Stoke Newington Salvation Army is all about reclaiming ground for the Kingdom of God.
Isaiah 61:4 “They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”
It is about reinventing what Church looks like and about being believers in a community everyday, living with and alongside that community in an engaging and relevant way. A way that reflects the culture of today without compromising in anyway the radical discipleship that we are all called to live out.
Stoke Newington is an area of London where coffee shop culture is the key way in which community is created and by being a coffee and cake shop that is open everyday we have an interface with that community that is accessible, enabling us to give people a glimpse of Jesus when we open the doors.
We serve good coffee, we are displaying our heritage and our beliefs in the decor and the Bibles and other goods we are selling alongside the coffee. We have a wall covered in Christian song words, we have photographs of Salvation Army Heritage which reflect the area we are in historically. (William Booth our founder is buried in Abney Park cemetery which is across the road from our premises.)
We are four years old at Stoke Newington so still finding our feet and learning to be who we are called to be in our community. We have seen people transformed by the love of Jesus. Those people have become part of us and are now ministering alongside us. 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 am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Dalston is an area that is full of trouble, where people are often stabbed, people are scared and the whole area lives in a state of flux. Again we are being followers of Jesus by just hanging out with people, with them and their children. Trying to be creative and engaging the local community in ways that make people stop and think. So we gave out Easter Eggs on the street, we gave out hundreds of sticks of Candy Floss over the summer, every week we serve “Tea and Toast” to carers and their children. We are wrapping peoples Christmas presents for free. Next week one of our workers is teaching mums to “curl” their hair.
We are journeying through advent with the people we have met by creating a model Jesus village and allowing their children to open the little houses and read the Bible story with us.
Again it is hard work, at times it is quite scary but at the same time it is beautiful and in it all we see glimpses of the Kingdom of God as we share life with people.
Both of theses expressions of church are birthed from Clapton Salvation Army where the ministry is built on Acts2:43, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” we actually daily claim that verse for all three communities, believing and knowing that God will “build his church”, people will be saved and the Kingdom of God will be seen and experienced in all the diversity and madness that is our community.