Tonight we meet together as members of a local church to celebrate all that Dawlish Christian Fellowship has meant, to so many people over the past number of years, and also, for those of us who can remember Central Hall before that, and to find a way forward. Over the years many, many, people have responded to what God has asked them to do and in following God’s will for them has enabled the life of the church to continue, and at many times thrive, until the present day. To all these people both past and present we owe a real debt of gratitude, and to God also for leading the way though good times and not so good times.

It was a momentous decision that was taken four years ago when we witnessed the church membership agree to leave our spiritual home in Old Town Street, become “homeless” for a period, and to seek a new place to call “home”. This was a decision that we knew would have many consequences and require many sacrifices for the whole church. For one member it also meant the loss of their physical home, we acknowledge this with our heartfelt thanks. We now have some experience of homelessness, and in a small way understand the added pressures it puts on people. Services took much longer to set up and down each week, perhaps a small price to pay, but we thank those who shouldered the additional load week after week.

For a couple of years God taught us that he has many expressions of his church in Dawlish and we were recipients of the hospitality of the Catholic Church on Sunday mornings and of the Baptist church for holding a number of members meetings. We also were welcomed to use the facilities of St Gregory’s on more than a few occasions. Thursday Friendship Club already used the Methodist hall and some attended other events in the Strand Centre. Perhaps God is trying to show us that working together, all expressions of his church in Dawlish can cooperate for the expansion of his kingdom.

Then the Whole world experienced Covid19. We were unable to meet in person for almost two years. This taught us many new lessons. The value of meeting together face to face. For some the value of actually seeing someone from week to week. We swiftly learned the value of the telephone and other types of communication. Words like ‘virtual’, “zoom”, “WhatsApp” all took on new meaning and importance to us. There were also new ways of connecting with people outside the church, through supplying their physical needs, through food banks, ‘Helping Dawlish’ was born. It was also evident that under the threat of death from Covid19 there was a new openness to have conversations about faith and belief. This has shown us that there is such a great need in our town, which will still exist after covid, and into the “new normal”. This is an opportunity not to be missed and the church has placed people in a Missional Community
embedded in homes in the town. It would be a great loss not just to the kingdom of God but to our church if we did not fully support them in the years to come. Things are happening, God is working on a daily basis, in the lives of many people who would otherwise be lost, you cannot put a monetary figure on that.

So many people have sacrificed their time, their effort, their money, the use of their home, their prayers and God has answered with a new building, almost complete, and so much more. God himself has resourced what has been done by providing the right people, the finance, the abilities, to enable this to happen. We have reached a point of decision today. Do we learn to share what we have with others, blessing the community with a place they can hire to hold their activities, to celebrate birthdays and wedding anniversaries, to provide rooms where they can give blood or have their toenails cut. Can we sympathise with those who have not enough physical food, and bring them spiritual food too!

I believe that this is the day when we must acknowledge we may have different priorities, but this is the time for embracing all that God would want us to do. As has been said before this is not a either/or situation, we know from our own experiences that God can abundantly provide, this is a both/and situation. May we choose to move forward again, together, trusting in God to continue to provide the mix of volunteer and paid workers to make full use of the new facilities. Philippians 1: 3-6 (CEV) Every time I think of you, I thank my God. And whenever I mention you in my prayers, it makes me happy. This is because you have taken part with me in spreading the good news from the first day you heard about it. God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won’t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns. All he is asking is for us to say to him, “here I am, use me, count me in for the sake of the kingdom”.