Cornerstone Church, as we know it today, is a thriving church of 750 adults and children, meeting together on Sundays at Castle Boulevard, and around the city in midweek smaller groups. Yet the story of God’s hand of blessing upon our church stretches back for many decades!
Peter & Valerie Lewis, who retired from leadership ministry at Cornerstone in 2015, first came to the church in 1969. It was a small Baptist church meeting in Hyson Green, with around 40 members. Peter brought a fresh emphasis on the importance of the Bible in the life and teaching of the church, and as a result, the church steadily grew. Throughout the 1970s the church grew as a number of students and young professionals joined. Peter also began to develop a wider ministry through his writing of books and columns in leading evangelical publications.
As the church grew, it became clear that the old Victorian building in which they met was becoming an increasing liability, and so in 1983 the church moved to Raleigh Street in Radford, to a nearly-new social club building. At this point, the church was renamed ‘The Cornerstone Evangelical Church.’
Throughout the 1980s the church continued to grow, especially as more and more students and then families became part of the church. A number of people we also prepared for serving the Lord in ministry in churches in the UK and overseas. Peter continued to write books and speak at regional and national conferences.
By the 1990s, Cornerstone had outgrown its premises again, and found a secondary school near Wollaton Park to house its Sunday services. Over the next 20 years the church continued to be blessed by contemporary and biblical worship, teaching and community life. Numerous International Workers were commissioned and sent to serve God in different countries of the world, whilst people from many nations came to Nottingham and Cornerstone to work, study or find refuge. To sustain and develop these many ministries, growing numbers of leaders and staff were appointed.
In 2008, we experienced the Lord’s leading to prepare to leave the school premises, and find a location for our own facilities. The church gathered together for prayer, fasting, and seeking the Lord. The call to sacrificial giving rang throughout the church, and the Lord prompted our hearts to fresh levels of service and giving, raising £2.7 million to buy the site on Castle Boulevard, which then housed the MFI showroom and warehouse. Further giving has raised a total of £4.5 million, and we have a mortgage of £1.6 million.
We moved into our new premises in September 2012, tremendously thankful for all the Lord’s generosity and blessings upon us so far.
My heart pounded as I made my way down to the Special Care Baby Unit. It was the middle of the night and I had been called down to see my baby. I feared the worst.
Suffering - Alison's Story
I stood, helpless, beside the incubator as medical staff desperately tried to save Daniel's life. The monitors and machines which we had learned to read and understand over the previous two weeks all told me that there was very little hope. An hour later John and I sat and wept as we held our firstborn son for the first time and watched his life slip away.
It was April 1993 and Daniel had been born eight weeks early. His lungs had not fully developed by that stage and he was unable to breathe without the help of a ventilator. It was a total shock to us to find ourselves in the kind of situation you watch on T.V. or read about in a book. For thirteen days our emotions "roller-coastered". One minute we were on a "high" as Daniel seemed to take a step forward but a few hours later we would be in despair as he seemed to have regressed again. We felt an overwhelming love for Daniel and longed to hold him close to us, and yet we were unable to do so until those last few minutes of his life.
John and I were both brought up in Christian families and over the years had both developed what we thought was a strong faith. But until then, for both of us, life had been easy. Our faith had never really been put to the test. Now we needed God in a way we had never needed Him before - but where was He? Had the God we had come to love and trust walked away just when we needed Him most? The questions buzzed around our minds but deep down we knew that God was there with us and in our grief we experienced God's presence and love in new and at times overwhelming ways. Words from the Bible, which we had known for years suddenly, came alive to us as they spoke straight into our situation.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.
Our little world seemed to be crumbling around us but God was someone we could rely upon. He could give us the strength we needed which we could not find in ourselves.
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze.
We knew that, however weak we felt, God was with us, holding us, carrying us through. We didn't have all the answers but we knew the reality of God in our pain and that was what mattered most.
Eleven months later we had a beautiful baby girl, Nicola, who was a source of great joy and brought lots of healing to our broken lives. Some of our hopes and dreams began to be realised and we felt like real parents at last, with a baby we could love and care for.
By January 1996 I was 35 weeks through my third pregnancy. Everything was going reasonably smoothly and I had the date in my diary for an elective Caesarean delivery. One day I had some strange tightenings in my stomach and eventually John and I decided I should go to the hospital to be checked. One person after another tried in vain to trace the baby's heartbeat. I felt numb as it became clear that my baby had already died. By the time Jonathan was delivered I had been bleeding internally for a number of hours and was very ill. I was taken to Intensive Care where I remember praying that my life would be spared.
As I began to recover, the shock of what had happened started to hit me and once again I was grieving over the loss of a son. This time, however, my experience of grief proved to be quite different. I very soon started to feel isolated as we had recently moved to a new area and had not had time to develop close friendships. People did not know what to say to us and so largely said nothing. After Daniel's death I wanted to talk a lot about him and about how I was feeling, the tears flowed freely and I found great comfort from God, especially as I prayed and read my Bible. But now I found myself not wanting to talk about Jonathan. I could not express or even understand how I was feeling, I rarely cried and I found it very difficult to read my Bible and almost impossible to pray. This time God felt distant but somehow I knew that although my feelings had changed the God I had trusted in three years before was still the same. There was much I did not know but I had to cling on to what I did know - that, though I could not feel His presence, God was reaching out to me in love, wanting to help me, wanting to carry me through and I had to trust Him.
November 1997 saw the arrival of our second daughter, Anna. We often think of her as our miracle baby. We strongly believe that God was watching over her little life and over-ruling certain events so that I was in the right place at the right time. Had that not happened Anna almost certainly would not have survived. Like Daniel, Anna was born eight weeks early and had to be ventilated from the start. It all felt very familiar, except that some of the machines in the Special Care Baby Unit had been updated. Once again we felt surrounded by prayer and Anna made excellent progress. She is now a picture of health, a bundle of fun, and a very precious gift from God.
We look back over the last six years with a mixture of emotions. We have known great sorrow in the loss of Daniel and Jonathan but also great joy in the gift of two precious daughters, Nicola and Anna. Most importantly, however, we have known the presence of God in our joys and in our sorrows - the God who comes alongside us and shares our pain, the God who gives strength when we have come to the end of our own resources, the faithful and unchangeable God in whom we can trust, whatever our circumstances may be.
I trust in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God." My times are in your hands.
Our memories of Cornerstone are now decades old but still as precious as ever.