Hereford Baptist Church (HBC) is located in Commercial Road, at the gateway to the main shopping area of the city. Commercial Road is home to sixty mainly small businesses including shops, pubs and clubs, fast food outlets, and restaurants. Behind the church are the Magistrates Court, which was built on church land, and a large housing estate. The bus station is just off Commercial Road, as is the County Hospital.
It is hard to envisage what the area around HBC was like in the 1880s when the church was built on the site of the former Star and Garter Hotel, and to the rear of the then Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital. There may have been public houses in the area but there would have been no nightclubs in those days. I am guessing there would have been some small shops. There was also a prison. I do wonder how the church of the 1880s interacted with its neighbours. Histories of HBC published in 1930 and 1978 talk much of fundraising and building activities, providing details of donors, deacons, and ministers, but revealing little about mission. It appears that the main area of outreach in the late 1800s was the Sunday School.
These days the lobby area of HBC is open from midnight each Saturday until roughly 03:00 hours on Sunday to provide a place of sanctuary for pubbers and clubbers. This ministry is called Nightshift. Volunteers serve hot and cold drinks, and provide a listening ear where needed. They also keep the forecourt area clean, thereby blessing the duty deacon who is not confronted with leftover fast food, vomit and other items to clean up prior to the morning service. There are many other ministries including a small shop next to the church on Commercial Road. The shop, which is known as The Common Room, has allowed those who volunteer there to connect with other businesses and passers-by. The faithful who planned and built the church could have had no idea just how much the church and its ministries would change over the years.
God knew. It may have been human beings who toiled to build the present HBC buildings, but it was God who ordained where the church should be built, and permitted all the changes to the church and its ministries over the years. Of course, we have to be careful not to stand in God’s way. Sometimes we humans get carried away with our own ideas and vision and forget that God may have different ideas. The challenge we face is to make sure that in all the busy-ness of church and home life we never stop listening to God.
God also knew exactly what he was doing when he planted each of us where we are; in our families, homes, villages, towns, cities, and nations. But do we recognise and know the purpose of God in our lives? I make no excuse for concluding this post with one of my favourite verses of Scripture. It reminds me that like my church I am here for a reason. God purposely put me here because He has a purpose for me.
From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. (Acts 17:26 NIV)