TUESDAY MARCH 14th 2017
COURAGE FROM THE PAST
In January 1907 - 110 years ago - a little church was planted in Rathbone Road.
It was the Mission Church of St Hilda.
It was the initiative of the new bishop of Birmingham, Charles Gore. He was a pioneer prelate. He had visited the area a few months before and had noticed huge changes even in January 1907. So many homes had been built. Bearwood was spilling up the hill towards Warley Woods. Edwardian terraces were now being planned in Barclay Road. And from that site in Rathbone Road, it was clear that the building out from Birmingham was only going to continue. A church was needed to serve the people.
It is easy to forget: our church once did not exist.
It was planted in Warley Woods by people of vision.
The Smethwick News Telephone - what a wonderful name for a newspaper - reported Bishop Gore's text in their Saturday edition of February 2nd 1907. The reporter summed up his sermon thus: 'He knew case after case where congregations and churches had grown up out of a tiny mission church and he hoped they would grow up into a great and rich congregation - rich, not in numbers, but in spiritual gifts, and zeal and readiness to help themselves.'
We would do well to attend to his prophetic words. We are still here 110 years on. He preached on a text which urged that we would go, like Paul, out to people to tell them that forgiveness of sins is for them and that they have a place 'among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus'.
The sun rises. The sun sets. Faithfulness continues day after day. The sun has risen and set 40,220 times since then (give or take the odd leap year). Something to thank God for (and leap up and down a bit). Our PCC tonight began with a skipping competition as the Brownies in the next door room in the hall had a skip-a-thon for charity. I wonder what Bishop Gore would have thought had he been there to witness the latest members of St Hilda's prayerfully set priorities for the mission of our church for 2017-18? Would he have joined in the skipping?