My husband Sam and I have been planting a church in London since August and our main demographic is university students, because we’re based in Roehampton. We’re supported by church-planting network Co-Mission’s Antioch Plan, however in this grassroots stage, our ‘plant’ is really just Sam and I!
Even though I was a student only three years ago myself, I’d kind of forgotten the ‘sleep all day, play all night’ mind-set that students often have! It’s been a change of gear, because you need to be super-flexible: someone could rock up to a meeting an hour late, or miss it altogether, or be hesitant to leave our house before midnight! It’s been good for us to learn to be adaptable for the sake of loving others, rather than keeping to my plan!
We both work part-time, and the rest of our time is filled with reading the Bible with students, helping equip the Roehampton Christian Union in their work, and enjoying hanging out in our home - often with students and always with food!
Currently, our ‘church’ looks like us proactively meeting students, doing a weekly questionnaire on campus (aiming to discover and discuss students’ worldviews), and inviting people to dinner and a discussion on Tuesday evenings called Big Life Questions. We’ve had around 15 students from all sorts of backgrounds come along sporadically, and it’s been exciting so far! Next term we’re planning on transforming this into a Bible study for a ‘core’ group, and also starting up a midday course.
Christmas this year, our first in our little church plant, was actually on the 8th December, as we have to hold it within term-time. We hosted a Christmas gathering instead of our usual Big Life Questions evening. All the classics: minced pies, mulled wine and Bublé in the background. We had no idea how many to expect, but we ended up with five of us. We had a lovely festive evening, although instead of our planned talk on Christmas, we just spent lots of time chatting and playing Articulate!
In these early stages, with no formalised service, Advent traditions aren’t really a feature of our church. Our prime desire is to build relationships with people, meeting them where they’re at and introducing them to the person of Jesus. But where we can, we’ll invite people to our supporting church’s carol service.
Sam and I both come from a Christmas culture where carol services, ad hoc carol singing in the local area, Christmas parties and an informal family friendly Christmas day service are the norm. We both love Christmassy music and the opportunity Christmas is for everyone and anyone to get stuck in, enjoy the festive spirit and hear the message of Christmas.
It’s a real privilege to reflect that we really have gone from zero to something! We had no idea what to expect at the start of this year, but God’s brought people into our path and helped build relationships. Our big prayer for 2016 is for a core group to form, as we’re still really small, and for people to get to know Jesus. In this Advent season, the major learning curve for us has to be learning to depend on God: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)