Home Mission pics

Home Mission pics

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

"We've started on a journey with these most beautiful of people"

Grace Tucker, Pastoral Leader at Ruardean Hill Baptist Church in the Forest of Dean, followed our feature about work with people with Learning Disabilities with this lovely Christmas story:
We are a small rural fellowship with just seven members but have a big heart to know and make known the love of Jesus in our community.  During this year we have developed relationship with two local residential disability homes.  One of the church members has been visiting the homes and conversation developed around the possibility of their coming to the chapel for a special Christmas celebration. 
     In September we started a JAM club for 9 – 13 year olds and so we asked  if they would like to help.  They would! Their task was to help simply tell the nativity story, dress up, help with the singing and hand round the mince pies afterwards – this they did admirably! 
Musical instruments were handed around, everyone was relaxed and joined in the fun. 
    Just before we served the mince pies we ran an impromptu nativity story that we had shared earlier in the week with our Toddler Group – guests were given  a sheep, a camel, baby Jesus, the three gifts etc., to bring to the front and place by the crib at the required time.  This time the story was interspersed with Mary had a baby, twinkle twinkle little star and bar bar black sheep.  There was much fun and laughter and everyone wanted their picture taken!!  
Some of the more able residents learnt that we were holding our Christingle service on Sunday and  a ‘make your own Christmas Wreath’ the following Thursday – they’ve asked if they can come back!
   I am sure we’ve started on a journey with these most beautiful of people – we are asking God that he will continue to use us, small as we are,  to touch their lives and the lives of their carers.   

Tuesday, 14 December 2010


Some of you may be aware of the BBC mini series 'Nativity' which will be on TV next week. I'm reproducing here in full this 'review with a mission' by Peter Graystone of the Church Army and 'Fresh Expressions', taken from the Churches Together in England website:

I went to the press preview screening of the BBC/Red Planet series The Nativity at the end of October. The good news is that it is wonderful television. And it opens up an astonishing evangelistic opportunity for us.

My main message is that we can commend it to every church as something they can recommend with total confidence to their congregations and (even more importantly) those with whom they are in touch beyond their churches.

It's in four episodes that will be broadcast on BBC1 in middle of the evening in the week leading up to Christmas Eve. And it is going to do more to promote Christian faith in this country than all the sermons of the year put together. It is that good!

Nativity 3

Churches need to be geared up to the fact that their major opportunity to present the gospel this year may not be at a carol service held on Sunday 19 December (which will be before the series has been broadcast) but on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (when I anticipate that people who have watched the series may want to come to church looking to find out what it all means for them).

Basically the serial tells the stories as they have been handed down to us with straightforward acceptance of them as true. It fills out the back-story with motivations and emotions in order to make it entirely credible. Admittedly, it does incorporate two thousand years of tradition that has gathered around the story (for example, there is a donkey, Mary ends up in blue, all the characters end up squashed in a stable, and so on). But the fact that it declares that this baby is going to save humankind from its sins is so overpowering that all the embellishments become part of the credibility, not distracting.

It is not just moving, it is funny (very), believable (totally), sexy (yes!), tense and profoundly full of the grace of God. And the awe of God too - the writer Tony Jordan has worked a miracle. Half way through each episode the camera pans back way out into the cosmos, and you hear deep groans, as if something tremendously significant is happening in both heaven and earth. And it ends with a declaration that because of this birth, the salvation of humankind is on its way. Then you hear the voice of the adult Jesus reciting the Beatitudes.

I started crying half way through the third episode (when Mary's father, who doesn't even exist in the Bible version, stands by his daughter even though she is in disgrace). And by the end of episode four (when ... actually, I don't want to spoil it) I was drowning. Fact! So was everyone.

At the preview they interviewed Tony Jordan (creator of Life on Mars and writer of Eastenders). He said: ‘I’ve always had a faith. I’m not a God-botherer … But I do believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. I do believe he came here to take away our sins. I absolutely believe that. But there’s loads of little bits around it that bug me. So what I’ve done with the story of the nativity is written a version that I can believe.

‘And I believe that the people who watch it who aren’t already sold, who would ridicule another version with square beards, [will find that] I’ve made it accessible. So they can watch it and see it’s truthful, and say, “You know what! That’s really cool. I never realised it could be like that. I thought it was all beyond me.” … Watch it, believe it, invest in it, and sob like a child.’

I did. You will.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Your Gifts for Mission

WEBA retained its position at the top of the Home Mission Giving charts in November, with gifts totalling £20,731. Our total for the year is now £227,500  that's £33.28 each, a higher rate per church member than any other regional association.
This is great news as the resources we have to spend in this region as a result are directly affected by local giving. Many of the stories in this blog, and many others like them, are made possible by Home Mission funding.
So- thank you, churches, large and small, your faith and generosity overwhelms those of us who collect these gifts month by month.
  • If you are responsible for passing on Home Mission cheques, please make sure your gifts reach us by Friday 17th December so that they can be included with this year's total. 
  • If your church receives, or has received a Home Mission grant, please tell us your story! You can comment below, or send your own blog post, ideally with pictures, to ruth.whiter@webassoc.org.uk

Friday, 26 November 2010

The Art Experiment at Totterdown

The Front Room Art Trail has been running each November in the Totterdown area of South Bristol for ten years. It's enormously popular; people open their homes and display work that is either their own or by the hundreds of artists who apply to take part each year. I used to love looking round these houses, enjoying the spirit of trust and community the event engendered, and wish that my church, Totterdown Baptist, could somehow be part of it. I think I thought that the church, with its focus on evangelism through words, wouldn't be interested, and that the Front Room committee, being rather arty, would look down on the church.

This changed very quickly when the trail decided to expand its borders and ask us to take part.. I don't get to look round many houses now, because for the last four years the church has hosted an exhibition of  between 15 and 20 artists each year. Every year I manage a waiting list of those trying to reserve a space. Every year the church serves teas, coffees, and lots of homemade cakes and chats to the wider community as they stream through on Saturday and Sunday. Front Room has become our front room, where the neighbours come in and have a chat. Some of them have become friends.Who knows how many of them see us very differently - or notice us at all - as a result.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Reaching Out with No Limits

This article appears in the Winter edition of WEBA News, our quarterly printed newsletter. Thanks to all those who spent time on the phone to me, enthusing about working and worshipping with people with learning disabilities - and to those I didn't even get round to speaking to. Please add comments about your own church's experiences!
It’s Sunday morning in the Crown Inn in Minchinhampton. Rose, the landlady, serves regulars on one side of the bar, some of them watching a group from the local Baptist Church on the other side, who are just finishing a Bible Study. This group now head to the function room at the back of the pub, ‘the barn’, where another group of adults have been busy with a hands-on activity. Now everyone moves to separate tables for prayer. After this, there’ll be a cooked lunch, and Rose, who provides the room for free, will also do all the washing up, simply because she thinks that “it’s wonderful what you’re doing in there.”

This is Specially 4 U, a group run by Minchinhampton Baptist Church in Gloucestershire, and it is only one of many similar groups around WEBA. They are responding to the social and spiritual needs of one of the largest unreached people groups in our country—those with learning disabilities. The group leaders I have spoken to all agree on one thing— serving this particular group of people  brings benefits to a much wider circle, both within the church family and outside.

Specially 4 U began as part of a fresh expressions initiative at Minchinhampton Baptist Church, and it has continued at the pub, running alongside the usual Sunday morning service. John Barnard, who has always fought for his own daughter to be recognised as an ‘ordinary’ person, is one of the organisers. He explains that the Bible Study in the bar came about was included for those not involved with the activities.

“We’ve had people from church come along who are obviously in a bad place—people feel more comfortable here.”
Many participants come with carers, often from residential homes. “The carers used to sit and read newspapers”, says John. “Now they join in.”

While the Crown is a fantastic venue for these services, its size means the group’s outreach is restricted—they can’t go out and actively invite more people living in the community. John feels that they will need to move back to the church building eventually, and would like the church to make this a more integral part of what they do.

John admits there can be a tendency for churches to be more comfortable isolating these groups from the congregation— “people think something is going to happen they can’t cope with” - whereas actually those with ‘learning disabilities’ can help us overcome some of the inhibitions that limit our services. Group members at Specially for You often interact with the Bible story by contributing stories of their own. When the music group sings, others tend to come to the front and sing with them. After this, he says, “you know that ‘ordinary’ church will be less of a spiritual experience for you.”

Jacky Newman’s son Tim has Downs Syndrome, and when she wondered what to do about the fact that he just didn’t fit in to the youth group at Southwick Baptist Church, she realised that here was a vast group of unreached people. She has now been leading their No Limits group for about thirteen years. The group meets three times a month on a Tuesday— two of those are social evenings, and one is a time of worship and sharing. There are about 16 group members, six of whom are active church members, and several have been baptised.

Jacky, too, remarks on the spiritual benefits of worshipping and learning with those with learning disabilities— “they come up with things you’d never thought about” - and that this kind of mission reaches a wide circle of people outside of the church: “The group has attracted more people into the church, and for some people it gives them a role within the church—something they can do.”
Gordon Cloud, who runs the Build Club at Clarence Park Baptist Church in Weston-super-Mare, agrees with this:
“I think what we do with Build is probably the best outreach thing we do in the church. It’s the fringe people—carers, houses, families—they’re seeing that the church is a caring place to be.” This group has also been running for about 13 years, and has the same format of two social events and one Bible Class every month. The group puts on its own outreach events—a concert with cream teas, a Christmas party. They are a well integrated part of the church family and take part in services, running two or three songs and doing readings.

Gordon is convinced that many churches are missing this opportunity to serve Christ and their communities. While many people with learning disabilities enjoy church and see it as an accepting place, they could be catered for more specifically:
“I think there’s a place in every church for a group of this sort, the way you have a group for children. Churches cater a lot for children but they don’t always cater for people with disabilities.”

Getting Started

  • The Build Club at Clarence Park is named after the support organisation of that name—the Baptist Union Initiative with People with Learning Disabilities. They offer  conferences, a twice yearly newsletter, resources, and support and advice. We’ve enclosed a BUild flyer with this newsletter, or you can contact David Buckingham on 01782 618966  to find out about joining.
  • Causeway Prospects  is an ecumenical organisation dedicated to providing “advice, training and resource materials to equip churches for effective ministry and outreach among people dearly loved by God and often marginalised by society” Their website is www.prospects.org.uk or you can contact them on 0118 951 6978.
  • Several of the people who we interviewed for this article are more than happy to chat about what you might be able to do at your church:
  • · Gordon Cloud can be contacted by email at gordon.cloud@googlemail.com or on 01934 628312. He would be willing to undertake informal training with people from local churches.
  • · Sue Wright also worked with the Clarence Park Build Group and now serves on the Build Committee. “We need the churches to know there are people with a wealth of experience they can come to” she says. You can contact Sue at  davidsue@headland1.plus.com or on 01934 420719
  • · If you’re starting with very few group members and want to find more, it’s possible to get the group listed with Social Services. People with learning disabilities and their carers put together a care plan which includes ‘spiritual development’ - social services may be grateful for a group they can refer people to.

  • · If you’re in Bristol, and your church needs a cleaner, you could offer a local person with Learning Disabilities the dignity and satisfaction that comes with work. A Clean Sweep is a co-operative owned and run by people with Learning Disabilities, and supported by Mencap. Contact them on 0117 9653492,  or see the WEBA website opportunities page for more contact details.

Toddler Time for Dads

For a number of years Fishponds Baptist Church has run a very popular “Toddler Time” group on a Monday and Friday morning.    There are forty places available at each session, and there is usually a waiting list.

In March of this year, the Associate Minister, Darren Smith, and one of the leaders of the toddler group, attended a seminar at Baptist House in Didcot, when a number of issues relating to toddlers was discussed.   One of the speakers was from an organisation called “Who Let the Dads Out”.    It was subsequently agreed that the church would start up a group for the dads, and so “Toddler Time for Dads” commenced in September.  

  The group meets on a Saturday morning once a month, and the format is very similar to the week day groups, except that bacon butties are served, and newspapers are provided.   The idea behind this initiative is that it is men organising the group for dads (and granddads), so there are two men from the catering team in the kitchen providing the refreshments, and Darren welcomes dads at the door and reads the story.   A few church dads come along with their small children and help to host the morning.   The plan in future is to organise a craft table, and finish the session with a time of singing.

After three sessions there are 28 children on the register, which has been a great encouragement.   All the dads say how much they enjoy bringing their children along, as they find it hard to join in a regular toddler group where they are often in the minority.

“Toddler Time” has been a great outreach opportunity, and good links are being made with people in the community – there are now eight families coming along from the road adjacent to the church, and they have all welcomed the opportunity to get to know each other.

A Christmas carol service for toddlers and their parents is to be held in December in the church, and this will provide an opportunity for families to hear more about the real meaning of Christmas.    This event was held for the first time last year, when more than 100 people attended.

If anyone would like to know more about running a toddler group for dads, then please get in touch with Darren, who will be more than happy to share his newly discovered gifts with the smallest people in the church.

Contact details:
Rev Darren J Smith
Tel:  0117 9651491

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Small churches...changes in culture

If you’re old enough (?) you’ll no doubt have noticed the catalogue of changes in our UK culture during the past 30 or so years.   (Just think back to the ‘flares’ you wore in the 70’s!).   Mission-shaped Church (a report by the C of E’s Mission & Public Affairs Council, 2004) highlights various social, cultural and spiritual changes in the UK since the 1970’s.  More recently, the charity, Tearfund, produced some sobering statistics on Church attendance in the UK (2007), which showed that 60% of the population of the UK are now ‘closed’ to the idea of attending church.  In other words, they don’t intend coming to your church or mine - no matter how good the music, preaching, coffee or ‘fellowship’ is.

This poses a challenge for many of us – as often our main model of church is an ‘attractional’ one.  That is we try to attract people to our services on the basis of our ‘worship’ (usually meaning our musical style and the songs we sing and tend not to sing) and the programmes we offer (such as children’s and youth work).  When we operate in a purely ‘attractional’ way, we overlook the 60% who report that they are ‘closed’ to coming to church.  Not only this, but those churches who are ‘challenged’ in terms of personnel and finance find that they can’t ‘compete’ in the attractional marketplace.

Recently, we held the first of our WEBA Mobilising Small Churches events.  The Regional Team are inviting our churches with fewer than 40 members to reflect with us on how such cultural changes have made an impact upon our smaller churches and how we might wisely respond to this situation.  We have already asked the question, ‘Whose church is it, anyway?’  And as we make our way on this journey we’ll reflect upon and ask, ‘If those 60% of people won’t come to us – how can we ‘go!’ (remember that Jesus word!) to them?’  What might it look like to explore a different model of being church – one that is more incarnational (living among the people)?  How can we learn to do life alongside those people Jesus calls us to love (our ‘neighbours’)?  And what does it look like in 2010 to love our neighbours and to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ where you live/work/socialise and where I live/work/socialise?  In Matthew 5 (The Message) Jesus says to his disciples, "Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth… You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world.”

What might that look like for our smaller churches as they move towards 2011?  And what might it look like for your church…and your life…and my life?
By the way…the invitation is still open for leaders of our smaller churches to join us on this important journey.

Alisdair Longwill, Regional Minister

Friday, 12 November 2010


 Adrian Duignan from Tring in Hertfordshire has sent us this report, which may be something some churches in WEBA have thought of trying:
Since 2008 High Street Baptist Church in Tring, Hertfordshire, has been opening on Friday nights between 11:30pm and 1:30am. Known as ‘Tea and Toast’, a small, glass undergallery area offers hot drinks, snacks and a place to sit. The rest of the church is open if visitors want to pray, sit quietly or use a toilet.

Churches in many larger places provide similar night drop-ins (e.g. Portsmouth and Stoke), but Tring has a population of only 13,000. Most nights see between 20 to 40 people come in; some have become Friday night ‘regulars’. Most are aged between 14 to 24 years old. Hundreds of questions about Christianity have been asked. Some visitors pray; others have taken the literature offered. At least one visitor has invited God into her life; at least one has joined an Alpha course. Some have attended our Sunday services and our Saturday morning drop-in. We’ve served on-duty emergency services staff and a doorman. Local R.E. teachers have been approached by pupils keen to discuss this outreach. Some visitors have offered to volunteer in the church.    

Tring hasn’t had enough volunteers to open a church and provide Street Angels / Pastors at the same time. But because of the many mutual benefits in having a church  open alongside street ministers, Tring’s volunteers do provide a limited street presence every Friday: 2 of the 5 volunteers stand outside and talk with curious passers-by, and provide help to those in need along a short stretch of the high street. By being patient and forgiving, these volunteers are building bridges with passers-by who are too cynical or afraid to go into a church. Recently some of our most abusive critics have started coming in for a coffee, having a polite chat and thanking us.

Even though this undergallery is mostly glass, there has been no damage. There has been no fighting inside or outside the church despite Tring usually not having a late night police presence, two pubs needing doorstaff, and one licensee resigning because of fights and drug use. Aggression and anti-social behaviour are common in the town centre but as we’ve earned our visitors’ trust we’ve tried to encourage personal responsibility among them, with some success e.g. several have acted as peacemakers when there have been confrontations outside, and some help us to encourage their friends not to shout (which is vital as the church is ringed by residential flats).

Volunteers come from 4 local churches, and most are over 60 years old. Our Lord has always provided the workers: on 2 nights when volunteers fell ill shortly before we opened, other volunteers felt called to come, without us needing to contact them. We don’t mention our faith unless visitors ask us to discuss it, but we pray that God will draw them to Him. Cards on the tables explain why we open, and notices explain we’re happy to pray for/ with people, whilst another invites people to take the books.              
We’re happy to share the many lessons we’ve learnt, and welcome any questions.
Contact:    Adrian Duignan  (project coordinator)
                  Tel.  01442 822536          adrian_duignan@live.co.uk   ( Please persevere )   
This project has been very difficult: many barriers have had to be overcome with prayer. Our mighty God has sustained and protected this work, in a small glass room in a town of just 13,000 with hardly any overnight police presence. He has calmed the storms. He has provided the workers. He has made many thirst for Him.   

Grange chooses Halloween to make a big splash for Jesus!

While many young people in Gloucester were dressing up to party or go out ‘trick or treating’ for Halloween. Two young ladies from Grange Baptist Church in Tuffley, Gloucester, were dressing down to be baptised and celebrate the day for Jesus. Jordan Smithson and Tracy Twomey were baptised by its new minister Rev, Tony Minter and assisted by Rachael Pryor the church secretary and Jordan’s Father Phil Smithson also on the church leadership team.

Rev Minter said afterwards. ‘Today was one of those special moving days that resonate with anyone who has been through the waters of baptism when we are reminded of God’s amazing grace, and for me one of the greatest privileges to witness and participate in the new life of faith with Tracy and Jordan.’
Grange deliberately wanted to mark the whole day as a thanksgiving to God and so  celebrations continued into the evening with a ‘Freinds and Family Party’ with games, food, song and a lot of fun!
If you would like more information about Grange Baptist Church
contact Rev Tony Minter; Tel: 01452 387583
e-mail: Revtony@rocketmail.com

Friday, 29 October 2010

Free Taxi to Zion!

 John Willett of Zion Baptist Church in Bradford-on-Avon told us about this imaginative response to the challenge of being on a steep hill:

At Zion Baptist Church,Bradford-on-Avon, we have a very small and very elderly congregation which is now down to a maximum of seventeen. We have been greatly blessed with a lovely church, a beautiful organ, three organist's and fourteen visiting preachers and very generous finance. Our main problem is that the church is situated in the middle of a very steep hill.  We have therefore decided to have 2,000 A4 invitations printed professionally (copy sent with second e-mail) which will be distributed throughout Bradford-on-Avon on Thursday, 4th November with the local free newspaper.  You will see that we are offering a free taxi service to and from the church to overcome the hill problem.  We are asking for prayer that some of these invitations will fall into the hands of those who would like to accept this invitation. 

John, do let us know what happens!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

WEBA: the second highest givers in the Baptist Union!

WEBA Regional Minister Gordon Hindmarch is due back from his sabbatical on Monday. He's just passed on some more good news about WEBA's giving to Home Mission, as the figures to the end of September have just come out. This is what he has to say:
Having reached a total of £187,626 by Sept 30th, it now looks like the 2010 year end figure will definitely reach at least £245-250,000 - hopefully it will be more!
This time last year WEBA HM Giving was £162,967 for Jan-Sep 2009 and we reached a total of £238,792 for 2009.
Our HM Giving per member for Jan-Sep 2010 at £27.45 is the second highest of the 13 Associations (compares to £23.84/member in 2009) - it's very encouraging. In September our churches gave £17,878 which is good but not great - In August it was an exceptionally high £28044

Home Mission currently helps to pay for a pastor or minister-in-training in 14 WEBA churches, in addition to providing grants for specific projects. This year there have been 19 applications for Mission by Ministry grants - so the need exceeds the resources available, even when giving is so generous. If you're in church leadership, do make sure that Home Mission is taken into account when discussing your church's budget.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Maureen Phillips of Station Hill Baptist Church sent me this posting which has a few ideas for events the church can share with its wider community:

Station Hill Baptist Church in Chippenham are holding outreach events once a month called FUSION.

During the summer we had a walk along a canal towpath, and a quiz finding landmarks around the town.

Coming up there's ten pin bowling at near by by town and a jazz evening.

Three young couples are organising these events.It is great for the Church to come together and bring friends and family who would not normally be interested in Church.
This Christmas we are having our Carol Service on a Saturday evening.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

"We could never have done anything like it on our own"

Some of you will be aware of the Lawrence Weston story - this small church on an estate on the edge of Bristol was near to closure when a variety of different people from larger churches felt called to help out - and the result has been not only transformation for the church but great blessing for them. One of them, John Woolnough, sent me some photos of a barbecue they held this September, supported by their two 'sending' churches:

Last Saturday we held a ‘ticket only’ free BBQ for the families of the children who we see during the week.  It proved to be even more successful than the first one we held a year ago and well over 100 people came in families (Instruction to the children, again, was that entry is conditional on bringing at least one parent.

We had huge support from WOT Baptist on the BBQ cooking front and also increased, but smaller, support from Cairns who provided a 4 piece jazz band that played brilliantly for an hour.

All in all it was a huge faith building exercise which has helped enormously in developing relationships into friendships. We could never have done anything like it on our own.

If you think you'd like to explore the idea of partnering with a small urban church, then Re:Source Bristol would love to hear from you - see the Re:Source feature on our home page at www.webassoc.org.uk

Friday, 1 October 2010

Wichelstowe's First Baptism

Many of you will be aware of ‘The Stowe’, our new missional community south of Swindon. Alison Boulton and her family moved on to the new housing development last year with the aim of growing a spiritual focus for the new community. She began with welcome baskets for those moving in, and then a large scale outdoor community nativity play at Christmas. Soon, residents began to ask if they could meet at her house on Sundays.  She has just sent me an excited account of their first baptism:

We baptised Emily in a paddling pool in the garden – which amused the neighbours when they saw us setting it up in dull weather the previous day - we then had a pool party, shared lunch and continued conversations about faith.

Emily shared her story which was a real testimony to the transforming power of God – she hadn’t written down anything but she said God gave her the words to say.

Someone commented that the baptism was like God’s first birthday present to us – and it was like that! It was amazing. I felt like we were watching people being transformed in front of our faces. God is bringing hope and transformation. Wow!

Friday, 24 September 2010

The Kingdom Challenge - Can we make a difference?

On the past two Monday evenings (+ one more to come) around twenty Christians from eight different churches in the Stroud area met to reflect upon the content and challenges in the book, The Tangible Kingdom – creating incarnational community by Hugh Halter & Matt Smay (Publisher: Jossey-Bass). This book explores and asks ‘what is an appropriate posture’ for Christians seeking to incarnate the gospel message of Jesus? It asks searching questions, such as, ‘If you could no longer use words to communicate the gospel, what would you do?’ And BIG questions like, ‘What are the personal tensions you are processing as the church is transitioning from the centre of culture to its margins?' These evenings organised by the ‘Fresh Expressions Team’ at Minchinhampton Baptist Church have been challenging and thought-provoking. I wonder, what are the issues you currently are reflecting upon – and who might you partner with as you do so?

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Film Club at Nailsea

A few of our churches have tried using film clubs as a way of building connections with their communities. After all, so many of us now have the hardware - a large screen, a projector, and a video license! Paul Carter at Nailsea told me about their very successful film club, primarily aimed at families. I think the key here is that families get to do exactly what they would naturally do at 5 o'clock on a Saturday - watch a good film together and have something to eat - only the screen is bigger and the cooking is done for them! This is Paul's report:

As Autumn approaches, Nailsea Baptist Church is gearing up for their second season of film club.  The church responded to a community need and this time last year launched a film club aimed primarily at families.  The club runs on the last Saturday of each month at 5 pm and one of the latest films to be released on DVD is shown.  As people arrive, a powerpoint presention is being shown on the big screen and people generally grab themselves a drink or visit the 'tuck shop.'  Word quickly spread about the film club and over 100 people, mainly unchurched came along on each evening.  Once the film is over, hot dogs are served and this gives the opportunity to have conversations and to build relationships with people.  There is no charge for the evening, although people are encouraged to make a donation to help suppor the film club.
As people are leaving, another group of people begin to assemble as a different film is shown on the same evening at 7.30 pm.  There has been a wide range of films shown ranging from 'amazing grace' to singalong with 'mammia mia.'  For this season of films, we are targetting different groups for the second showing.  We're hoping a good number of men will invite others along to watch 'Invictus' and a James Bond evening is being planned.
From the film club we are hoping that people will find themselves coming into other areas of church life. Possibly 'time out at 10', a group for parents and toddlers or to Messy church, a new venture for us at Nailsea Baptist which starts in November.
Has anyone else tried using film to start a conversation with their community? Please comment below - you'll need a google account or similar but this can be set up in seconds.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Street Party at Totterdown

Speaking as a member of Totterdown Baptist Church in Bristol, I think that if we'd thrown a community street party ten years ago, it wouldn't have looked or felt anything like this. There's been a long, painstaking, detailed process of building bridges and developing relationships, with the organisations within and around the church, and with local people. The walls are nowhere near as thick as they used to be.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Your Giving - at an All Time High

We think that WEBA churches gave more to Home Mission up to the end of July 2010 than during the same period in any other year.

The year-to-date figure of £141,704 did include an unusual one-off gift, but even without that we would have topped our previous record of £131,336 at the end of July 2008.

What's really exciting isn't breaking records (or being, as we are at the moment, the second highest giving Association in the Baptist Union) It's not even about surviving the recession without losing what we have - the exciting thing is that our churches are taking mission seriously, supporting those churches who need a little extra help to follow their dream of connecting with their communities and being Christ among their neighbours.

Please pray for everyone who will have responsibility for using this money wisely, when there are still so many more dreams than grants available.

And if you're involved with budgeting for your church this year, please take the time to ask these questions:
  • Is your church giving at least 5% of its income to Home Mission?
  • Is your church giving regularly to help us with our planning?
  • If you're in Pastoral Vacancy, could your church consider giving a month's stipend to Home Mission?

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Thursday, 19 August 2010

From Nigel Coles' blog 'The Old Forge'

maybe small is still beautiful....

I went to meet a small village church to see what we might look at together. There were five of them and one of them wasn't part of the sunday congregation, which could number eight, but an infamous week recently was recalled when the visiting preacher turned up to no one! It's a chapel, which has existed for hundreds of years and their independent trustees have grown old and decided there's too little energy to carry on - none of them have been part of the worshipping community in the village for years. It seems strange to me, therefore, this is the meeting which gives me hope from the gatherings I've been in this week more than any - and I've been talking with various groups about much larger and potentially more influential projects. I'm not sure why yet. It may have something to do with the fact the only two old ladies who live in the village itself meet every thursday morning int he chapel to pray and I just sense there's more prayer for the kingdom and the future of this particular place than some of the other loftier concerns. We'll see....

Tuesday, 17 August 2010


From Senior Regional Minister Nigel Coles' blog, http://nigcoles.blogspot.com

I'm not planning on reducing any blog entries to once a week, nor am I intending a weekly update on where I've been preaching. However, it does just happen I was at Welton yesterday morning and, along with being at my home church in the evening, it's caused me to think a little more about why we meet on Sundays the way most of us do.
Before all that - I always enjoy meeting people at Welton and it is one of those churches I could easily feel comfortable being a member of. Yesterday, I had some great conversations afterwards with a range of people about how they're engaging during the week with other people, not-yet Christians. A couple leaving the church formally, but not informally (we had a commissioning) to engage more in their own village, a GP talking about his Practice as a place of engagement, a guy involved in the whole re-enactment of US Civil War battles & Western genre in general who's clearly bringing Jesus into their frame and others - no wonder dinner was ready when I returned home!
One of the questions I'm coming away with is what can I help multiply from what I hear and see Sunday by Sunday? It's not about the passing on of good ideas, but helping people to be inspired by one another because there's some great stuff going on.
So, what are we doing when we gather on a Sunday?
The phrase I hear more than any other, when I ask what people are looking for when they gather on a Sunday, I think, is 'to be fed'.
I guess as Baptists are the pre-dominant group I'm asking, I shouldn't be surprised , or shocked by this. After all, we hold the preaching of the word highly and we are founded upon a foundation which relies upon God speaking through his word - to anyone, which also implies to everyone.
However, I am increasingly disturbed by the answer.
Not because I want to diminish the place of preaching - to be honest I'm not at all a 'let's replace the sermon' person and firmly believe the answer to bad preaching is not no preaching, but good preaching.
Not because, either, I'm not wanting people to be fed, or don't believe anymore in the ability of God's word.
My disturbance, I think, is wrapped up with what this says about people's expectations - Sunday gathering is being regarded as an end in itself in a way I do not believe it was intended. Sunday is the day of resurrection which is why Christians gravitated to this day for worship together. Something of this has been lost and with it teh sense of God re-creating and making all things new.
Yesterday we talked about how different Sunday is when we come together to celebrate who God is and where he's been seen and found in the previous week - both through our living and the wider world. Couple onto this the expectation God will be at work in and through us all next and we're onto something. Regarding the couple commissioned yesterday - it was great, but it in many ways we should not be seeing them as anyone special, or anyone different. We've talked a lot, as Ministers, about the relevance of the workplace, about workplace Ministry, about relating the work of God to the work of people monday-saturday, etc. in recent years. Honestly, how many references do I hear, or see, week by week? How much helps me in my life apart from the organised gathering? What degree of relationship is there between what happens when we gather and what God is up to when we're apart? The answer to all these questions, sadly, is 'next to nothing'. Herein lies a deeply disturbing issue.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Thinking Big at Radstock

"We're a small church but we realise we've got to think big and expect big!" said Andrew Stammers, Minister in Training at Radstock Baptist Church in Somerset. In the run up to the World Cup the church went all out to let the community know that they were showing matches on their big screen. They had 1,000 flyers professionally designed and printed; they festooned the church with flags and inflatable footballs, and also got attention from the local newspaper.

"You've got to think like companies think" says Andrew, " find ways of attracting attention - I don't see anything wrong with that. The press are interested in why a church would show football in its main sanctuary - we've got to take advantage of that. The amount of people who say, yes, you're the church who showed football. It's been a big profile builder, if nothing else."

The matches themselves presented lots of opportunities for bonding, as older church members debated team formation with teenagers. The popularity of the matches tailed off after the England team came home, but the challenge, says Andrew, is to build on the community links they have begun to build.

The church have secured a Home Mission 'Mission through Project' grant to build a new kitchen.
"Our mission strategy is pretty much orientated around food" says Andrew. They already run 'jam' sessions for local musicians on Tuesdays evenings and on Sunday mornings, when a full fry up is included, and there are plans to use the 'Table Talk' resource as a way to invite people in for good food and discussion. (www.table-talk.org)

Andrew Stammers' energy is infectious when it comes to mission. "Give it a go!" he urges. "What's the worst that can happen? Tens of thousands of people don't know Christ, that's what."