Faith Matters by Robin Gurney of Leighton-Linslade Churches Together...
As we approach the end of another year it seems to be a good time to take stock of what is happening in our churches. A recent meeting of Leighton Linslade Churches Together (LLCT) not only elected new officers for the coming year but also revealed the extent of church activities in the town.
The meeting heard how the town’s newest church, the Church of the Good Shepherd, serving the southern estates, has celebrated its first birthday and counts around 120 people attending each week. It heard of the continued church support for the Street Pastors, whose Saturday night and early Sunday morning patrols are much appreciated, not only by the revellers but by the town council and mayor, the local MP and the police.
Then there are the ongoing groups sponsored by the LLCT: Books for Schools gave £300 worth of Christian books to two town schools during the past year; teams of people tell the Bible stories to school assemblies on a weekly basis through what is known as Open the Book, and churches are actively helping the Homeless Project by providing meals and continually restocking the food banks.
The Ecology Group continues to ensure that churches are alert to the environmental concerns.
And if any think that is all inward looking, then consider this: all the churches in the town contributed towards filling a shipping container with essential supplies which was sent to Sierra Leone to help combat the Ebola crisis.
This picture of ongoing activities comes at the beginning of Advent when the churches are at their busiest.
Look around town at this time and you will find a Christmas Tree Festival at St Barnabas, a Nativity Festival at Trinity Methodist, any number of Christingle services and a wide range of other activities designed not only for church members but to draw everyone’s attention to the essential part of the Christmas story, the birth of Jesus Christ.
While this picture of almost frantic activity highlights the dedication of church members it is also necessary to draw attention to the constant need for new participants, more volunteers. The Street Pastors, for instance, while enjoying good financial support, urgently need volunteers to keep up their patrols next year. Street Pastors have to be members of a local church and are expected to undertake intensive training before they become active on the streets. Open the Book teams are welcomed in the town’s schools but urgently need more people to do a spot of acting out of the Bible stories. And volunteers are always needed to help with the services to the homeless.
Christmas is seen as a time of giving -- it is often easier to put the hand in the pocket and drop a fiver into the collection than to step out from a comfortable fireside to spend a few hours being a practical Christian. As the Good Book says “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead”.