A Radical Discovery: The Stanford Boiler RoomMary Elizabeth Blume - 26 Jun 2012
Heading out of London to the town of Stanford-le-Hope, I had little clue that in an hour I’d arrive in a radically different world.
The Stanford Boiler Room is based out of a home reserved for the purposes of prayer and hospitality. It came about when Robb and Sally Harman purchased the house with a plan to sell their own home (just across the street) and pay off their mortgage. With uncanny good humour, Robb explained, “Instead, we kept both houses and doubled our mortgage! It was a step in faith, and God provided!”
En route to the Boiler Room, we popped in on rehearsals for ‘Live Lounge’. This creative arts event is held annually to raise money for 24-7 Ibiza. The hall was a whirlwind of sound-checks, tummy butterflies and reassuring hugs from Sally, but amidst the merry chaos, we were introduced to some of the Boiler Room family. We were also introduced to Charl and Lena who chatted to us about prayer cafes in local schools – one of the many ministries radiating from the Boiler Room.
Later at the Harman’s, Sally said over lemonade: “For us the Boiler Room is both too ordinary and too extraordinary to describe.” The entire community meet and eat together in different members’ homes at least a couple times a week. “There’s something special about eating together,” Robb told us. “It’s an intimate time in community life of serving and sharing and being nourished all together.” For the Stanford community, the dinner table is a place of inescapable, all-embracing accountability. It’s a family thing.
For those accustomed to a model of church comprised of rows of pews facing a pulpit, the Stanford community’s idea of learning may seem unconventional. Instead of pews, community members gather around someone’s living room. Instead of a preacher, the group teaches one another. Or more accurately, the group lead teaching in turn, choosing a passage of the Bible or a book to study together as a community. Corporate learning is one of the ways the Stanford Community put into practice Paul’s instructions for the Body of Christ: “as members of one body… Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:15-16).
The community’s dedication to prayer is literally written on the walls of the prayer room. There are prayers for the students that have formed relationships with Charl, Lena and others through school prayer cafes; a local map covered in post-it note prayers for Stanford-le-Hope schools, neighbourhoods and civil services; prayer for international ties like the 24-7 work going on in Ibiza; upcoming events are covered in prayer there: the creative fair that the Boiler Room crew put on and of course the Live Lounge event. In addition to its collaged walls, the Boiler Room prayer space is equipped with a guitar, piano and several comfy sofas for long, late night prayer shifts. The room is perpetually lived in, the engine room for the Boiler Room community.
The Stanford Boiler Room Community is about doing life together, about weaving the stuff of life around those central elements of meals, learning and prayer. It’s about committing to keeping one another accountable and living life intentionally. Together. 24-7. Now that’s radical.
Discover more stories from 24-7 Boiler Rooms on our new communities pages.
Thanks to the supremely talented Adele Watts for the photos www.adelewatts.com (All images Copyright Adele Watts)