How God Works Through Us
In TV dramas and films, we often hear someone say “I feel used” in a negative way. But as a Christian experience, this is a very positive thing to happen.
In the very late 1990’s, we started Vision 2000 with the task of building a new, larger church, reflecting several years of growth and outgrowing the old chapel on Bollin Grove in the village.
We spent two years planning for a new building on the old site, and consulting the parish council and others to make sure we were in line with planning regulations and would not come up against any obstacles. When we put in our formal planning application, we were rejected on the grounds that the site would be over-developed and it would negatively impact on the preservation area, even though it was not actually in the area.
The parting shot from the meeting we had outside the old chapel was that we should “find another site in Prestbury!” as if this was easy either practically or financially. A new, suitable plot would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, even if one was available.
The despair we all felt was huge, and none of us at that time could see any way forward, and it looked like the vision was ended.
The following Saturday morning, the Parish council had arranged the first of a series of meetings in their offices above the RBS Bank, to meet people of the village and discuss issues of importance to them. Our friend was Clerk to the council at the time and asked us to go along to make up the numbers because they feared that no one would bother. So, that morning my wife and I went down to talk about traffic issues in the village.
As an aside as I was talking to one of the councillors, I mentioned how disappointed we were about the rejected application, and he asked if we were wedded to that site, either by the requirements of the Methodist Church or some other reason. I said no, but where on earth would we find another suitable site in the village which was affordable and available.
I will never forget his next words. He simply said “Follow me”, and walked with me along Macclesfield Road to the site opposite the Village Hall, all boarded up.
I was told that it was owned by Norweb, and until recently had been the site of a power sub-station, which had recently been moved to its present location at the bottom corner of the plot. They had been offered this plot for £75,000, way below true market value, to use as car-parking, but they couldn’t afford it and didn’t want it to go to a developer for private housing.
Several frantic phone-calls to the committee followed and by the Monday morning we had agreed that this was the perfect plot for the new church building.
Consultations with the local estate agents valued the Bollin Grove site at £75,000 so it would be a straight swap. But, with the new site and a bigger church, we needed another £150,000 to finance it.
By the time the old chapel was sold, it went for £187,000, giving us £112,000 more than we thought, and making up most of the shortfall in funding the new building.
The rest as they say, often in films and dramas, is history.
So how did God influence and guide us?
Firstly, the land was only available for a short period of time, a few months at most, and our need perfectly aligned with the land’s availability.
Secondly, the price was way below the true value of the land, and the difference between the old chapel sale and the land purchase funded the larger building. Since this time, some 20 years ago, no other suitable plot has become available in the village at any suitable price.
Finally, by putting me in the right place at the right time to find out about the land and enabling us to go ahead with the purchase, and even though there were several obstacles in our way before the final purchase was made, we are where we were intended to be.
When I tell this story, people often tell me how lucky we were. I always reply that luck had nothing to do with it, it was God’s work in putting us where we are.
That is why I passionately believe that his work is not finished, and as stewards of his church in Prestbury, it is incumbent on us all to strive tirelessly to make sure we leave a fitting legacy to the future generations of worshippers, whatever form(s) that worship may take.