There is nothing special about this man-made date but yet it does offer opportunity to pause and think, about the past year and the one to come. So it's in meditative mood that I consider 2012 in Zac's Place.
It was a year in which nothing changed and everything changed. We ended as we began doing a weekly bible study (tribal gathering) during which anything can and sometimes does happen. Like a couple rolling in, midway through the study, dressed only in the paper suits they'd been given after the police had taken their clothes for forensic examination following a stabbing. Just another week.
Consistency isn't really a word I'd associate with Zac's yet there has been some this last year. Whereas when I first started going the 'congregation' would change on a regular basis we now have our core band of regulars who come, plus others who are frequent visitors as well as the the caller-inners. And our regulars are a real mixed bunch: from those who've been Christians for as long as they can remember to those who've rediscovered what they once had to those who are still searching; from those with a good knowledge of the bible to those who can't understand why we keep talking about Jews; from those with a strong faith to those with none; from those who are fairly obviously messed up to those who are better at keeping it hidden. The one thing we all have in common is Zac's. And I suppose a spiritual thirst.
And it is these people that make Zac's what it is, that give it its character, that colour it red and purple and black but never grey. It's for these people - and because of them - that Zac's exists, to nurture, encourage, pray for, pray with, stand alongside, feed, respect and love.
In a world where many fail to find either respect or love, Zac's offers a safe refuge, level ground, a place where the weary can rest, the weak can find strength and the unlovely find love.
Getting several mentions in one of the Archbishop's farewell speeches as well as being promoted nationwide as an example of alternative church as well as interviews with Sean on BBC radio and Sean speaking at various unlikely conferences has given Zac's a fame (in some circles!) of sorts and if more places like it rise up then it will be for the good but what happens outside isn't really what matters inside, from the floor.
2012 was the year that Avril and Kay were baptised - and Avril is still clinging on, desperately. It was also the year that Baz, one of our stalwarts, died suddenly. Other friends associated with coffee bar at Zac's also died. But others have gone to rehab. Like any year it's been a mix of good and sad, funny and tragic.
|Baz and Di celebrated their 25th anniversary in Zac's a few years ago|
Just like the mix of ragamuffins that we are: crazy, bad, hopeless, hopeful, angry, determined, upbeat, downbeat, weak, wounded souls. Souls who need cherishing. But blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.
A new year and a new adventure begins tomorrow. We're going to try having a monthly Sunday meeting, something some of us been keen on for years, to meet a need for those who find 'normal' church an unwelcoming or untruthful place. Sean is going to be taking time out to write his book leaving others of us to run occasional studies in his stead. And those are just the planned changes. God only knows what He has in mind for Zac's in 2013 but I have a feeling it will be wonderful, amazing, encouraging, and life-affirming. And I want to be in there for every bit of it.
Happy New year, Zac's! I look forward to enjoying the adventure with you all.