Just occasionally God lifts a curtain and we see things from His perspective; we see how He is working behind the scenes in our lives and in history.
For years now we as a church have been praying for Goldthorpe and the Dearne area, praying that God would bless and renew our whole community. Encouraged by God’s word through Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon that they were to pray for the peace and prosperity of that place (Jer 29:7), we have been praying for the peace and prosperity of Goldthorpe and have been seeking to do what we can to bless and help our area.
In March 2021 the Government gave £23.1 million to Goldthorpe as one of Barnsley’s Principal Towns. We believe that in itself was an answer to our prayers! Their slogan is ‘Regenerate… Renew… Revitalise.’ Those seem like very spiritual words to me! Regeneration is often used in economic terms (it means ‘rebirth’), and we pray regularly for local businesses to flourish and prosper. But regeneration is also a spiritual term, and we are praying for people to be ‘born again’ and to come to know God.
Renewal is at the heart of what BMBC is doing in Goldthorpe (hence the new Town Square, new play area by the doctor’s surgery and refurbishment of old buildings such as the Dearne Playhouse), but again, renewal has that spiritual application, where we ask God to renew our hearts and refresh us. Spiritual renewal is necessary; there is a need for us to be renewed inwardly if outward renewal is to last.
Revitalise implies not only new life, but new vitality. Some time ago God reminded me of the verse from Isaiah 61:3 that He would bestow ‘a crown of beauty instead of ashes‘, and this is something we have been seeking to see locally – beauty, colour, vibrancy and vitality instead of dreariness, drabness and greyness. The Dearne Community Arts’ Festival’s community art projects are all very colourful, and the 2023 project (‘Picture Perfect?: The Dearne Community Story Trail’) was the most ambitious yet. Using part of the £23.1 million given to Goldthorpe (itself a miracle of God’s provision), the arts’ festival worked with artist Lydia Caprani, storyteller Beccy Dye and local community groups to capture something of the vitality that is part of our area every single day!
Last week I had the privilege of meeting with Michael Upton (former journalist at the Rotherham Advertiser and now working for BMBC) and Matt Stephens (Chair of Goldthorpe Towns Fund) to publicise the launch of the Dearne Community Story Trail. To hear Matt Stephens encourage people to come to see the selfie boards (see here) was that lifting of heaven’s curtain for me. In July 2021 at the first Phoenix Park Fun Day, Matt Stephens attended to promote the Towns Fund and talk about all that was being planned; I spoke to him and told him that there were lots of things we in the community wanted to see and do. To stand with him less than three years later and reflect on being a part of these projects was special indeed. God hears and answers our prayers. He is always working behind the scenes, even when we do not see Him. What is happening now in Goldthorpe and the wider Barnsley borough is, I believe, partly the result of the prayers of God’s people. Let’s keep praying and believing for regeneration, renewal and revitalisation – in every possible realm!