The Upper Room - listen to the story

Monday, 17 October, 2011

Kim Hartshorne, leader of The Upper Room in Cirencester, discusses the origins, present and future of the project with Karen Carter.

Duration: 8:32   | Download Download mp3

Transcript

Kim Hartshorne: Hi, good morning, my name's Kim Hartshorne, I am the leader of a project in Cirencester called the Upper Room, which is situated in a kind of office building right in the marketplace, sort of at the crossroads. And it felt like a really strategic location for us when we set up here, that lots and lots and lots of people walk by this building in every direction every day and God draws some of them into us.

Interviewer: Kim, tell me how you came to be here in the first place.

Kim Hartshorne: Well, we were hoping, a group of us some years ago, we were praying for our town and we were really hoping to take church out onto the streets and just get involved in so much more of a missional day to day sort of way with our community. And we were praying for a building on one of the estates in the town, and we didn't find one – and we were just prayer walking and prayer walking and really just calling out to God, where do you want us to do this, because mission is always contextual, it's always based somewhere, because Jesus came in the incarnation and lived somewhere, you know, he came down in a fixed place and time. So we were trying to really model that. And eventually one of the estate agents contacted us and said that they had this set of three rooms right in the marketplace. So we asked him for the keys and we brought a team of about twelve people here and we just asked them to let us pray in the building for the morning, just while we saw whether the presence of God would rest here. And we had some Nigerian pastors and some people from Romania and some church leaders from the other churches in the town and we basically came here, sat about, prayed, really waited and just really felt this presence of God in this building. And actually everybody was just laid out on the floor by the end of the few hours. And so we felt like we'd heard that this was the place to pitch up, so we came.

Interviewer: So this is the Upper Room, what happens in the Upper Room?

Kim Hartshorne: Well, for the moment we have two drop-in sessions a week, we're open on a Monday morning and a Friday morning and we are accessible to people who wouldn't necessarily do traditional church, because perhaps they feel like 'it isn't for people like us, it's only for people like them'. So a lot of our clientele are homeless people, people with addictions, people with severe depression or nervous breakdowns or mental illnesses, people who've perhaps suffered abuse in the past, lots of people that just find it very very difficult to access things that they just consider to be for well educated people or for neat people or for wealthy people. But they basically come in here and have a cup of coffee or a cup of tea, talk to us about what's going on in their life, we pray with them, we signpost them to other agencies, we go with them, we advocate with them if they need us to, we go to the council or write letters or campaign or… we just feel like social justice is just really connected to the gospel and so when Jesus comes to someone, you would expect to see changes in every area of their life, not just a spiritual sort of view of that. So their health will improve and their literacy will improve and we'll go with them to college and help them to sign up on literacy courses and just really try and just look at where Jesus would work and where he would begin to work in their life, and really just to try and take a lead from the Holy Spirit and go along with that. So we're always following his work, we're never trying to go ahead of his work, because that's not possible for us.

Interviewer: So it's about building community here and relationship-building?

Kim Hartshorne: Yes, massively, and just really that in that translation of the message where it says 'the word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood', when Jesus comes that transforms the whole of that neighbourhood and so we work really collaboratively with all the other churches, with charities, with the citizens' advice, with the council, with everybody that will have a connection with us really, we sort of go and try and build bridges for the sake of the kingdom there. So yeah, it's quite a holistic view of church really, it's I would say being church out in the community.

Interviewer: Yes I'm sure lots of people like labels, so you know is it a social service – you know, a branch of social services – is it a prayer room, is it a church, what stage do you think it's at now?

Kim Hartshorne: Well in some ways I'm inclined to say yes to all those things. I don't like that binary way of thinking that makes paradox – it isn't either or, it's all and, and that to me is just that really sacramental view of life, you know, everything belongs to God and so we are being church. We don't have a Sunday sort of expression at the moment but it seems that the Spirit is leading us to consider that and we're really praying at the moment and brainstorming and just waiting on God to see what will bubble up from that and I'm sure something is coming, but I don't know what it's going to look like yet, I'm waiting. But, you know, God has gone ahead of us and has a plan, so…

Interviewer: How about your own journey Kim, I mean particularly you're involvement with New Wine and the background there, because I think a rather dramatic story involving your own home.

Kim Hartshorne: Yes, I first went to New Wine with a crowd from a church locally here in about 2002 I think. And I was really blown away by the challenge in the teaching, you know that actually this is real and what Jesus said does apply, we have got to do it and take it seriously. And I was really challenged because I think I'd sort of drifted along really in my faith before that. And it just kind of fired me up with this purpose you know, that this is something that's real and the kingdom can come in now. You know and I began to see people be healed and just genuinely to just see this power of the Spirit at work and I just wanted that for Cirencester, I really wanted it. So at New Wine a few years later a church planting guy from the Vineyard movement was over from the States, Steve Nicholson, and everything he said that year seemed to challenge me that this big house I lived in in the Cotswolds, actually really belonged to God and to the kingdom and, you know, I shouldn't be sitting on it, I should really divest it and do something with that. So I came home and said to my husband, do you know, we've got to sell the house love, you know we need to do something for God with this money. It really was the right thing to do. So we sold the house and we bought another much smaller place to live that wasn't very grand at all but, you know, is brilliant, and put the money into setting up this Upper Room. And so we could afford to find premises and take on a lease and hire some staff when the time came and, you know, it's just… God so blessed us really by just letting go of that, that he has then moved on you know into this ministry and just let it grow.

Interviewer: And looking ahead, later on this year, New Wine Fresh Expressions co-badged conference coming up, what do you see as being a benefit of that?

Kim Hartshorne: I think it's always great when all the different tribes of the church come to the table in unity and work together and I think there's a gain in unity that you never see when you work separately. So I just think that's a move of the Spirit actually. And I think the different traditions and different viewpoints in the church will challenge one another, and I think challenge is good. And the New Wine churches are really quite healthy and brilliant and successful churches, and they will bring things to the table that will be of benefit. But also they'll learn from the other side of the fence and from different perspectives perhaps in the more inherited churches of, you know, our history and where that points us and, you know, what do they bring to the table that's precious and valuable and ancient. And you know, we don't want to lose any of that, I think we want all and, we want to really gain from each other. I think that'll be a great conference.

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