Worship with in'tent' - lockdown sparks reformation at Angus church

A congregation is enjoying a new lease of life after embracing an ancient tradition from the Bible and adapting it for the 21st century.

Members of Lowson Memorial Church in Forfar, Angus erected a large white marquee in the grounds to restart community outreach projects which were halted during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Karen Fenwick and Morag Wood.
Rev Dr Karen Fenwick (left) and Morag Wood inside the tent, which is currently hosting a sale in aid of church funds.

Akin to a Tabernacle, the ‘tent of meeting' which is mentioned throughout the Old Testament, it was opened in June to host a free breakfast club for families during the school holidays.

Since then it has also been the venue for a lunch club for pensioners, a weekly youth group which regularly attracts around 80 youngsters, Bible study classes and Messy Church.

Plans are afoot to possibly hold a Christmas Fayre, a murder mystery night and music concerts in the future.

Mending the nets

Minister, Rev Dr Karen Fenwick, said members are delighted with their new "Church with In'tent' which measures 39ft x 49ft and was funded by a £9,750 grant from Angus Council.

"The new tent sits alongside one that the church already owned and has provided an incredible outreach opportunity," she added.

"As a child, I was taught the expression ‘if you are not fishing, you should be mending your nets' and that is what I did during the COVID-19 lockdown which has led to fantastic possibilities opening up.

"Voluntary Action Angus, which has links to Angus Council, got in touch to ask if the breakfast club could restart in June and offered us the grant for the tent after I explained use of the church building was restricted.

"Acquiring a tent this size is something that I have wanted to do for years but I did not think it would be fair to go to the congregation with the financial cost so we are very grateful."

Church tent Forfar
The tent has opened up new community outreach possibilities.

Dr Fenwick said the money was used to buy tables and chairs for the tent, safety barriers as well as lighting and heating units so activities can continue during the autumn and the winter months.

She added that the food provided to hundreds of people over the last three months was donated by local supermarkets and other food retailers.

God is on the move

Dr Fenwick said: "We are now using both the building and the tent simultaneously and the experience so far has been really exciting, inspiring, incredibly busy and exhausting.

"The congregation has always been forward looking, we took services online as soon as lockdown happened and our existing food delivery service supplied over 250 parcels and meals on a weekly basis across the community, and I have been preaching that we will probably not go back to how things were before.

"I told them that God is on the move and we have to be ready to move with Him.

"The message has gone down incredibly well with people and I am so excited about the possibilities for outreach that lie ahead."

Dr Fenwick said a pop-up sale to raise money for church funds, badly depleted due to lockdown, was currently being held in the tent with a wide range of new and second-hand items including children's clothes, kitchen equipment, DVDs and CDs on offer.

"It has been fantastic because many people who would not normally come into the church building have stopped by the tent for a browse and a cup of tea," she added.

"I have spoken to so many strangers and many are curious about what else goes on at the church."

Belong then believe

Dr Fenwick said the tent constituted a type of reformation within Lowson Memorial Church as members look at new ways of spreading the Good News.

"I have always been of the view that people need to feel that they belong before they believe," she explained.

"If they feel that they can be part of a community, which I am literally seeing in front of my eyes, then there is a possibility that they can come to that place of belief."

The tent is likely to remain in place until December before being packed away for the winter.

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