Stoke Newington Salvation Army is all about reclaiming ground for the Kingdom of God.Isaiah 61:4 “They will rebuild the ancientruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined citiesthat have been devastated for generations.” About reinventing what Church lookslike and about being believers in a community everyday, living with and alongsidethat community in an engaging and relevant way. A way that reflects the cultureof today without compromising in anyway the radical discipleship that we areall called to live out.
StokeNewington is an area of London where coffee shop culture is the key way inwhich community is created and by being a “Coffee and Cake” shop that is open everyday we have aninterface with that community that is accessible, enabling us to give people aglimpse of Jesus when we open the doors.
We serve good coffee, we are displaying our heritage and our beliefs in thedecor and the Bibles and other goods we are selling alongside the coffee. We havea wall covered in Christian song words, we have photographs of Salvation ArmyHeritage which reflect the area we are in historically. (William Booth ourfounder is buried in Abney Park cemetery which is across the road from ourpremises.)
We are four years old at Stoke Newington so still finding our feet and learning to be whowe are called to be in our community. We have seen people transformed by thelove of Jesus. Those people have become part of us and are now ministering alongsideus. It is hard work, its fun and its exciting all at the same time, every day is different and we never know quite what to expect.
Six months ago we opened Dalston Salvation Army, just down the road, a different area, one that is crying out forcommunity. Isaiah 43:9 “See, I amdoing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a wayin the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Dalston is an areathat is full of trouble, where people are often stabbed, people are scared andthe whole area lives in a state of flux. Again we are being followers of Jesusby just hanging out with people, with them and their children. Trying to be creativeand engaging the local community in ways that make people stop and think. So wegave out Easter Eggs on the street, we gave out hundreds of sticks of CandyFloss over the summer, every week we serve “Tea and Toast” to carersand their children. We are wrapping peoples Christmas presents for free. Nextweek one of our workers is teaching mums to “curl” their hair.
We are journeying through advent withthe people we have met by creating a model Jesus village and allowing their childrento open the little houses and read the Bible story with us.
Again it is hard work, at times it isquite scary but at the same time it is beautiful and in it all we see glimpsesof the Kingdom of God as we share life with people.
Both of theses expressions of churchare birthed from Clapton Salvation Army where the ministry is built on Acts2:43, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were beingsaved.” we actually daily claim that verse for all three communities, believingand knowing that God will “build his church”, people will be savedand the Kingdom of God will be seen and experienced in all the diversity and madnessthat is our community.
by Ruth Gray