I’m really glad I came to Bristol sight unseen, because I don’t know that I ever would have chosen to live here. I think Bristol is kind of like the San Fransisco of England. Off-beat, edgy, and proudly weird. It’s the perfect fit for artists, hippies, musicians, and vegans. It’s an awkward fit for an Allison.
But as I said, I’m really glad I came. Bristol is uncomfortable in all the right ways. It’s stretching me, challenging me, and forcing me to think and LIVE in a brand new perspective. And it has so so much to teach me. When I first arrived, I questioned whether I had made the right choice. But when I took my eyes off of what was in front of me and focused on what GOD is doing in this city, it took my breath away. I continue to be astounded by the Christians here, and I’m so excited to see what God has up His sleeve for me through them.
Those of you who know me well probably know that the unity of the body of Christ has pressed on my heart and mind for years now. I have been aching and praying for the Church (in its proper sense) to get better at loving one another, to act more and more like brothers and sisters, to turn their backs on division and choose love. Some of the churches I’ve seen in the States have had me wondering if that’s an unattainable goal. But I have been ASTONISHED to find that here in Bristol, they’re doing it. They’re not doing it perfectly, but they’re doing it well.
At every church I have visited, I have been consistently surprised to find church-goers recommending other churches to me as well as building up their own. It’s not that they’re not loyal to their church, it’s that they recognize that maybe different congregations are different so they can attract and be a home for different people. Perhaps it’s all part of God’s plan that we can all be unique and still united. And that phases no one here. Do you want to be part of another church but visit us from time to time? Great! We’ll be happy to see you! Want to come to ours but choose to visit others now and then? Have fun! And they work together! There are several organizations and charities in Bristol run by “the churches of Bristol.” Not a certain church in Bristol. Not a specific church group. All of them have come together to help out in what they’ve decided is a worthwhile cause. Everyone has friends and connections in other churches, there’s absolutely no feeling of exclusivity. The leaderships of most of the larger churches pray together bi-monthly. I attended an interdenominational “prayer burn” (24-7 prayer for a specified time) this weekend have managed to become part of an interdenominational prayer group. They have decided to work together with the government to do what they can to help the people of Bristol. Christians here are known and loved as a help to the city. It is, honestly, one of the most hopeful things I have seen from the church in a long time. One month down. Eleven to go. I’m excited to see what they bring!
(Note: The photo is a view of my university as taken from Cabot Tower, in nearby Brandon Hill Park. My “home” is the tiered, beige one to the right of the tower, far right of the picture. I’m spoiled :-D)