The Sanctuary, Westminster
At Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, on Thursday evenings a community of twenties and thirties meet to explore what it means to be a Christian living, working or studying in central London. It has grown from four members to about fifty with over a hundred gathering at its first anniversary, a fantastic testimony to the lives it has touched.
The Sanctuary meets in a number of formats; the main worship happens bi-weekly and begins with forty-five minutes of coffee, cookies and good conversation. It follows a contemporary albeit conventional style of service with worship, word, and prayer ministry offered towards the end of the evening. On the alternate weeks people meet for Sanctuary Re:mixed, a creative worship evening which is whatever members makes it. Recently, this has involved group discussions, interviews, testimonies, nooma™ video reflections, and various styles of worship.
In addition to these services the community has its own gospel choir, a creativity evening called The Canvas, and small discipleship groups It also offers support to a project working with the homeless in the City of Westminster. And in the summer The Sanctuary is going to Greenbelt Christian Festival and planning a trip to Taizé ecumenical community.
Speaking to members at The Sanctuary they are thankful for this place to belong in London, for the opportunity to reflect, to ask questions about God, and to grow in discipleship. William Nightingale, a member of Sanctuary, thanks God for the community saying, “it’s just wonderful to find this friendly, lively worshipping community in the centre of London”.
It is great hearing about the wonderful things God is doing through The Sanctuary, people making new friends, discovering Jesus, growing in faith and developing their gifts. If you want to find out more about the Sanctuary try visiting them online at www.sanctuary-westminster.org
Interview with Jonathan GreenL~
Jonathan Green studied at London School of Theology (formerly London Bible College), worked as an assistant pastor at Vineyard Church Sutton, and is now the Young Adult Pastor at The Sanctuary, Westminster Central Hall.
He talks, with James Church, about growing up Christian, theological concerns, and some of the plans for The Sanctuary.
Jon firstly, tell us a bit about yourself - Where did you grow up?L~
I grew up in Luton, in Bedfordshire, and always feel energised when I go back and breathe in that fresh air.
Who has had the greatest influence upon your life?L~
Well, a few people, my parents had a great impact upon me and I still feel their influence upon me today. But, I’d say my hero was my Granddad, Norman Green, who was the minister of Stopsley Baptist Church in Luton. I guess he had a major impact upon my life.
Which New Testament character do you most identify with? And why?L~
I guess a lot of young guys in my position would say “Timothy”. In that he was a young pastor, very much learning on the job, wanting to be really used by God but inexperienced and young.
I was pastoring a church when I was twenty-two, a pretty large church and I was assistant pastor there. So, for me Paul’s words to Timothy are really helpful and informative. I always used to carry that thing of do not let anyone look down on you because of your age but set an example and I really think that’s what I try and do. I might not always be a great example but I try my hardest . But yeah Timothy … oh and Jesus!.
Jon, tell us about your Christian journey - How did you become a Christian? And when did you first realise God was calling you into this ministry?L~
I was brought up in a church almost from the day I was born. I was in Stopsley Baptist Church. So, my Mum and Dad used to take me to Spring Harvest. I was in Ishmael’s Glory Company and I was singing all the songs with Ishmael, and Tim Jupp pre-Delirious days… It was when I was seven years old, I remember sitting on the top step of our home in Luton. I remember very clearly, very vividly say, ”Jesus I love you and I’d like you to come into my life”. In a very simple way, in the way that a six or seven year old does, it’s not complex. So, that was that.
I felt called to ministry at the age of fifteen, so that was good and then I was about sixteen I went to a New Wine conference. From the stage in a crowd of about two thousand people a guy called Barry Kissell picked me out and said, “You are going to become a pastor of a church” and then Mike Pilavachi came across and prayed for me. So, for me at that time, that was a real confirmation of what I felt God was showing me in my life.
What advice would you give to another young person who felt God was calling them to such a role?L~
Go for it! In a sense it is always an odd one because everyone is called, we’re called to be a witness, we’re called to follow Jesus, we’re called to be the image of Christ in this world, and we’re called to be obedient. So in a sense there is a lot of things we are being called to. If you were feeling a specific call to something, I’d say investigate it, give it some time, don’t rush in, get some training, don’t be in too much of a hurry to get there.
On your blog you talk a lot about new technology - What challenges and opportunities do these new technologies offer the church?L~
It’s expensive! I think that’s a massive question. I think we need to embrace the technological revolution, I mean it’s not going to stop, it’s going to happen anyway. We’re not to stop computers evolving, we’re not going to stop artificial intelligence; it will happen whether we like it or not. So, it’s a question of how we adapt to that, how do we use all those tools to the advantage of the gospel. And Paul says, “I will do anything and be all things to all people so that I may save some”. So, I think if we can use blogging and virtual reality and all kinds of stuff to the glory of God then that’s great.
Looking at the Sanctuary - What has really pleased you about the way the Sanctuary has grown and developed?L~
I’m just thrilled at the way this seed that we planted eighteen months ago has grown into a beautiful community. I mean for me I’d say that it was my spiritual home. I always set out to create or form communities I would want to be part of, that I’d want to be discipled in, where I could find friends who would help me in my journey towards Jesus.
And you know the other thing that blows me away is that God keeps gracing us with His presence, that people say we feel God here or sense God here in the community. And also the way that people have bought into the vision to give and lead. We are making space for people to grow in their gifting; worship leaders, local preachers and all kinds of people.
And I was just blown away by the fact that a hundred people turned up for our ball, that half of them had never even come to Sanctuary before. It’s just great that people feel confident enough to bring their friends. That is really a dream come true. So, yeah there is so much to be thankful for.
Where do you hope the Sanctuary will be in ten years time?L~
I hope that I’ll still be around! I hope that we’d be filling the Great Hall by then, I hope we’d have multiple staff. Our 2-4 year goals include two hundred and fifty people regularly coming along, twenty small groups, four or five community projects, two additional staff members and a personal assistant! Also, an overseas project, internship scheme, increased national profile and particularly an increased national profile in London amongst Universities. So if you multiply that by a factor of 3-4 you’d get our 10-year goals. I’d hope Great Hall but I just want to go with God and if we stay at forty regulars for the next ten years then that’s fine. But we’ve got big dreams and we’ve got all this space and I’d love to see it filled - that’s my hope.