Friday, August 16, 2013

Dying we rise

I write with news of change. We have decided, after ten years, that it is time to wind up White Stone, our community house on Leamington Road and its wider household membership. After a few months’ prayer and thought for the whole of our church congregation in Coventry, the decision was made to strengthen our communities by closing one of our five houses and rejigging the teams in the remaining four.

But which one to close? It is, I suppose, a good sign that no household rushed to volunteer! As it happens, the White Stone team had been showing signs of considerable strain for some time. We've had some truly wonderful times over the years, with a cast of amazing people sharing the journey – but it hadn't always been easy (see posts like this, this, and this!) and the core team had grown tired and some had suffered a degree of burn-out. It had become difficult to generate fresh energy and forward momentum.

Our story on a scroll; our calling on a carving.
So we’re ‘quitting while we're still ahead’ or something like that. We’ve been very supported by our local friends – that’s helped enormously in a tough time. Needless to say, it’s a time of grieving and loss for us. But it’s also the right move, I believe. One of my dearest friends (and fellow White Stone pioneer) coined an apt neologism to describe the sensation: ‘grelief’ – an odd combination of grief and relief. This just about sums it up.

A number of us are going to move to one of our other community houses in the area. My wife, children and I, however, are going to live in our own place for a while and take stock. We'll still be linked to the community – part of a common purse, and maybe even with one or two others living with us – but we're looking forward to having some more time and space. People are referring to it as our 'sabbatical' which sounds rather nice (in reality I'll still be working for the church and three children mean that life is never exactly quiet!)  

It's a big change for us, this sabbatical from load-bearing leadership. We need time and space to be restored and find fresh vision and direction. Please pray for us.

The house on Leamington Road probably won't be sold, but used somehow. It may even house a newly formed community team. That would be rather wonderful – the house has been a place for God and we’d love it to continue to be. We’ll see.

In my bleaker moments I can feel only loss, pain, bewilderment, anger: ‘Our holy and beautiful house and all our pleasant places have become ruins’ (Isaiah 64:11). Yet at other times, I remember that death is God’s way into eternal life. ‘It is in dying that we’re born to eternal life.’ After all, we follow Jesus, crucified and raised.

I don’t know about you, but my natural mentality doesn’t easily grasp the paradox of life from death (even if it is all over the New Testament I claim to live by). In the latter half of his ministry, Jesus repeatedly told his disciples he had to die. And repeatedly ‘they did not understand what he was saying, and were afraid to ask him’ (Mark 9:32). After he was raised they were as slow to understand: ‘Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ (Luke 24:26).

It was necessary. ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’ (John 12:24).

From Jesus’ death, freely chosen, came life for the world. I pray that from our small ‘death’, freely embraced, new opportunities may spring; new dreams, new joys – new life.


Rachel said...

Thanks for sharing that. Been feeling a little bit of that grelief with you all too. Look forward to hearing about the new doors when they start to creak open.

Daniel Stonell said...

You will all be well supported (as long as you come to Kings!!!)

Aidan Ashby said...

Amen, amen.

Reminded me of the first chapter of a book, Church Transfusion, that I read last night. It described God's "upside down" Kingdom and basically said the way to win for Jesus is to be small, slow, unknown and weak. No, I don't get it either, but I guess that's the point- trust (and therefore love) is required.

James, you've proven to be one of the best, not by self-made successes but by your selfless acceptance.

Dave said...

Much grace to you James... you continue to inspire.

pierscjc said...

Very well put, and your heart comes through. Feel loved and cheered on from every side. We have closed five other houses in our region over the years but pressed on nonetheless. Battles may be lost (or seem so) but the war is own! 'Only by grace...'