Over the last week I’ve been continuing get to know people around and start t make links with them as well as get to know the area. In many ways it has felt slow, but I need to remember we’ve only been here four weeks and forming relationships is a slow task.
I visited the local gym, which calls itself a ‘well-being centre’. As well as having all the usual gym stuff like a pool, exercise machines, spa etc, they have various medical facilities and a café near the entrance. Already there is a group of oldies who meet for a coffee morning once a week so they are open to holding events there. Surely it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to help them think about the spiritual well-being of their patrons, and maybe hold a discussion group there? I’m still thinking about whether I want to pay the annual membership rates though!
I’ve met a couple of local ministers – one, the pastor of a new frontiers/baptist church which meets on this estate, although at present their congregation comes in from elsewhere. It was a good meeting and I’m sure we’re able to support each other and work together. The second was the overseer for anglican pioneer ministers in the diocese. Another new-build village, Mawsley, near Kettering, comes under his remit.
The residents have been active. Ten days ago, we met to clear a section of path which had become overgrown and impassable. The path was supposed to be looked after by the developer but they haven’t seemed interested in doing it. Anyway, it led to a good time of making connections with those who live on the estate. About 20 people came out to help and the path was cleared in about two hours.
As well as trying to encourage the developers to get going with the conversion of the old hospital site, the residents committee are also interested in bringing the community together so that people get to know one another and are more invested in the community. They have ideas for a number of events throughout the year, starting with a picnic at the end of the summer, and include a Christmas event, Easter and one around fireworks night. I’m hoping to be involved in some of these. In addition I think I’d like to get some more regular interest groups going, like a book group, football group, or photography group. Again, if I’m involved, these would get me meeting more people and hopefully opening up conversations about their needs and hopes.
Last weekend we went to Grange Park Church which is on another new-build estate on the south side of Northampton. As the development has been built over the last 10 years, the vicar has put his church at the centre of the community. They now have a decent congregation, many who are new Christians, and they run toddler groups, a coffee shop, and many other things. We enjoyed the service. There was an excellent sermon which was very accessible without being dumbed down and a very welcoming congregation. I think we’ll make that our home church. I can certainly learn a lot from the vicar.