Last Sunday saw the launch of Bridge Church Peckham. Those of us who’ve been a part of the prayerful consideration of whether we should go ahead and do this, have also been part of a long and sometimes seemingly interminable discussion about what to call this new church! We settled on Bridge Church Peckham. Eventually. Perhaps out of conviction. Mainly out of necessity.Read More
To change the metaphor, we’re up and running. Praise God! And as low key' launches go, that was pretty good.
There were people. In fact, we had our biggest turn out yet. Let’s get the numbers bit out of the way because I know you’re all wondering. We were 32. Of that 32 two were babes in arms and four were. But kids count, right? They were a handful of guests and it could well be that some of them will return and join us. We didn’t invite ‘wellwishers’ because they can inflate your numbers for the launch and then the week afterwards the reality hits home and it can all be a little depressing! Not all our regulars could make it. So we could have been bigger. (Oh how I’ve missed those days of counting people and the arrival of a guest being disproportionately exciting!) But the bottom line is that there were enough of us for there to be a terrific buzz in the room and what looked like lots of helpful interaction and relationships being built and developed.Read More
As I drove back home from east London on Sunday morning I caught the Daily Service on Radio 4. Just for the record, that’s not a usual thing; either driving back from Stratford or listening to Radio 4’s Daily Service. I’d been dropping ‘the daughter’ at the Lee Valley Velodrome for an early morning meet for a track cycling session. I was travelling back alone. And I wanted something to listen to on the drive back south of the river. Anyway, back to the service. It was coming from a Cathedral in Glasgow. It was sophisticated, professional and impressive. And it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting! The Prayer Book Liturgy and some old hymns prevent a certain amount of doctrinal drift!Read More
It’s not what we call it; the prayer meeting. But we do believe it. ‘Powerhouse’ could work. It says what we think. Perhaps I’ll run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes it. But before I do, I have a confession to make. It’s about prayer meetings regardless of what you call them. I rarely feel like going. There you go, I’ve said it. I know. It’s rubbish. But I’m being honest. And I’m going to hazard a guess that I’m not alone! Am I right?
It’s not that I don’t like them. I do. Once I’m there and I get going. It’s the idea of them I don’t like. And it is unquestionably the case that I have attended more church prayer meetings in my Christian life than I would otherwise have done for the simple reason that I have been employed by the church that’s holding them. It’s also helped that I’ve had to be responsible for hosting and leading most of those prayer meetings. And if I don’t turn up, people notice.
But the truth is, even if it’s not a battle to get there, it’s a battle to feel like I want to be there. And, for me, the battle rages hardest during those months in the UK Calendar when it’s dark outside. And so May, June and July are my sweet spot! But even then, it’s a struggle. And it’s a struggle because I’m a sinner. I’m independent. I think I can do it on my own. I want to do it on my own. And I try to do it on my own. And prayerlessness is an assertion of independence because nothing says dependence like seeking the provision of our loving heavenly father.
And so, it was good to have our first ever ‘proper’ church prayer gathering last Wednesday. This not meant to imply that we’ve never prayed as a church before. We have. In fact, for the first six months the only meetings we had were prayer meetings. Every month. We prayed about the plausibility and possibility of planting a church in Peckham. And amazingly we can now look back on those meetings that started a year ago with retrospective fondness. Tomorrow we ‘go live’. But last Wednesday night was the first official Bridge Church Peckham prayer meeting. And it was terrific. We were few in number but that made it intimate. We were in a home and not a church building or school hall but that made it comfortable. We didn’t have a large sheet full of details but that made it spontaneous. It was like the much bigger more complex prayer meetings that I’ve had the privilege of being a part of over the past few years paired back to the simplest essence of prayer: God’s people petitioning him for his provision.
I’m not saying that my unbelieving independence has been overcome. I fully expect that to be a constant battle until my sinful nature is destroyed. But I am saying that the idea of them is that bit more attractive than they’ve been for a while. See you at the next one?
Next Sunday we go live. Normal Sunday meetings. This past Sunday was our last as a launch team. We had a magnificent bring and share lunch together. And somehow there was enough to go round. I know, go figure! Remi Adidere came and spoke to us about his experience of being a part of the Co-Mission & Grace Church Brockley church plant, New Life Catford. And he then explained and explored the implications of Jesus’ Parable of the Mustard Seed for us. We also thought afresh about why we’re doing what we’re doing just in case we’d forgotten or become unconvinced in a moment of faithless risk-averseness over the Christmas period! And we prayed.
And so next week is our low key launch. Can you see how we’re ramping back the expectations? You may think that’s somewhat lacking in adventurous faith. And you may be right. But it’s hard to make a massive impact when you’re only 25 people! And ‘launch’ conjures up images of a huge boat sliding down the slipway into the harbour after the Queen has smashed a champagne bottle on the bows of the new ship. It implies making a big splash. And we feel more like a paper boat being dropped into the Atlantic. We’re not sure the ocean of people in Peckham will notice. Not yet at least. But in time we hope. Like the mustard seed, we’d love to grow.
If I’m honest, I’m not sure that there’ll be a massive difference between the launch Sunday and launch team meetings. Those launch team meetings have involved careful sequential exposition of passages in Ephesians, occasional singing and congregational praying. That’ll sound a lot like church to those of you with a biblical ecclesiology! But this Sunday we throw the doors open to the people of Peckham. And they’ll be very welcome. After all, one of the reasons that we’re doing this is for them. As Adrian said in the recent Co-Mission video, ‘there are other faithful evangelical churches who’ve been around in Peckham a lot longer than us. But they’re not going to be able to reach every one who lives here’. Depending on where you call it quits, there are over 70,000 people in the five local electoral wards. We’re not going to be able to reach them all either. Peckham needs more church plants! But we’re focussed on our low key launch Sunday for the time being. And that seems like more than enough to be getting on with. But in God’s kindness, we have all we need in place. We have a place to meet (our temporary home in the Salvation Army building on Gordon Road, SE15). We have musicians. We have a preacher and a passage (Adrian Yeboah on Mark 1:1). We have people. We have a great God. And we have reasons to praise him.
And so, tell your friends. We’re open for business. In a manner of speaking. We’re going to be working our way through the Gospel of Mark until we finish it at some point in the summer. And so it’s ideal for anyone who wants to explore the Christian faith through one of the earliest historical accounts of his life, death and resurrection. We’ll let you know how Sunday goes at some point next week. I need to go on work on a new infographic idea I’ve been having.
So we actually pulled it off. In God’s kindness. I know you were all on tenterhooks!
Like all the very best church planting, it was all a bit last minute and seat of your pants stuff. But I wouldn’t want you to think that it wasn’t carefully planned and meticulously well implemented. It was. It’s just that you know there are going to be some unforeseen unfortunate events! My personal favourite was the moment when we lost power to the keyboard mid carols and two of us were scrabbling around on our knees in the dark trying to work out which lead had become dislodged from which socket. It was only afterwards that someone pointed out that the singlest biggest clanger of the evening had been the bit where the band played Once in Royal David’s City to the tune of Hark the Herald Angels Sing. No one seemed to notice!
All in all, it really was a terrific evening. We had loads of guests so that we were almost twice as many as we usually are. OK, that’s not that impressive if you’re only six people. But we’re normally about 25 and there were only a few shy of 50 in the room. That was terrifically encouraging. For sure, the brilliant carol services at our friends, All Saints Peckham would have been in their hundreds. But the guys who came to us weren’t planning on going to those. And so we seemed to be reaching a group of people who otherwise might not have gone to a carol service at all. That was exciting. The gospel is such good news that it’s fabulous when people get to hear it in an environment that’s conducive to listening.
As expected given the talented line up, the music was lively. The decoration was inspirational and very ‘new’ Peckham. The recycled cardboard Christmas tree and hessian baubles screamed ‘smashed avocado and knit your own yoghurt’ in a wonderfully ironic self deprecatory way. Whilst we’re on the subject of self deprecation, I think I did an adequate job in speaking. I did my best and tried to bring my ‘A’ game. I knew that I had limited time. I’m not sure what people were expecting from what we entitled as a ‘Christmessage’. My guess is that if you go to a Christian event you know there’s going to be a sermon of some sort. But I also imagine they think that’s a ten minute thought for the day kind of a thing. I stretched the ten minutes out to fifteen. And spoke quickly. Too quickly, I suspect. But I did my best to explain that the single greatest present that we could ever receive has already been given to us by God in Christ. People listened. They may well have been persuaded. Time will tell.
It may well be that we do this again. For lots of us, we’d never done anything like this before. New Year’s Eve Watch Night services are a much bigger affair. But it was good to do this. And to do it together. But we’ll probably wait till next December before doing it again!
We've got our first ever 'public-facing’ event this Sunday. I’ve done this kind of thing lots of times before. But it doesn’t get any easier. I’m a familiar mixture of unbridled excitement and paralysing anxiety. Either way, it’s not great for the stress levels and I’m not the easiest man to be around right now. I’m excited because if it all comes off, it’ll be brilliant and we’ll go into Christmas on a real high. But I’m anxious because it could all go pear-shaped. But I’m choosing not to focus on that. It could. But there's very little I can do about it!
I couldn’t think of a better event for Bridge Church Peckham to go public with, than a carol service. And it’s not simply because we love Christmas. We do. After all, what’s not to love about mince pies, mulled wine and historic folk music about Good King Wenceslas. But one of the key drivers for wanting to start a new church in Peckham is to join with other local churches who are trying to reach the people of Peckham with the good news about Jesus Christ. And this seems to be a good time of year to do that. People seem genuinely willing to engage with spiritual things around Christmas. It’s as though society temporarily lets its guard down and puts its occasionally suspicious demeanour to one side! We’re allowed to talk openly and even enthusiastically about Jesus Christ; who he was, why he came and what difference he makes. And that’s exactly what we’re about. That’s our greatest passion. We want people who may never have had a meaningful opportunity to engage with the Bible’s take on the biggest issues of life, to have that chance. And if we and our carol service this Sunday afternoon can contribute to that, we’ll be thrilled. We’ll be in Peckham Springs for a 4 pm start and we’d love for you and your friends to join us.
Back in the summer, we were able to announce to the assembled gathering at our ‘Planting in Peckham’ prayer meeting that Adrian Yeboah had agreed to join us on the leadership team. That was terrific news. And it remains terrific news!
We’d been putting lots of important things on hold until we had someone like Adrian in place. We always wanted to have a culturally and ethnically diverse leadership team. Nigel and Richard really are quite different to one another. But they don’t look like it. If we’re honest, they’re both middle aged, middle class white men. If we’re ever going to ‘grow a church in Peckham of such diversity that it can only be explained by the gospel’, we knew that we simply had to find someone who was representative of a different culture to them. And we were prepared to wait until we found that individual. Wonderfully God has provided a man who was not only willing to work with them, he seems genuinely enthusiastic about doing so!
Adrian has been married to his wife, Abigail since January 2015. Together they are parents to a lively toddler, Mickey. Adrian is a currently at London Seminary, where he is studying theology and we will be supporting him as he completes his course over the next few years. Abigail combines being a Mum and wife with working full-time in business consultancy providing insight into the way management teams function.
Born in London and descended from Ghanaian parents they are now living in Peckham. It’s wonderful to be working together to try to grow an intentionally multi ethnic, multi cultural and multi generational church in Peckham.
We’re hugely grateful for the assistance of those who’ve helped the Richard, Nigel and Adrian in their ongoing conversation and the many who’ve been praying behind the scenes. It’s also worth saying that together the three of us will be working on further strengthening the leadership team by diversifying the composition of that group. At present Nigel will fill the role of Senior Elder. Richard will be the Lead Planter. And Adrian will come on board as the Minister in Training whilst he completes his studies at London Seminary. But please continue to pray that the Lord provides us with the godly, able leaders that Peckham needs.
This appointment has been the product of a considerable period of prayerful reflection by all concerned. That’s not because we were uncertain so much as we were all acutely aware that the relational fit and chemistry will matter hugely as we embark on a new thing together. I imagine the devil would love to see us distracted, disagreeing and disunited and so please pray that we’re humble, gentle, respectful, prayerful, careful to listen, clear in speech, of one mind and enjoy these early stages of trying to plant a church together.
So, it’s been a while hasn’t it? Sorry about that. Lots has been happening. But it’s all been behind the scenes. We’ve got so much we want to tell you. And we will. But this is most important slash urgent right at the moment.
We’re providing a Christmas Carols event for the people of Peckham. Other carol service providers are available. But this is ours. And we’re a little bit excited. We’d love you and your friends to come. It’s on Sunday 16th December. We’re starting at 4 pm. And the best bit is that it’s in Peckham Springs.
Just so that you know what to expect, let me describe what I think we’re looking at. We’re thinking six carols, some Christmas readings, a ten-minute Christmessage (did you see what we did there?!), mulled wine and mince pies and loads of social interaction. Come if you can. And bring your friends.
It was over breakfast, yesterday in Streatham, that I realised the time had come to return to blogging. It's been a while. For a number of years I'd dumped a whole heap of ill-informed opinion online at theurbanpastor. But there's been a six month hiatus caused largely by stepping back from being the Senior Minister at Christ Church Balham and needing to give my attention to what was coming next. However, in conversation with a good friend who was considering whether to join our launch team over a flat white and an enormous croissant, I realized that people simply didn't know where we'd got to in our plans to plant in Peckham. And so this is an attempt to address that.
It's going to be an account of church planting; from the inside, through the eyes (and heart) of a planter. I simply want to keep people up to speed on what's going on and where the Lord has brought us thus far. I won't be able to tell you everything. But I'll try to tell you more than I should. I'll preserve people's anonymity where to reveal their identity would be to cross a boundary. So whether you're likely to come to join us, or whether you're intrigued by what we're doing or whether you just want to know what planting feels like and looks like from the inside then hopefully this diary of a church plant will give you an insight into what's involved.
A whole heap has happened already. And I'll need to bring you up to speed on that. We're not where we want to be, at this point in time. We'd love to be further on. But we're not where we were this time last year. Just like my Christian life! But we have much to give thanks to God for. And I'll spell out some of that in the posts that follow.