Grappling with the changes (Richard Higginbottom)

Wednesday, 6 June, 2012

Richard HigginbottomRichard Higginbottom discusses grappling with the changes.

I was involved with the TullochNET project In Perth even before it 'officially' got off the ground. That’s almost eight years ago – frightening how quickly the time goes! This leads me to ponder questions like 'How long has God called me to do this?', 'Am I becoming a blockage, rather than a conduit?', 'Am I burning out/getting too old/losing my cutting edge?’

At a recent Council of Reference meeting, the issue of a successor strategy was discussed - much to my relief - as this was a point that was already exercising my mind. The Project Trustees now have this on their agenda and our development plan seeks to extend our staffing. As a former vicar whose role - and theology - in recent years has changed dramatically I guess I'm still grappling with these changes. Am I an evangelist or an administrator, a pioneer or a traditional-style minister? What is God calling me to be? Where is he leading next?

Since we opened our drop-in centre just a year ago, we've made more impact in local relationship building. There have been stops and starts. But two recent stories illustrate the need for perseverance:

  • a single mum who'd previously avoided direct contact with us suddenly crossed our threshold, had coffee and a chat, and started opening up about her life story. Her son had been a regular at our afternoon kids' club for over six months… so we praise God for this miracle.
  • an addict proudly brought in his partner and new baby (who, sadly, has a chronic illness). Mum and baby had just come out of hospital and he wanted to introduce them to us. What a privilege! God is full of such surprises and encouragements, just when you're wondering what it's all about. We have such little faith and so little patience.

Now I calculate that I can invite about 20 adults to some sort of spiritual session but the current questions would include:

  • should that session involve a small group, worship or what?
  • when should it take place - weekday evening or Sunday afternoon?
  • is our home base (Hub) big enough to cope with such a session?

We also have the issue of volunteer numbers and staffing. The drop-in is very labour-intensive. We've lost a handful of volunteers through circumstance (some of it temporary, some not) and this limits our capacity for longer opening hours. However, we gained four new volunteers and those we do have are brilliant—generous with their time, talent and gifts.

Funding is another issue getting harder to sort out. But God is not to be rushed… and he is generous! Relationship-building in Tulloch's 'broken community' takes time and it causes frustration but God's Spirit is active.

So, do we play safe or take risks? Our most recent Trustees' meeting decided to plan to extend the current hours of our paid Welcomer and to appoint a student youth worker - 20 hours weekly as part of a placement with a Christian college - by September.

The wonderful thing is that we're all growing spiritually - staff, Trustees and volunteers - as the Lord leads us in this seemingly crazy venture.

Prayer remains as vital as ever even though our prayer walking has stuttered to a halt. We need to revive that. Meantime, here are some urgent prayers that we are keeping in mind as we move on with TullochNET:

  • Lord, keep us humble, obedient and open to your Spirit;
  • Lord, give us the funding we need and keep us patient;
  • Lord, bring us the people you want: staff, volunteers, Trustees and local folk for your Kingdom. Let's all grow together in Christ.
About the author: 

Richard Higginbottom is Community Development Worker for Tulloch NET.


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