Bethel was orginally planted by Lexden Evangelical Church ( now known as Kingsland) in 1995 and became known as Kingsland Church Stanway. The congregation has been together since that time and has seen many changes most recent of which was a name change to Bethel in March 2012.
The idea behind Bethel is the encounter that Jacob had with God as described in Genesis 28
Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it[c] stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. [d] 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” 18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel, [e] though the city used to be called Luz.
Four things stood out to us from this passage:
- Jacob called place was named “house of God” – but there was no building! Just a stone pillow! We believe that the torn veil means God’s presence and kingdom are to break out all over the place. So a house of God without a building fits perfectly.
- Jacob says “Surely the Lord was in this place and I did not know it“. We believe that the kingdom is bigger than the church and that God works with unexpected people, in unexpected ways, in unexpected places.
- Jesus told us to pray that His kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven. Jacob saw a stairway in his dream and we believe that Stanway ( where a lot of our activities are based) is a stairway. So we believe there is a stairway between earth and heaven and that we should be calling on the resources of heaven to break into our lives. We reach up high to encounter God and we bend down low to serve the community.
- The gate of heaven is mentioned ( v 17). Similar to the above and significant because Stanway is entry to Colchester wheich we see as a gateway place.
Jacob went on to wrestle with God. He had encounters with God which changed him in profound ways. God made incredible promises to him, he walked with a limp and he got a new name.