What a joyful occasion today is! A moment to pause and celebrate all that has begun to grow here at Brickworks: the Sunday services which have now been happening for two years, the many other regular and occasional events through the week and in school holidays, So much to thank God for. Today is particularly a day to thank God for Tom and Helen, for calling them to join in the adventure here, starting afresh in a new and unknown town, stepping out in faith, trusting God that he would use them as catalysts to start a new church. Tom, and Helen, we are very glad you listened to God and answered his call, and it is wonderful to enable the next stage of your ministry here to evolve, by making you Associate Priest Missioner today.
Practically, nothing much changes. For Tom, a new title, but he’ll still just be Tom to most of us! A sense of stability too, with funding for his post firmed up for a further three years, so he together with Helen and all of you, can build on what’s been started, and take Brickworks to the next stage. Practically, today is the same as yesterday, but bigger picture, it is a significant milestone in the Brickworks journey, a day when we acknowledge that a new church has been built, one that is pioneering new approaches for the Diocese of Worcester, and one we want to support, and celebrate, and share the story of, because it is a story of good news!
I said that a new church has been built – and yet here we are in the open air. No doors, windows, walls or roof. Just a few significant and highly symbolic bricks. No building to see. But a church has indeed been built. Look around, look into the eyes of your neighbour, give them a poke or a squeeze, a pinch or a hug, and remind them, remind yourself, that each of you are living stones, working bricks, being built into a new church. Brickworks Church.
Tom chose the passage from 1 Peter as our reading for today as it is a foundational passage for the life of this new church community. It’s about people coming to Jesus, and being built together into a spiritual house.
In an actual building of course, each stone and brick, each timber, each beam and nail is vitally important. A building has bricks and stones of all shapes and sizes, fit together for particular purposes, all of which are needed. In this new church being built, each one of you, as a living stone, a working brick, is a vital part of what God is assembling. Peter writes to a similar motely crowd:
“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
You, the people here today, are a royal priesthood, God’s special possession, called to share good news, declare praises to the God who has impacted your lives. .
The Message translation of that verse in Peter’s letter reads:
“You are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you”
Each of you is called to play your part as holy people, God’s instruments, God’s hands and feet and voices.
As God’s people, living stones, being a spiritual house is not about building something that people come into. Church is not the a building. Church is people. It’s you, those who gather here in community together, children and grown-ups, people of all kinds, who are part of what God is building here because he has called you, as his kingdom people, to play your part in furthering his mission in this place, at this time.
Church is about God’s kingdom people living counter cultural lives together, sharing meals, learning, growing, serving. Church is a community in which we can rejoice in our differences whilst celebrating our unity, where we give each other the space to develop and reach our potential, to be who God made us to be. Two of my favourite quotes are from St Catherine of Sienna, “Be who you were created to be and you will set the world on fire”. And St Irenaeus: “The glory of God is a man (or woman) fully alive”. Be who you were created to be; be fully alive!
I am quite sure that here, in this fledgling new church, there are people who have yet to discover their gifts and calling. Some of you might not be part of Brickworks yet, but have come along today to support them, or simply to find out what’s going on..
For Brickworks Church to realise its potential as the hope of the world on this estate, everyone will need to work on finding out their gifts and playing their part, becoming working bricks, fitted around the cornerstone that is Jesus. St Paul wrote to another new church in a town called Ephesus:
“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.” (Ephesians 1:11-12)
God has designs on you for glorious living. Every single person here today. And every person yet to be part of this church but who will become part of this community through your invitation and welcome. Fully alive, gloriously living people, setting the world on fire by using your gifts and skills, being built together in living community, vibrant church.
Tom, I pray that you will continue to lead this wonderful Brickworks community with passion and determination, with vision and inspiration, with loving care and a servant heart, always aware of the God’s guidance, provision and grace. Make sure in the excitement of new life and growth you take time to pray and be refreshed and filled with the Holy Spirit. Take time to be with Helen, guard your days off, to ensure you are a living stone, a working brick, not a worn out heap of rubble!
And for all you other bricks my prayer, as you celebrate today, is that this church increasingly is first and foremost open constantly to being filled to all the fullness of Christ, seeking more of him in prayer and worship. That you form a spiritual household where God is encountered as you praise him, love one another, and serve the people of this estate in his name.
And I pray that you set this part of the world on fire as God’s chosen people, discovering who you were created to be, becoming fully alive as you engage in the work of mission and ministry, God’s instruments each playing your tune in harmony, using your unique, God-given gifts, ever more realising your potential as individuals, and as a church community
I pray that you will proclaim and speak out to the people of this estate stories of the work God is doing amongst you, the night-and–day difference he is making to your lives, so that many more are drawn in to join you, many more come to God through you, joining you as his holy people, his kingdom people in this community.
We take the protection and safety of children and vulnerable adults very seriously. All Volunteers in the church who work with children, youth or vulnerable adults are checked with the national Disclosure and Barring Service. If you have any concerns about safeguarding and would like to talk to someone, here are some useful phone numbers...
Pastor for Brickworks, Fred Swartz - 07745 301136
Women's Pastor for Brickworks, Lacey Swartz - 07470 060211
Parish Vicar, Rev Simon Falshaw - 01384 423142
Parish Safeguarding Officer, Mrs Gloria Burrows - 01384 894948
Diocesan Safeguarding Officer, Hilary Higton - 07495 060869
Childline - 0800 1111
Age Concern UK - 0800 678 1602
Dudley Social Care - 0300 555 0055 (out of hours 0300 555 8574)
Non-urgent Police Enquiries - 101
This website (like Brickworks) is a work in progress - suggestions and comments welcome!
Any ideas of things we could do, or improvements to the website - we'd love to hear from you!
28 Shepherds Brook Rd
Tel: 07470 060211
Brickworks is an outreach from Christ Church Lye (the one with the WWI soldier statue in front).