The foyer of Hendon Town Hall was packed with members of St Barnabas in the minutes before the Planning Committee. There was almost a party atmosphere with people greeting each other with hugs and smiles. A couple of other groups, there to support or oppose the various applications due to be heard, hung around the fringes of the room, while the happy throng of St Bs chatted and laughed as if on a church outing. Nervously I prayed that the committee would not spoil the party.
When we went up to the committee room the atmosphere changed to that of a highly charged debating chamber. As it happened, whilst we were due to be heard first, the committee chose to start with an application for a new primary school. The school deliberation was rowdy and acrimonious; how different from the cheerful assembly just moments before. But eventually, after the decision was pronounced, the supporters and objectors left the chamber jeering or cheering - I couldn’t tell which.
Then it was our turn, and we were in for another impassioned wrangle. Eventually, after all of us who were called to speak had had our say and answered questions the best we could, the vote was called. Time slowed as the room went quiet. “Those in favour: six, against: four”. Approved! We had done it! The Lord had done it! A close call, but a clear decision: the project goes ahead. Waves of relief and joy flooded over me, as clapping and cheering greeted the announcement.
Last night’s planning committee was an emotional, tension-filled episode in a long arduous journey. And that journey continues, no doubt with many ups and downs still ahead of us. We have the uphill task of winning the hearts of the many local people who opposed this decision, people who we want to reach out to and love, and no doubt it will take time for the neighbourhood to fully get behind what we are trying to do. But for now let’s cherish this moment. The words of Psalm 126 come to mind:
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
If you want to see the moment go to https://youtu.be/VXr3p3Ei2BE