Building Community by the Sea
This month we caught up with one of the communities on the South Coast to find out how God has been using times of difficulty to bring breakthrough…
I guess this a story of a “Holy Spirit set up” and an example of just being aware of what God is doing and joining in with it.
It began back in the summer of 2016 when my husband began cold water swimming in the sea and I followed suit a year later. It turned out that there was a bit of a community going on down on the beach , and over time we became part of its growing number.
Looking back I can see how we were naturally getting involved in “rhythms” of life; birthdays were celebrated (many on the beach), stories and meals were shared, carol “services” at our house and so on. Over time conversations were naturally becoming more supernatural – people were genuinely interested in our faith and it would come up regularly as we talked.
One of the swimmers (a doctor) hosted two sessions – one on the “health benefits of cold-water swimming” and later on “what is healthy diet?” – both were well attended. Off the back of that we offered to share our story about spiritual wellbeing using Alpha as a vehicle – it was the longest Alpha ever in that it spanned about six months so we could flex to the 10 not-yet-believers’ availability.
It was hard-going – in fact I told them (jokingly) that at times I had felt at times like a “Christian punch bag”. When Alpha finished (September last year) we handed it all to God and our friendships carried on as before. I needed time to just “be” as it had taken a lot out of me.
This year has been memorable for all, and not least on the beach; two beach ladies lost their husbands very suddenly, and of course, stories of loss and struggle were plentiful. Initially the total lockdown had us all dispersed but in the summer months the beach was a-buzzing more than ever.
Fast forward to August when a Christian friend (not from our church) called me out of the blue and asked where I was up to with God and why wasn’t I doing anything about my calling. After praying on the beach with my husband and another Christian swimmer friend, that Sunday we held what I loosely refer to as a “service”, working out of a generously loaned beach hut. That was the first of several meetings where we share a bible-based thought for the day, talking it through with coffee and croissants , offering prayer, sharing stories… There are about 20 folk, although we don’t come all at once.
God has blessed us richly at these gatherings and beyond. One of the ladies from last year’s Alpha has joined us on two occasions, listening respectfully and saying she enjoyed it (praise God) and one of the widows mentioned earlier is a regular and is “beginning her journey”. One week we had a focus on “holding onto hurts” and one guy went on to make peace with two people for whom he’d harboured resentment for several years, sharing with them about God. I could go on…
Let me just say it’s been a season of breakthrough, surprises and miracles. There is really potential for growth and for God to do so much, which is both exciting and challenging. Please pray for us as we navigate the challenges of Covid-19 restrictions, the winter weather drawing in and finding others to lead with us. And lastly, even if you don’t know them, please pray for the people God wants to reach.