I took a wonderful trip to Thornaby on Tees today to visit the Methodist Community Church near the town centre. It was a glorious revelation. Over the last 10 years, the church had strived to really get behind the local people, and when you walk in, you soon realise that this is a very different experience of Church.
Nurtured by Roberto and Suzie from Brazil, Liberation Theology is lived out in practise. I met people who were supporting 'Thrive', a campaigning group struggling against debt and doorstep lending; I saw the church hall converted into a gigantic children's play area, and happy families having a good climb together; I saw a beautiful modern chapel apparently often filled by local folk at the 50 baptisms they have a year - a service involving bubbles and friendship!
The congregation are looking to secure their development as a centre for contextual liberation theology well into the future, and are preparing for a period without a minister following the decision of the Methodist Church to move Berto down to the South coast.
They are in a good place to continue their impressive work - with a leadership team enthused about liberation Theology, and packed full of skilled and gifted individuals.
I know a lot about having to leave places you love, and it will be tough on Berto and his family. However, the Holy Spirit continues to bless whatever is left behind in love. They can move on confident that they leave an empowered group of people hungry to serve the local community, determined to live out the kingdom of God.
Let us hope that the local Methodist circuit recognises the gift that churches like this are, and nurtures and supports them over the period of transition to come. Peace, prayers and blessings to all in Thornaby Community Church!