When we knew we would be in Portugal for six weeks we knew it would be important to find somewhere to worship together, a Church we could feel part of even though we would only be there for a short period of time. Like anyone in a new place looking for a Church we looked online and discovered that in Carvoeiro (where we would be staying) was All Nations Community Church.
All Nations meets each Sunday at Carvoeiro Tennis Club and is led by Pastors Stephen and Elaine Richardson. The Church started about 10 years ago by a small group of families who felt God was calling them to begin something new. Since then the Church has been worshipping and reaching out into the local community.
In the month we have been here (so far) we have been made to feel so welcome and part of the All Nations Community. Within a week people knew our names, people sought us out to talk to us, to find out what had brought us to worship, to listen our stories of life and faith.
We have all found the worship, preaching and children’s work really enriching to our faith and to the sabbatical. We have been encouraged to share in worship and to take part, if we wanted, in the prayer meeting, house groups and a teaching weekend. In all these things no one has quizzed us or asked for qualifications, we have been welcomed and included because of our shared faith in Jesus – it is that which we have seen in each that has enabled us to be truly part of the All Nations family for this time.
This welcome has shown me how you can become part of a Church community so quickly and if you want to, to get involved. I often say to new faces at the churches I minister with that you don’t have to wait forever to get involved but we don’t want to ask you too quickly to commit or get involved. I wonder how we could make the invitation to get involved more obvious and easy, alongside good safer recruitment practices.
Alongside this wonderful welcome I have been really struck by a number of the charisms that makes All Nations the Church it is:
- Being multilingual: the congregation each Sunday speaks many different languages. The service is led in both English and Portuguese with translation from the front (as you see in the picture above with Stephen and Sandra) and is also translated using headsets and simultaneous translation into German. This makes for a different worship experience but also one which reflects the diversity of the body of Christ.
- Pattern of Worship: All Nations roots its worship in Acts 2:42 and its pattern of worship across a month gives a different focus each week to The Word, Communion and Prayer, [Sung] Worship and Hospitality (breakfast service). It hasn’t always been easy to see the distinction between the different weeks, but I think the pattern is good. I was particularly struck by how effective the breakfast service was last Sunday and wonder if this is something I could take back with me to Churches I minister with.
- Sung Worship: the sung worship each week at All Nations is led by a very able group of musicians, who find their commonality in the music they sing rather than their mother tongue. We have been singing many songs which are familiar to us, which has helped us to feel at home, but it has been wonderful to hear them sung and attempt to sing them in Portuguese as well as English. I promise I won’t be singing any Portuguese solos when I return to leading worship!
- Location: it’s been really good to worship in community building rather than a Church. When I’ve been to Churches that meet in community centres/schools before I’ve often struggled to focus or feel like the space is conducive to worship. This hasn’t been the case with All Nations, maybe because the space has been worshipped in for 10 years. It is also great to have after Church coffee round the swimming pool and to see the children and young people enjoying the swim! I’m not sure an outdoor pool would go down so well in Hexham!
As we’ve talked with members of All Nations and I’ve chatted with Stephen (pastor) it has been really interesting to hear that many of the challenges I’ve faced in ministry in England they/he have also faced here. This is not the place to share specifics, but to note that where God’s Church is seeking to serve, to share and build the Kingdom there is lots to rejoice in and to give thanks for, but it’s not always easy. To know that we all face challenges, often similar, as we seek to find ways to help one another walk with God is an encouragement and a blessing. Most of all to know that the Holy Spirit of God is alive and at work in those challenges is a reminder of the biggest support and blessing we have as followers of Jesus.
Thank you All Nations for your welcome, for your invitation to be part of the Church here, for your ministry and mission in this part of the Algarve and for all that you will bless us with over the next two weeks.