Church in the Garden last Sunday

On this past Sunday (22nd August) the second of our holiday season ‘In the Garden’ services was held, this time at the Barbers’ house in Martyr Worthy.    Nearly 50 people gathered for it (including lots of children) and the centre of events was the pool house, where benches and chairs were set up in a circle with all the sliding doors open to the garden and to fresh air and light.  

The event started at 11am with a cafe style time of coffee, tea  and home made muffins and continued until 4pm, when the last of many wonderful conversations over lunch and during the afternoon wound down. The theme of the service was ‘What is church?’ and Nicky Barber spoke to us about church being more than a building drawing themes from Acts 2:42-47 which describes how the early church learned to function as a Christ-centred community.  She concentrated on the core elements of building fellowship by meeting together, studying the Bible, prioritising prayer and worship, sharing resources  and being able to explain to others why we believe what we do.

 A number of those gathered made contributions to the service, including Humphrey Maddan, a friend visiting the Barbers for the weekend (who did the reading), Kate Mezger (who led ‘teaspoon / tsp’ prayers – saying thank you, sorry and please to God – that were both simple and profound), Gabby Llewelyn (another friend visiting the Barbers, who spoke of living by faith, providing amazing examples of how God had provided exactly for her needs in remarkable ways) and Cameron Young (who gave an extraordinary testimony describing what church has meant to him across five phases of his life, speaking with both transparency and passion, especially about his experience as part of a house church in China that had a great family emphasis while operating secretly).

As can be seen in the photographs, the children were right at the centre of the space and the service at their own table, where they had fun drawing pictures and doing other crafts linked to the ‘What is church?’ theme (all behaved beautifully and allowed Nicky and the others to speak unhindered!)

We were also joined by visitors from other churches, particularly by Simon Stevenette (the son of former Rector John Stevenette and now a vicar himself in Swindon) and his wife Nicola, who joined fully into every aspect of the day (with Simon turning out to be a tri-athlete, enjoying swimming, tennis and croquet and the servant-hearted Nicola doing a mass of washing up quietly behind the scenes).

After the time of teaching, worship and prayer, we continued “being church” and getting to know each other better by sharing our picnics and barbecued food on the grass round the pool while those who wanted to do so made full use of the swimming pool and various other outdoor activities.   All in all it was a most special day.

John Barber

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