7 October 2020 | Watford, UK [David Neal]
When the Stanborough Park Church family end their annual Harvest Festival, their closing act of worship is to usually sing the rousing hymn, “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come’, reflecting gratitude to God for His continual provision in their lives. As they sing, their eyes focus on the magnificent and colourful display of fruits and vegetables, some even homegrown.
It was different this year. Thankful people could not come together in the traditional way.
But Spirit-filled people adapted by extending their own harvest festival to become a ‘Watford Community Harvest’ with an invitation ‘Come – drive through and donate your food gifts’. Strategically located within the borough, the church campus is blessed with a huge car park, and ideally positioned to be the food donation point.
Organised jointly by Adventist Community Services, and the One Vision Project (the services’ delivery arm of the Stanborough Park Church), on Sunday, 4 October a steady stream of cars drove into the car park to deliver gifts in a COVID-safe manner. Once sorted, the gifts will be distributed to local Watford charities to support families in need.
As leaders and volunteers gathered together in the open space around the church, with only umbrellas for protection from the relentless rain, spirits were of good cheer due to the response from the community of all faiths and none. Stanborough Park Church Associate Pastor Geert Tap used one of his favourite themes to describe the experience, “It was as if the church had left the building”.
Pastor Emmanuel Osei, president of the South England Conference, reflected on how harvest is “a reminder that the God who provides is the God who binds us together to do what He wants us to do.”
For the previous five months, Stanborough Park Church has hosted the One Vision food hub and has provided 13,230 hot meals and just over 3,000 parcels during the COVID-19 lockdown. Staffed by a mix of volunteers of many different backgrounds working for a common cause.
One such volunteer is Liz Burns, who has been a friend of the church family from as far back as 1977. For the past six months, Liz has been a volunteer to help manage the daily meal programme. “In Volunteering for One Vision, I feel that God has again been telling me this is where I belong. This was proved to me one morning after learning of the sudden death of a member of this church. For some reason, I got in my car and it brought me to Stanborough at 7:30am and it felt as if I had ‘come home’.” Liz is due to be baptised on Saturday, October 24th.
The volunteering spirit is engrained in the Stanborough Park DNA, as it has been for many decades. It was through support for the ‘welfare’ team that Liz first connected with the church. Sometimes seen as unfashionable in these times, the ‘welfare room’ door located on the right-hand side of the building serves a growing cliental of people in need. Back in service for four weeks after the COVID-19 lockdown, each Friday night, a minibus of food and supplies leaves for the London West End, providing hot soup, sandwiches and drinks for the homeless, staffed by youth and adults volunteering together.
Pastor Terry Messenger, senior pastor testifies that the way he is able to still give thanks in these difficult and hard times, “is to live with the attitude of gratitude, and finds it marvellous that the One Vision partnership builds and widens Stanborough Park’s commitment to serving the community.’
Coming up soon is the annual ‘Toy Service’, usually the second Saturday in December, a worship service to ‘provide presents’ for families in the community experiencing hardship in the run-up to Christmas. As the congregation sing their carols, they usually see a magnificent display of colourful toys donated by the children of the church.
It will be different this year – but the Spirit will still move.
Stanborough Park Church is located in Watford, UK – for more information on their services, visit their website.
tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
119 St Peter’s Street, St Albans, Herts, AL1 3EY, England
E-mail: [email protected]
tedNEWS is an information bulletin issued by the communication department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Trans-European Division. Readers are free to republish or share this article with appropriate credit including an active hyperlink to the original article.