What is Achor?
The Achor Community is a group of people from the King’s Church Durham congregation who live on the Sherburn Road Estate in Gilesgate.
The name ‘Achor’ is a reference from one of the Old Testament prophets, Hosea 2.15, where God says he will ‘make the valley of Achor a door of hope’: Achor was a word previously associated with hopelessness (see Joshua 7), but in God’s hands it becomes one of hope.
This is a reflection of the overarching story through the Bible where situations of sin, brokenness and despair are turned to joy and hope. In taking the name Achor, we express our desire for this same story to be seen many times over in our own lives and in the lives of our neighbours on the estate.
Inward and outward
A central part of Achor is that we are not just a group of Christians who happen to live in the same area, but that we have chosen to share our lives together as a missional community. This means sharing a common rhythm of life which involves an inward focus (community) and an outward focus (mission).
Inwardly, we eat a meal together each week and meet several times a week to pray for our neighbourhood – as well as being around to help and support each other and share fun times together too.
Outwardly, we are committed to serving God and serving our neighbours on the estate, by getting to know them, finding ways to invite them into our lives, and seeking to share our faith in Jesus with them.
We do this because the importance of Christians both loving one another and reaching out to the world is a clear command of Jesus. We are told repeatedly in 1 John, for example, that having love for our brothers and sisters is not an optional extra in the Christian life. It is a key mark of our faith – ‘if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us’ (1 John 4.12). Similarly, reaching out to those around us in mission is a core part of what God wants his church to be.
Furthermore, these two sides of community and mission are not separate, but interact with each other in beautiful ways. Some of our most enduring friendships have been built in contexts like our weekly women’s breakfast group and small groups over shared food, fun, and Bible studies. As well as sharing about who God is and what he’s done, we are also putting our common Christian life on display and inviting others to come and be a part of it too.
Another aspect of the vision for Achor is that our community is not just here temporarily, but that we are committed to being on the estate for the long term. New members of the community are asked to commit to joining for at least two years in order to be invested in the estate over time, although many of our members have lived here for much longer than this.
This long-term vision for Achor applies to our relationships with each other and with those living on the estate too. Our communal life is enriched by our commitment to walk faithfully alongside one another, and has created the opportunity for deep friendships to form – even between people of very different personalities.
It also gives purpose to the ways in which we engage with the people around us: we don’t lose heart in praying together repeatedly for the same situations in our neighbours’ lives, nor do we lose patience during the slow process of earning our neighbours’ trust and building lasting friendships with them.
Last year during a prayer meeting, someone shared the hymn, ‘Brother, sister, let me serve you’, which has these words:
I will hold the Christlight for you
in the nighttime of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.
For us, these words offer a picture of how tangible the love is that Christians are called to share with one another – visibly present, able to be touched, and speaking out words of comfort. And so, we try to model that love to those in our community and on the estate, journeying with them through times of tears and darkness, as well as joy.
The commitment to long-term presence in Achor also stands against the pressure towards an overly busy lifestyle where our presence (in body and in mind) is so fleeting. Instead we are challenged to slow down and truly recognise the value of the people we live with.
As Achor we are constantly seeking transformation for ourselves and the people and situations we come across. However, it is important for us that we always acknowledge that the power for any change does not come from our own strength and abilities, but from God. We can only play a small part in God’s bigger purposes for the estate. He is a gracious and generous God, already at work in and through the people around us.
As such we are keen on all things being done in partnership. In particular, this means doing things with our neighbours and not for them. We place great importance in working with partner organisations such as local community centres, supporting them in their ideas and plans and maintaining strong relationships with them.
As God is at work in those around us, we are also keen to invite other Christians from the wider King’s Church congregation and beyond into the things we are doing. Whether joining in with different activities and events happening on the estate or praying with us, we love partnering with the people around us in God’s mission.
Finally, the Achor Community has come out of King’s Church’s vision of being a church for the whole city, following the call of building community and living for God. Deep, enduring friendships with one another and a life of mission that perseveres are for everyone in the church too, not just Achor. Our prayer is that all who are a part of our church will know something of this for themselves too.
If you want to learn more about this, please get in touch with us or check out our page on the website!
Charlie Evans is a member of the Achor Community. He spends his time working for a local charity.