in this moment, despite all the busyness around us, and the last-minute preparations still going on, there was a sense in which I felt that God was releasing me from “responsibility” and saying,
“Nigel – I can take it from here… be at peace.”
I guess that a physical birth must sometimes have an element of that – all the preparations have been done; the home has been prepared, medical appointments attended, people informed, clothing purchased… but there comes a moment when you recognise that, whether you feel completely ready or not, this child is going to arrive anyway!
So, as the clock ticked away to 7:00 pm, there was, for a moment, a settling in prayer; a handing over to God – to the Holy Spirit. A moment when all my striving, and that of the fantastic team, became secondary to what God was about to do. He was about to touch lives and touch hearts; He was about to breathe upon us; He was about to transform guitar and voices – and drums and lights – and decorations – and even cake from something physical and mundane into something spiritual; something that can stir hearts and lift the spirit and open our souls to the possibility that even here, in this place, there is an Open Heaven – a place where heaven and earth meet and the Good Good Father rejoices with us in the intimacy of worship and new birth.