And one of the things that was always the plan to do was for me to visit some settings that would teach me, and Hope Church, things about the months and years ahead.
Well, these trips have started and yesterday I got back from 4 great nights in Dublin, staying with friends Pete & Michelle Foster, a wonderful, faithful family. Their church, Saoirse (pronounced Seer Sha = 'Freedom' in Gaelic) has been going around 9 months longer that Hope Church, its Leader, Chris Vincent, now having been in Dublin for just under two years.
Pete & Michelle moved just two weeks before we did so it was great to be able to encourage them in every way as they have made their new life, doing so well at it, in Dublin.
So what reflections do I have from having visited this first setting? The city is a lot smaller, as I knew it would be, though the centre did remind me, on a much smaller scale, of parts of St Petersburg, as the river runs through it. There were a lot of beggars too on all the bridges, which was a surprise.
But unlike St Petersburg, as I was to find out, and what Chris Vincent found out in his first few months in the city, the people are not very focused on the centre, but on the out of town areas, the suburbs where all the housing is.
In fact, all of the team that moved over from the UK to join the plant, they are all not that far from where the church meet, in a smart Country Club, which is just on the edge of the city limits. The housing around there is certainly nice - parts of Dublin, it seems, offer a very good standard of life, even if it does come at quite a high cost.
But when they came to the city, the expectancy was for a city centre church. It was interesting to see how culture and local experience has come into play as they set out with the church. And I'm using the church word, but in a country where 'church' has meant lots of things, this is a word that isn't at first very obvious in any of the Saoirse information. Their Sunday gatherings, indeed, are called Bread.
It was encouraging to see how they have been perceptive with their surroundings, with their culture and the one million people that make up Ireland's capital city. They haven't done in with a pattern that they've used elsewhere before, in England, where they have largely had their previous experiences. They have wanted to love the city, first getting to know the city, so as to best know how to serve the city for the long term.
Certainly, it was clear to me within 30 minutes of arrival at Dublin's airport, there are many nations in Dublin, people from all over the world either visiting, or coming home - Dublin, it appears, is very much on the international map.
Their Sunday afternoon gathering, Bread, was warm and welcoming, their current venue, the country club, would certainly be in the Premier League for Sunday venues, if there ever existed such a thing, though I'm sure they won't be there that long, as they continue to make moves based on experience and the Spirit, which their history has shown them faithful in doing.
There were about 5 nationalities present on the Sunday, at least the ones I was aware of, from Australia and South Africa and Congo - to the British and of course Irish. It was a family, it was warm, welcoming and Spirit led. There was time for ministry, for prayer. Though the church is only young, there are good signs of health. And non so more than their leader, Chris, who leads by his heart, with passion for his people.
Having spent a couple of hours with him on Sunday morning, his unique approach to things was summed up by his opening question to me when he suddenly asked "So tell me, who is Tim?" I need say no more on that one here....you of course have been hearing my heart for a while now anyway...lol
And I want to finish on the Foster's, my wonderful hosts with their two beautiful children. I had not seen them in person since about April 2001, though I've always kept in touch with them, as they just seemed to always be in my mind - a quality couple. And the biggest thing was that having spent so much time with them, the feelings are grounded and true - they are Solid Gold and I told them so!
Whether this is a new role for me showing its head in these early days or not, I do not know. Travelling to cities, encouraging those that have gone as part of bigger teams - listening to them, praying for them, being there for them - seeing their world. It was a great honour. Maybe it's just these next few months, but I hope not. I loved it and am so thankful to have been able to connect in this way with not only the church plant, but with the lives of those I did. It was good to reconnect with Justin Pride, who I had not realised had moved out there, having known him from my Sidcup days.
So things went really well - it's Paris on Saturday next up...so more on that next week.
Until then, keep safe!