“Life is a pilgrimage of learning, a voyage of discovery, in which our mistaken views are corrected, our distorted notions adjusted, our shallow opinions deepened and some of our vast ignorances diminished.” John RW Stott (1977) Christian Mission in the Modern World

I originally read the above quote during my time at Bible College in the 1980’s and it has always resonated with my own personal experience and faith journey.

Having been in post at Trinity for nearly six years I thought I would share some reflection on my ‘voyage of discovery’ and I will use a focus on the aart work which now adorns one of the walls at the back of Trinity to share some of this reflection.

To begin with, the biggest challenge at Trinity is keeping hold of our original intention: “I watched them painstakingly create the painting. At each stage the artists were deeply aware of the end picture.” 

Stephen Covey, the late motivational speaker coined the phrase, “The main thing is, to keep the main thing, the main thing”. All churches at times lose focus on their prime purpose and Trinity faces the same danger.  “The church’s mission is not merely to fill pews, or to build more or bigger churches, but to be the presence of Christ in the world, an effective expression of divine love and grace.” (Dave Tomlinson)

How we live and love as individuals and as a church authenticates the message we seek to share. This focus has to be always before us.

Furthermore, I am aware of the immensity of God’s blessing upon the ongoing work at Trinity: “The picture displays the immense catch of fish and speaks of abundance.”

Trinity is blessed in so many ways in terms of the building, volunteers, and in its support by the wider Methodist churches, but at the same time we are also recognising our total dependence on God. God has worked and continues to work in the life of Trinity. Worship and work go hand in hand.

I have also learned the value of imperfection: “I was talking to a worker from HSBC bank who queried why in the painting on the wall we had left the fan duct and pipe on full view.”

This reminds me that the ongoing work and mission at Trinity happens in the midst of life’s imperfections – our imperfections. The kingdom of God operates in the normality and messy part of life. I guess if we wait for perfection it will never happen.

Then I think about the challenge of inclusion: “It is interesting to reflect on the two boats and consider which boat we would have sailed in. And who would I want in my boat?”

Trinity has certainly taught me the reality and challenge of inclusion, particularly when faced with the diversity of individuals who come through our open doors each day. The concept of inclusion inevitably challenges our prejudices and preconceived ideas, particularly as you begin to unravel people’s stories. The lesson for myself is really about who we value. We see how God assesses human value through the eyes of Jesus. Value is, of course, not to do with pounds or position, status or celebrity, or even religious orthodoxy, but in recognising that all are beloved.

This leads on to the danger of “first impression”:  “As we reflect on the individuals in the painting, we certainly ask ourselves about their story. What led them to be in the boat?”

I have learned that many people carry a load that I could never imagine bearing myself. When you listen to some of the stories you become aware that rather than standing in judgment we must stand in awe at their ability to carry their load and hopefully extend compassion in the best way we can. “You want to move away from whatever is tiny-spirited and judgmental, and you want to be as spacious as you can be, because God is spacious”. (Greg Boyle)

I have also certainly learned the value of interruption:  “It would seem in the painting that Jesus is turning his head to face another distraction.”

People often ask me about my role and certainly a major part of my work is dealing with the interruptions of daily life at Trinity.  “My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered my interruptions were my work.” (Henri Nouwen)

It is often true that when people present themselves there is an immediate crisis that for them is debilitating and requires some response. The reality is that we cannot find an answer to every need but hopefully each individual is treated with respect and given a welcome. I have certainly learnt that Trinity is a continual place of interruptions but they do form the central part of the life and work as people’s needs surpass our well laid plans.

Finally I have continued to learn the value of investment in relationships:  “Each brick is valuable to the whole picture and remove the bricks and you lose the picture.”

Trinity functions at best in building relationships with individuals and in partnership with other agencies who are seeking to work in the community and make a difference to people in terms of their health and wellbeing.

An agency worker who attends Wednesday Welcome shared with me last week that the work at Trinity had “rekindled his faith” and that he was now reading his Bible again. He remarked that each week he looked forward to being in this community of people.  One lady wrote recently, “I came to the church service almost by accident. We had a group of refugees from Iran. I was so profoundly affected by the story of their journey to be here and as a mark of respect and solidarity attended some services, explaining English along the way. Well, I’ve been here ever since. I actually enjoy coming and I can truly say that Trinity is my home from home and the people have become my family. I have become a member of the church, been baptised.”

These stories certainly are not unique and the collective narrative creates a tapestry that weaves together to become a picture that displays the Spirit of God working in so many ways. Each story is different and there is certainly no uniform pattern but where love is demonstrated, God is found in a myriad of ways.

Nigel Mountford (Mission Development Officer)