|The kingdom is like an acorn...|
|Written by Peter Johnston|
|Monday, 06 July 2009 10:32|
We got back to Blantyre late last night from our weekend in Aberdeenshire. It has been a couple of years since we last trekked up the A90 and it was really nice to get the chance to catch up with friends.
On Sunday morning we went to Inverurie West Parish Church, a church I have had a connection to since 1994 when I did one of my student attachments there. For three years (1996-99) I was also the music coordinator at the West Church and so, as you would expect, I have a fond spot for the people and place. However, all has changed since we were last there a few years ago. It was great to see the transformation to the building that has taken place. More pictures after the jump. [There's more...]In March 2008 the transformed building was re-opened with its new Acorn Centre. The building was a very similar design to our old Stonefield Parish Church building, with the rather typical Church of Scotland three-side gallery around the sanctuary. Not any more.
A new floor was created at the level of the gallery creating a new sanctuary keeping the gallery pews and adding flexible seating in the central floor. The atmosphere during worship was great. Because you are basically sitting "in the round" you can see each other which gives a much better sense of worshipping together than the usual "all-face-front" style. The more cosy space also helped and the church felt busy and full.
It was good to hear how the flexible seating allows for more creative worship (like putting the communion table right in the centre of the church for the sharing of the Lord's Supper), and also frees space for other groups to use the sanctuary. Yet again, I had flexible-seating envy... one day we will get rid of those fixed and uncomfortable pews that everyone complains about in St Andrew's!
So the new sanctuary at the West Church works well, with seamless integration of audio-visual equipment in the form of four flat-screen TVs, but where things get more creative is in the space that was freed up below the new gallery floor. Now there is a suite of rooms, including a chapel, a quiet room, a library, a shop, Ubuntu, selling fairtrade goods and in the main meeting space a cafe.
The new all-glass entrance to the church is welcoming, open and modern, adding to the sense of invitation to the church and allows you to see right out into the town from the cafe with lots of light streaming in.
The church is now open every day of the week except Monday, with the cafe and fairtrade shop open all day. An astonishing 120 volunteers and a small group of paid staff are involved in running the Acorn Centre, and it is proving very popular in the community.
Chatting with people over coffee in the cafe after the service I was very encouraged to hear the positive comments of all. Even a few folks who admitted that they had been very doubtful about the plans when they were being developed could now see the benefits the new Acorn Centre brought both to the community and to the congregation as a way in which the congregation could serve both the local community and the world-wide community.
Needless to say, there are teething problems with such a big project and lessons to be learnt for others wishing to engage so comprehensively with the community, but as a visitor it was hugely encouraging to see so many people involved and active through the Acorn Centre.
Kudos to Ian Groves and to the congregation for their vision and for seeking new ways to bring the Kingdom to their community. I hope it inspires many others, as it has me, to keep always in mind how we use our resources most effectively in the community.