In the small town of Woking, England (pronounced with a long o) live Alan and Beryl Sussex. I stayed with them a few nights ago while I was spending a bit of time in London. In all honesty, I have never met anyone like Alan and Beryl. Alan is a strong 71 years-old while Beryl isn’t a day over 28 *wink. They have lived in the Woking area almost their entire lives, and they’ve been attending their church The Coign for 44 years. Based on these facts one would assume that the Sussex’s don’t like change very much at all. But that assumption would be quite mistaken, because Alan and Beryl are two of the greatest revolutionaries that I’ve ever met. Allow me to explain further:
Their church, The Coign, meets in a building on a corner right in the middle of town. The word coign (pronounced coin) is an architectural term that means cornerstone. The church got its name many years ago from Alan and Beryl—well more specifically Alan and Beryl’s house. In Woking a lot of the houses have names instead of numbers for their addresses. Some houses I noticed were called The White House or Beggar’s Roost. Alan and Beryl’s old house was called The Coign since it was located right on the street corner in their neighborhood. I told them that it’s an absolutely perfect name for a church and one that I intend to borrow/steal one day if I ever get to be involved in a church plant.
So Alan and Beryl, living in Woking for an incredibly long time and going to The Coign for 44 years, felt as though God was leading them towards planting a church. When they told me this, I thought about all the struggles with tradition in the Church in the States and how asking a couple who had been involved in the church for 44 years to pack up and leave to start something from grass roots was almost unheard of. I mean, don’t you ask a bunch of twentysomethings with tons of energy and spirit to head up something like this? I agree that the local gathering needs to be multi-generational and all, but do you ask someone who’s been there for 44 years to head it up? Yes. Yes you do.
And this is what absolutely blew my mind.
The Sussex’s asked me if I’d like to go to a pudding with their cell group. When they first said this I thought, Right. So we’re going to a pudding. How exactly does one go to a delicious and creamy food that comes in delightful packs of six and fits nicely into school lunches? I was informed that going to a pudding was actually going out for dessert, which I thought was wonderful since I’d get to meet a few of the people that helped plant the church. I guess I expected to meet a few couples in their 50s and 40s, maybe a few in their 30s, but I don’t think I expected to meet anyone at all in their 20s. My paradigm is from the American church where small groups are usually made up of similarly aged people. I have seen a few multi-generational small groups, but I don’t think that it’s the norm.
We got to the flat of the guy who was hosting the pudding, and it turned out that he was 22 as well. I thought that it was great because I’d have someone to talk to a bit more than had previously expected. The next to show up was a couple in their late 20s. The next was a guy in his 20′ as well. Two more came that were maybe 30. After everyone had arrived I looked around the room and I saw a bunch of twenty-and thirtysomethings— an odd American kid with a beard who was having quite a difficult time trying to figure out where the Snack Packs were and the Sussex’s who had joined in the ancient revolution of being a part of church plants around the world.
Later Beryl and I were sitting down for our afternoon tea, and I asked her to tell me about planting a church with all its pros and cons—the pains of leaving their church and the joys of starting a new one. I asked her for advice on how I should live my life, what I should expect and what I should look forward to. It was an incredible conversation. There is so much wisdom to be gleaned from the generations above me.
The last thing we talked about was the subject of change. I told her about having just graduated from college and having to leave all my friends behind. I told her about trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my life and the struggles I’ve been having with church as of late. She gave me some invaluable words of wisdom on how to not only deal with change but rather how to embrace it. Then she said something that I will never forget:
"I guess change is here to stay, isn’t it?"
When she said it I just sat there and thought about how that statement contradicted itself, and yet how it was perfectly coherent. I have such tremendous respect for the Sussex’s. I pray that when I reach my 70s I’ll still be asking God what’s next and constantly looking for Him to move, just as Alan and Beryl are in the little town of Woking, England.