Moving Forwards in Faith
Hannah Langley reflects on the final service at Magdalen Road Church’s former chapel in Oxford. The congregation has now moved into a new building which the church hopes to call home for generations to come.
Change is never easy.
It’s especially tough when you’re leaving the place that’s been your family home for 140 years. But that’s exactly what we’ve just done as a church family, as we said farewell to the chapel building that’s been home to Magdalen Road Church Oxford for generations.
It’s a bittersweet moment for us. We outgrew the building about ten years ago, and we’ve been meeting in a local school on Sunday mornings as a ‘temporary’ measure whilst we looked for a new place to call home. God has generously provided for us in the form of an old primary school building, which by his grace we were able to purchase last year and we’re now able to move into.
We’ve been working hard to raise funds and we’re slowly transforming this building into a new home for our church, and a hub for our local community. It’s an exciting project – please pray for us, and check out oldschoolhouseoxford.org for more details.
A fond farewell
All this exciting change comes at a cost. Moving to a new place meant that we needed to leave our chapel building behind. As with any move, it follows a difficult season of decluttering and packing, which is tricky when there’s 140 years’ worth of stuff in the loft. I’ve been amazed by the way the church family have pulled together to make this move happen – the most memorable moment surely being the team pushing the huge fridge down the road to our new premises!
But the hardest part was the emotional impact of leaving our former home. It’s been in the family longer than living memory, through every season of our lives. It has seen countless dedications, baptisms, weddings, and funerals.
So, in early August, we all squeezed into the chapel for one final Sunday service. As part of our commemorations, older members of our church family shared special memories of holiday clubs and Christmas celebrations in the chapel, of ministries born in this building, faithfully reaching into our local community. Even more encouraging than that, they shared of answered prayers and of those who have come to know Christ through the ministry of Magdalen Road.
We thanked and praised God for his wonderful provision of our chapel, before symbolically walking round to our new building together. Whilst it was painful to leave, it was such a joy to be together in the new space, praising God there as we hope to do for generations to come.
Growing through goodbyes
Personally, although I’m excited about our new home, it feels difficult to move on. Good friends were the last to get married in the chapel, and we celebrated the dedication of both my daughters here. Perhaps it’s especially hard to leave as a member of church staff, when my job is so tied to the physical space of church.
However, celebrating and reminiscing about a building can make it easy to lose sight of what church really is – not a building (however precious it is), but the body of God’s people in this community.
So, as we say goodbye to our beloved chapel building, our prayer is that we would move forwards in faith, trusting God to sustain and grow the real Magdalen Road Church. That is, not the chapel building – or indeed our new building – but the people faithfully committed to him and reaching the people of East Oxford with the good news of the gospel.