I have been asked “what is the story, vision and mission of Busbridge&Hambledon Church, your Church of England church, in your area?” It could be summed up as ‘aspiration for something different’
There is a general election coming up. It may be tempting to withdraw, be cynical, see only failed aspirations and seek isolation or darkness. This temptation is as old as time itself. The philosopher Plato wrote “we can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light”. (Plato, c350BC). He could have been writing about our lives, today. Fear seems to be quite a strong currency; whether it is fear of uncertainty, losing control, absence of hope or vision, illness, ‘found out’ for who you really are, bewilderment as to who or what our nation is about, or just plain resignation that things can be different.
Lots of organisations have vision and mission statements. Here’s one that I find inspirational: “A world where all children grow up feeling safe, loved and joyful”. It’s by a firm called ‘Life is Good’. Their core product is T’Shirts. It’s an impressive aspiration for a T’shirt manufacturer.
What if Busbridge&Hambledon Church of England Church had a core value, identity and purpose? What would it be? This question has led our church to form a vision and mission description shaped around the story of who we are as a church.
It may be obvious, but our story as a church is about Jesus Christ – the easy bit. It is more difficult to work out what this means: is it a true story? Even if true, what does this mean today? How do you share such a story in a world that is more than slightly sceptical of religion? Is a church that has this story only for those who believe it, or is it meant to be there for everyone at every stage of their life?
We see our place here as threefold. It’s a mission of playing our part in transforming the local community, loving God and making disciples.
Transforming Community. Is about being and doing what the Bible calls ‘good work’. Being a Christian is, in our view, a good thing. It means that we as a church must do good things in, for and with the community. It is about asking what a church can do and be to help improve the area. If we have nothing to add then we are not a truly Christian family but just sitting on the hill serving our own ends. It’s a constant challenge for us: do we live what we believe? If the wider community thinks BusbridgeandHambledon church family is only interested in itself then we’ve failed in our mission to bring good transformation to the local area.
Loving God. Is about recognising God for who He is. Research in recent years has found that many people today have absolutely no awareness of mystery, awe or transcendence. People are not against this, it is just that their world is so full of things, activity and stress that space for deeper meaning has been eroded. Our mission is to help people seek and experience the presence of God. Do we get this right all the time? No. BusbridgeandHambledon church is about as perfect as a chocolate teapot. The important thing is that we know this, but also know a perfect, forgiving and incredible God.
Making Disciples. Is where the rubber hits the road. We want to be a church that is intentional about helping people learn about Jesus, change habits to reflect this, and have a different view of the world and people based on active Christian faith. People grow into all sorts of shapes, sizes, personalities and mess-ups. Being a disciples of Jesus means we treat people as important because they are created by God rather than for what they can give us, do for us or help us achieve. We treat money not as ours, but as given to us by God for good works. We treat ourselves as part of God’s beautiful creation, and learn to value ourselves based on this rather than external trappings.
So our mission as a church is Transforming Communities, Loving God and Making Disciples. This leads us to ask what the mission is about. It should feed into our overall vision. This is about our core purpose – something that is summed up in a clarity about what we aspire to here.
We believe that this nation is in great need of a reawakening into Christian faith. We think the Godalming area is important in this and has a crucial part to play in improving Society. So, our vision is to bring the nation to Christ, starting right here, and unfolding in BusbridgeandHambledon. It means playing our part in and for the good of the community, rather than about just serving our own needs; we draw attention to the powerful existence of God; we offer ways to learn about Jesus which brings change for good into individual lives and families.
So, what can we all do? Whether you are a Christian or not, one thing we can all do is vote. Voting is an exercise in expressing belief and values. By crossing one box you are revealing to yourself, in the privacy of that moment, not only your beliefs but also that which you do not stand for. The system may not be perfect, the people voted for are known to be imperfect and we, the people, are certainly far from perfect but if we fail to vote we are withdrawing into darkness and that darkness is partly about ourselves.
For me, voting is partly about a vision for a nation that comprehends the incredible love of Christ. It starts here, in this area with each of us.