Growing Together Thinking about ourselves as a church and our mission

We Have Hope – A Light in the Darkness

We live in uncertain times. The pandemic has struck us all hard. We are left wondering what kind of Christmas we can celebrate, and the New Year for many just adds more uncertainty to the stack. Yet in this uncertain times we – the people who are Countess Free Church – have hope!

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We Remain Open for Business

Our nation enters into a new period of lockdown: a further time of difficulty and uncertainty. Yet the Countess Free Church remains very much open for business!

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Church Scattered Takes Initiative

As with everyone else, we continue to find ourselves restricted in what we can do – especially when it comes to central gatherings or events. Yet that certainly does not mean that the church has seized up, or our activity has stalled! At Countess Free Church we are learning to embrace what it means to be scattered, and to see opportunity in many diverse small ways.

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Life Stories – Nigel: Faith Journey through Cancer

Nigel, born in Chelmsford in the early sixties, always knew deep down that God was working under the surface for him.

In 2012, Nigel truly felt Gods presence during a tough point in his life. Having recently been divorced, he was enduring a career in sales for which he had no passion. It gave a poor working environment and set unachievable targets. He thought that: “there’s got to be a better way to earn a living but there’s also got to be a more satisfying way to make a life”.

Only a few months earlier Nigel had started attending the Countess Free Church, and had decided to let Jesus into his life. After talking to a gardener, a seed was sewn in Nigel’s mind and he decided to begin working for himself in the gardening business. Through the newfound peace that the gardening bought, Nigel felt his faith really coming alive and knew that this was God’s plan for him all along.

“there’s got to be a better way to earn a living …
but there’s also got to be a more satisfying way to make a life”

However, not long after this, Nigel discovered that he was unwell. After a visit to the hospital he found out that there was a cancerous tumour in his bladder. Despite all of this, Nigel kept his faith with God strong and trusted that Jesus had a purpose even in the difficulty. He was not nervous and after the tumour was removed, Nigel took regular medications and felt his life return to a peaceful state once again.

He was incredibly thankful to God that he could remain business minded and develop his faith through the Countess Church small groups and Bible studies. In 2015 he was married to Paula, and they were both baptised in that same year.

Unfortunately, in January 2019, Nigel realised that something was not right. The bladder cancer had returned. Upon hearing this news Nigel said, “I felt as if the wind had been knocked out of me.” But still, he trusted in God and was grateful that the tumour had been caught early. Nigel felt God’s presence through various cancer support groups and was blown away by the openness of the members. He truly felt as if these people had been selected by God to make this hard time far easier.

In October 2019, Nigel decided to have an operation to have his bladder removed. It was a decision heavily influenced by God’s word telling him ‘I’ve got things I want to do with you, I’m not finished with you yet’.

“Life interlocks perfectly, like a jigsaw, but we never see the final picture. We just have to trust in Him”

Then, on November 11th, 2019, with full faith in God, Nigel had his operation. He went in with an amazing feeling of peace after praying with Paula. Thankfully, he could not have asked for a better recovery or more helpful staff in the hospital for the next 6 days. Despite the operation having similar effects to being in a major car crash for the body, Nigel still managed to enjoy his Christmas dinner 6 weeks later.

Nowadays, Nigel enjoys the tranquillity of gardening and is not limited by the operation. He also regularly helps people out by giving advice in cancer support groups in order to give back to Addenbrookes hospital.

Nigel would advise people to ‘enjoy the now’ as God is always working. He describes life as something that ‘interlocks perfectly, like a jigsaw, but we never see the final picture. We just have to trust in Him’.

Nigel with his wife Paula are members of the Countess Free Church.

Story authored by Tom Hawksley.

Church Scattered

Because of the lockdown restrictions and public health precautions we are still unable to gather as church. However that doesn’t mean that the church has stopped functioning or existing, because We Are Church.

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Seeking Jesus Together in the Small

Thankfully restrictions are slowly lifting … and yet even from this weekend they are still tight. We can use our building, but with lots of restrictions – so many in fact that as a leadership team we do not believe we can sensibly hold any kind of meaningful worship gathering.

However, it is possible from this Saturday (4th) for people to meet in very restricted numbers at homes or outdoors. The regulations permit:

In both the above cases social distancing should continue, and of course people should not meet if they or a member of their household have or suspect symptoms.

We are encouraged by the discipleship pattern of Jesus, and Luke’s record of the infant church. Those early Christ-followers met both outdoors (temple courts in their case) and in homes. The format was simple: processing the teaching from the leadership, sharing together, breaking bread (being one – together in Christ), and praying together. The simplicity derives from Jesus, who sat with just a few to teach, discuss and share.

“They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer … they met in the temple courts and in their homes”

Acts 2:42, 46

So for this next season we want to encourage ‘micro meet-ups‘: very small gatherings of people to seek Jesus together. There is an ongoing teaching feed that you might discuss (written / podcast), you can share (e.g. ask each other the most recent ‘soul question’ or key question), and of course you can pray. You can even ‘break bread’ together if you can agree a way of doing that which is appropriate and you are all comfortable with.

Remember also that Jesus’ initial Kingdom witness strategy was to send pairs of people out to other people’s homes (e.g. Luke 9 and 10)! It really doesn’t need larger numbers or complexity!

“Where two or three gather in my name, I am there with them”

Matthew 18:20

You might meet as an existing prayer partnership or triplet, as an existing IPOD or other group (if small enough), or take initiative and reach out to someone else in the church for your own gathering – these will be up to you (we are not proposing to micro-manage everyone into these micro meet-ups!).

We know some of us must still keep safe by not meeting up, and others may not yet feel comfortable to do so. This is perfectly understandable – each of us has both our own risk profile and our own attitudes to risk. We do not therefore seek to prescribe for anyone.

Going forward our building is not completely off limits: we can sensibly use it for things like focussed prayer gatherings – for example praying into pioneering. Look out for these being scheduled in the near future.

We will also continue with a mix of podcasts and whole church zooms. Groups who are meeting online can of course continue to do so, especially if it is not permissible or appropriate to physically meet outdoors. Yet through it all we trust in one of the greatest promises Jesus gave: to be right there with us, even in the smallest gathering.

Black Lives Matter

At the Countess Free Church we passionately believe that Black Lives Matter because All Lives Matter. Every person bears something of the wonderful image of God, regardless of race, colour or background.

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