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REBUILDING COMMUNITY AROUND THE CHURCH

(This is an article written in the Church News of the Fountain of Life, a new church in the Norfolk village of Ashill, written by the curate Adam Poole, about a new venture in the market town of Swaffham.)

Have you ever tried to learn a new language? For some it comes naturally, for others (like myself) it can seem like an impossible mountain to climb! However, bit by bit, day by day, it's amazing how much the human brain can adapt and grow to accommodate a whole new way of talking! Personally, I am in the throes of trying to recapture some of the Greek I had picked up during our time in Cyprus 4 years ago. One of the things I find myself recapping regularly are those pesky prepositions that come up all over the place. Words like 'to','with', 'in', 'at', 'on' etc. One day, after another hard- fought battle with prepositions in the Duolingo language learning app I found myself pondering these words for our church, and I believe there's a challenge to be found in which prepositions we use to describe our mission to our local

community...

Often our role is to do things ‘to’ a community. To be counter cultural and display a radically different way of living. Other times we are called to do things 'for' a community. To see the needs right where we are and step into the gap to be the hands and feet of Jesus. And on occasions we are invited to do things 'with' a community. Working together with our neighbours for the good of the neighbourhood. (Of course, there should be overlaps between these three approaches to mission, as there are also overlaps in the grammar of prepositions!)) Remarkably, in the past couple of weeks, the Fountain of Life church plant in Swaffham has been presented with an opening door for us to partner 'with' the Town Council for the good of Swaffham. In a miraculous series of events, following our enquiry into a potential empty space in the town, the council have become somewhat of a driving force in helping us get up and running to work for the good of Swaffham and its people!

As we met with the council, concerned for ‘the peace and prosperity of the city’, (Jeremiah 29:7) and outlined our vision for the Fountain of Life in Swaffham, we saw many in authority buzz with excitement at the prospect of our church family being the hands and feet of Jesus in the town (although they might not use those exact words!).

Since then, numerous doors have appeared to fling wide open for the transforming love of God to shine throughout Swaffham! It would appear that our prepositions for mission have been expanded from 'to' and 'for', to include 'with' in a matter of weeks! Jeremiah, writing to an exiled people far from home, is given these words for God's people to hold to, wherever they go: ‘…seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.' As a church we want to bless our neighbourhoods, we want to see our mission as something we do 'to, 'for' and 'with' our community, and it appears that God is keen to set up opportunities for us to just that.

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