The Holy Living column with Peter Dodson
We are a family of Christians who love Jesus. '“ those are the first words from Bethel's website. The Hebrew word 'Bethel' means 'House of God.' Bethel's congregation belongs to Britain's 'Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC)' (visit: fiec.org.uk)
Ripon’s Bethel congregation, several of whom have become personal friends, “seeks to grow together in faith, hope and love.”
These three aspects of Christian experience were often placed together by the very first followers of Jesus Christ.
Bethel Church, on Church Lane, began in 1975. A group of local Christians met “together for fellowship and prayer, based upon the Word of God.” One of Bethel’s elders rightly indicates that the building itself is not its most important asset.
The people who congregate there for worship, Bible study, fellowship, witness and mission, recognise their commitment to Jesus as the solid rock upon which their faith, life and work depends, grows and matures.
This reminds me of the God who says to his people, including Bethel’s devoted churchgoers, “You are mine, you are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you” (Isaiah 43.4). Because, for Christians, Jesus embodies God’s Word, the spirit and life of Old Testament prophecy is always heard speaking clearly and incisively from the heart of the Cross on which Jesus gave his life: “You are mine, you are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you.”
Bethel’s warmly welcoming congregation is especially concerned for the young.
There is, for example, an after-school club during term time, for 7-11s, to enjoy drawing, singing, laughter, running, eating, making friends and learning and learning exciting things from the Bible. Secondary school students “Drop into Bethel” each Monday after school for “fun, hot chocolate and toast, a short Bible talk, indoor games like table tennis, and time to chill out too.”
Locally, each year, over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, there are camps organised or young people. Bethel church members, adults and teenagers, strongly support these camps with active and willing help. Such camps are held in many parts of the country. The camps offer lots of activities, including ‘Big Top’ tent meetings, mystery tour, quizzes, treasure hunt, field games, and games at Boroughbridge leisure centre. There are special interest groups covering face painting, cold cooking, bird watching, drama, music and much more.
The young campers come from near and far, with opportunities to discover more of who Jesus is and what he came to do.
Bethel’s biblical and ministerial stance produces truly devoted Christians who contribute a great deal to Ripon and beyond. Some of its members have served their Lord in remote parts of the globe, often in very difficult circumstances.
Bethel’s current worshippers continue, knowledgably, prayerfully and financially to support their overseas Christian brothers and sisters; only spiritual strength from hearts filled with Christ-like wisdom and love, makes these things possible, fulfilling a Bible imperative to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6.4) or, as Jesus himself commanded his faithful followers, to “Love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 13.34).
Those appointed to lead independent evangelical church congregation are usually termed “pastor”, a word that means “shepherd”, thus following Jesus who proclaimed, “I am the Good Shepherd [who] lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10).