We are now well into 2019 and that signifies the start of our WRBC150 birthday celebrations! Here's a line from our minister Andrew on what we've been up to already!
PROGRAMME • PROJECTS • PROMOTION • PRAYER • PRAISE
In just the first week of this year we have many reasons to be encouraged in our life together, but as we look back over 150 years, to God be the glory for the things that He has done in us and through us as well as for us!
The origin of the church was as a railway mission in response to the spiritual needs of the thousands of railway employees, staffing the then-new travel technology of the mid 19th century, and with so many families living in the expanding town. And the church grew rapidly with hundreds of children joining the Sunday school, and within two years of the initial meetings, a church was formally constituted, which then within a decade had grown to be able to take on the building project that means that today we have such a splendid church building for our worship and for other events. It cost £2500 in the 1870s, and what a gift to us in this generation, even if there is a duty of care and expense towards its ongoing upkeep and maintenance.
We praise God for Richard Johnson, Chief Engineer with the railway company, whose vision, generosity and endeavour saw the church flourish from its earliest days.
And still today we seek to serve the needs of the community of Hitchin. The railway workers have mostly gone, but Hitchin is still dependent on the railway to get many commuters into London each day (more or less effectively!). There are so many lonely people; loneliness is a problem for the elderly who find they cannot get out and about so much – but it is a problem for many adults too, in a culture where more and more people are living in a single adult household – even children and young people speak of feeling lonely even in a world of hi-tech instant communication and social media - and so we keep seeking ways to engage with people and to encourage people to come together, to share together – it’s for the good of us all that we relate, or as the old advert put it “it’s good to talk”.
During these two weeks of 2019 we have been involved in Somewhere to Go (Day 3 was on New Year’s Day), providing a safe warm place with food and companionship on offer to anyone who wants it, and all without charge thanks to the generosity of a team of volunteers from the church and from beyond the church. Something significant to praise God for!
On 2nd January, we gathered to cover the celebrations of our 150th year in prayer, even as some from the church have committed to pray between 9pm and 10pm each day for the past six months and more! We covered that prayer commitment by praying at the start of our year between 8pm and 11pm, with 65 person-hours of prayer offered together. And in case your notion of prayer is of a holy huddle engaged in long periods of silence, or yet perhaps some Victorian style of extended speech by a church worthy or two, we had a joyful set of sessions that whizzed by, not least as we praised God for who He is and all that He has done. Psalm 150 (for our 150th year, get it?!) provided a great note of encouragement to us as we praised, even without the range of musical instruments on offer that are referred to there! Thanks to Janet, Andrew and Steve J for their leading, as well as to all who came and took part.
And on Friday 4th January the tone was rather more sombre as we came together for the memorial service of our oldest and longest serving member Isabel - of course hardly a planned event for our anniversary year, and yet somehow the timing was appropriate. She joined our church in 1935 as a teenager, baptised by immersion in the pool as is our tradition, and she has belonged throughout the 83 years since (more than half of the 150 years of WRBC!). For more than 40 years she was our voluntary caretaker, rising very early every Sunday in the colder weather in order to light and stoke the coal-fired boiler that gave warmth to the building. She would set out the chairs for meetings, and then put them away afterwards, and she also cleaned the church premises each week. She was an endless source of energy in providing acts of kindness and generosity to people, as well as loving her own family with devotion and care, and was known as a volunteer working with British Legion and Girlguiding too. And so here too is another significant reason and opportunity to offer praise and thanks to God for what our life together has meant to this remarkable lady because of her understanding of and wholehearted response to God’s generous love.
This all meant that by the time we reached the first Sunday of the year (6th January), there was already much to prompt our worship, even before we came to consider the Christmas story of wise men seeking the infant Jesus – Follow the star, Find the baby, Worship the king – and to commit ourselves afresh as the people of God to living the life of God’s people even at the start of a new year. In the evening on Sunday, led by our still-new church worker Janet, we praised and prayed our way in faith around the nation and its life, seeking God’s healing for our land. Let it be so.
Praise the Lord!