Tim Magowan asked me to share something about my congregation, Fitzroy Presbyterian’s, relationship with the Tearfund Discovery Course at the recent Presbyterian Special Assembly.
I was pleased to do because Discovery has been profoundly helpful on Fitzroy’s recent journey of trying to imagine and implement Biblical, and thus holistic, mission in our local area.
I arrived at the Church at the end of 2009 and though Fitzroy make missional impressions across Belfast there were only a couple of projects that targeted the area immediately surrounding our Church building and we were itching to work out how we might add to those. As we were praying and pondering about such things the South Belfast Presbytery suggested that we should use Discovery as we put together our Mission Plan which is obligatory to all Presbyterian congregations.
What the course did was to enable us to start that thinking process. It was very practical. Find out and celebrate what you are. Then audit the area. Then dream dreams and begin to prepare a team to fulfil the potential. One of the benefits we had was to send six people who therefore got to start this thinking process together. Since the course this group has continued to meet in order to help flesh out how we can follow through.
As a result of Discovery my preaching this autumn is going to be a Biblical study and celebration of who we are. We have put a team together to both start relating to the local community but also gathering information about local needs and opinions of who we are. This group will be divided into groups liaising with “hotels”, “retail” and “residents” and be continual connections to those groups over the next number of years.
These are first steps but these steps and our journey ahead has been greatly influenced by this two day course that we found practical, Biblical and inspirational. I would greatly encourage every congregation to do the course and, from our experience, do it with a group from your own Church and if possible do it with a couple of other Churches in your area or town so that you can share information and ideas.
One of the things that struck me about the Presbyterian Special Assembly was David Bruce’s thought that Presbyterians have been historically inward looking. He spoke of how at the time of the plantations we built bawns around our homes and farms and protected ourselves inside them. He challenged us to be “confident in Christ” (the Assembly’s title) and to break out of these historical bawns in our mission. Discovery is the perfect resource to help us do just that.
Rev Steve Stockman