Milestones are stone posts placed at the side of the road to mark distances. Stepping stones are placed in shallow water to help people cross the water. Both can be important steps on a journey.
My favourite stepping stones are at Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire. These are in very shallow water and it’s relatively easy to cross the River Wharfe using them, but there are a few which are spaced out just far enough for the stride to be a challenge.
The journey of faith that we’re on involves some relatively easy steps and some steps which are very challenging to us! I have been thinking about the milestones (markers) and the stepping stones we’ve witnessed on this journey to holding our first service in the new building yesterday.
St Mark’s closed as a Methodist church on 31st August 2008. That was the visible start of our journey (the dream started well before that.) The first significant milestone or marker was receiving the particulars of the building in November 2008. We met with Coalfields’ Regeneration Trust in December 2008. The bid for the grant was written in January 2009.
15th January 2009 was a really important milestone for the church. At a prayer meeting, we met to pray over the CRT application and decide exactly what our bid for the building would be, since sealed bids had been invited by the Methodist church. The suggestion that we should seek to offer all we had as a church was put forward with much trepidation. That was a very risky decision and one that made the next step seem a very long stride.
At that meeting, as we prayed over the application as Hezekiah did, a word was brought about surfers and we were told that the ‘first past the post would not be the ultimate winner.’ That word sustained us through the confusion of the grant being confirmed to us but us being told by the Methodists that the bid was not high enough.
At the end of March 2009, the grant was returned to CRT and the dream lay at our feet. We were unable to do anything except pray.
April, May, June passed. It seemed we were marking time, going along a road without any significant scenery or places of interest to note! Then, in July 2009, we were approached by the Methodist church, asking if we were still interested in purchasing the building, as the deal with the property developer had fallen through. The first past the post was not the ultimate winner.
We re-applied for the CRT grant. Amazingly, we did not have to re-write the application and by September 2009 the grant had been given to us again. We were hopeful about moving in to the building by the end of the year. Yet it was not to be. The stepping stones seemed to be getting further apart. There was so much red tape to cut through, so many legal obstacles thrown our way, that it felt like we were in a steeplechase!
2009 faded into 2010 and the snow came. That week, our Treasurer was on holiday, but the weather was so bad that he came home early, to find letters from our solicitor finally moving things on. Even then, it took another three weeks and several stalled dates for us to exchange contracts on 12th February 2010. By the time the text came through to me confirming that St Mark’s really was ours, I was almost unable to get excited about it, because it seemed so unreal.
There have been so many stepping stones and milestones to that point, and since then so many events chronicled here as we reached the milestone of our first service in the newly refurbished Goldthorpe Pentecostal Community Church. But this is not the end of the journey.
What milestones and stepping stones lie ahead? Only God knows, but we know He is able to keep us from falling into the water!