When I heard Steve Chalke was offering a day's teaching on leadership based on his 30 years of running Oasis Trust it quickly became a date in the diary. The chance to glean the accumulated wisdom of a ministry that started in the lounge of a fusty manse to an international organisation running health, housing and education projects in many parts of the globe was not to be missed. And with 47 Oasis Schools now at the heart of a holistic approach to both education and community there was surely much to learn.
The Church at Waterloo alone runs a food bank, youth programme, children's centre, inner city farm, debt counselling and a school, which has just received an 'outstanding in all areas' Ofsted report for 'Transforming lives of inner-city students to access the best universities in the country.' The Church has now been approached by the council to host the local library in addition to next year opening a youth centre offering care to body, soul and spirit with an emphasis on mental wellbeing and release from life controlling addictions.
The day was booked to coincide with half term which allows the conference to take place in the main auditorium which would normally be occupied by school pupils. Here is a vision for community transformation on a grand scale - a truly multi generational fully inclusive hub where the lives of thousands of local people collide with an ethos built around a Christ centric heart.
The day is split into five sections - Vision, Structure, Personal Growth, The Inner Life and Theology. There's no chance we are going to cover all of that in one day, I think - and so does everyone else - including Steve, but it won't be for the lack of trying.
One thing is for sure about Rev Chalke - he lives what he believes and he's prepared to go the full distance to bring the change to which he is fully committed. It may be true that he is never far from controversy but neither is he far from changing that part of London I sat in last Friday with a message of God's love. His message of that love may be more inclusive than some are comfortable with but that same love is changing the lives of hundreds of people who would otherwise never darken the door of a church and that alone was worth the early train down to the Big Smoke to learn the lessons of a man 30 years on his journey to bringing an oasis to the barrenness of many lives.