Home Mission pics

Home Mission pics

Friday, 21 December 2012

Fit for Purpose?

Gas Green Baptist Church in Cheltenham have been going through the 'Fit 4 Purpose?' process which is designed to help churches move forward in life and mission. Debbie Hunt sent us this story of what happened next:

Following a neighbourhood survey for Fit 4 Purpose, the members of Gas Green in Cheltenham were asked if they could help a lady with some gardening.

 This first project was fairly straight forward, but as a result of this, on our next quarterly newsletter we asked the question “Can we help you?” and received another request to help clear a garden. The task this time turned out to be much greater and it took 5 of us 4 separate 2 hours visits to clear brambles and weeds from the garden and ivy that was growing up the side of the house.

The recipients of our help; both virtually housebound, have clearly benefited not only from the work done, but from the concern that we have shown them. It has demonstrated that there is clearly a need for this kind of outreach in our area and we have now taken up the title Gas Green Community Link, offering a variety of services to our neighbours, as part of the nationwide ROC (Redeeming Our Communities) initiative.

We hope to return to our last project to complete the finishing touches in the spring, so that the owner can finally enjoy what could be a very lovely private area to sit out in.

Friday, 7 December 2012

A Moving Story

Two weeks ago we filmed the second in a series of films about Home Mission in WEBA. We had a brilliant day in Weston-super-Mare - despite the floods of the previous week the sun shone and we got all the footage we needed at three different churches - telling the story of the town's Baptists who just keep moving on! I rode my bike from Wadham Street (now a theatre) to Clarence Park (planted in 1903) to Milton (planted in 1925) towards Worle Baptist Church, which was planted in 1983 with the help of a Home Mission grant, and from there to the Locking Parklands Development, a brand new community where two couples from Worle are in the process of moving in. The last part of the film, when it was beginning to get a bit dark and rainy outside, was filmed in one of the new houses, around a glorious lunch of chilli con carne and trifle.

We remarked on the fact that it's almost exactly 30 years since some folk from Milton Baptist Church took exactly the same step of faith by buying houses on the new estate at Worle, with a view to planting Christian community there. There were some similarities between church planting then and now, and also some differences.

Later, I interviewed Regional Minister Alisdair Longwill for our quarterly newsletter WEBA News. I asked him what's changed in the last thirty years:

AL: Today, we face a very different cultural ‘landscape’.  In 1983, Boy George was singing Karma Chameleon, most people had never used a microwave oven and almost a quarter of the UK population still watched black and white TV. 10% attended church, compared to 6% in 2010, and the average age of those attending increased from 39 to 51 during that time. Many changes have taken place in UK society in the last 30 years, in terms of technology, in the workplace, in peoples’ attitudes to lots of things including religion and spirituality - even shopping and how we buy things has changed.

RW: So what’s that got to do with church planting?
AL: When Worle BC was planted it seemed natural to start by paying a pastor to begin Sunday Services and thereby plant a church.

30 years later when a smaller proportion of the UK are regularly attending church it seems natural to consider how we might better connect and engage with those who are not-yet Christians so that we can form relationships with them.  It’s in relationship with others that we share in the ‘journey’ of life; and so it seems right to seek to understand our ‘neighbours’ and ‘where they’re coming from’. As we live alongside one another we might, in humility, from a position of greater understanding, better show and share God’s grace and speak God’s truth.

RW: But – does that mean doing anything at all?
AL: One way (but not the only way) of ‘planting a church’ today might be to get some ‘regular’ Christian people who seek to intentionally live as missionary disciples to move into a new housing development, and to look for modest funding to help equip them to connect and engage with their neighbours in Jesus-shaped, kingdom-revealing ways.

This is what is happening in Locking Parklands today as -->two couples are in the process of moving house and home to be part of the new estate. They will help to provide a welcome and support for residents as they move in, and begin to work out how to be Christ in that new community. 

I’m sure that there are a variety of different and appropriate models of planting churches in the UK today.  But it seems likely that in most, if not all UK contexts, relationships and time for them to be established are vital to the process.

RW: Worle Baptist Church had a grant from Home Mission to get it started. Is that something that’s changed, too?
AL: In 1983, starting with services and a full time pastor seemed the obvious first step, so Milton Baptist Church was awarded a Home Mission grant to help with this when they planted the church at Worle.
Whereas today the two couples moving to Locking Parklands need training to respond to the new mission context, so a Mission Project grant has been awarded, some of which will allow them to complete the Crucible Course, which is designed for Christians “with courage and imagination, who suspect that…we need to operate as cross-cultural missionaries because we live in a cross-cultural mission context.” Home Mission support needs to evolve to reflect changes in the way we engage in the mission of God today.

Baptist Union structures, and the administration of Home Mission Grants, are in the middle of some big changes. Do you think these will make any difference to the support available to other WEBA churches who want to step out in faith?

From 2013 Grants will be allocated by Regional Association Partnerships rather than by one central committee.
One hope for the future is that these changes might give rise to a clearer sense of purpose (intentional and focused engagement in the mission of God) and improved flexibility (a rise in the creative use of Mission Grants).  This may take some time to ‘kick-in’ and in the interim it might mean a reduced ‘budget’ to work with and the need to more critically reflect on who meets the criteria for receiving a Mission Project Grant (the more accurate term for a Home Mission Grant).

Thank you to all our churches who continue to give faithfully and generously to Home Mission, enabling steps of faith like this one around our region. Please remember that all giving for 2012 should reach us by Friday 14th December. The new film, A Moving Story from Worle, will be available in the new year.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Nailsea's Christmas Experience

Nailsea Baptist Church are telling the Christmas story by taking over a shop in the town centre next week.

The Christmas Experience allows the story to come alive.  School children and the general public will be able to travel back 2,000 years in time and meet some of the characters, hear the sounds and become part of the story themselves.

Not only will they hear about the baby born in a stable, they will meet three of the characters who travelled many miles themselves to discover the ancient promise.

The journey ends with an opportunity for people to 'get in the picture' and be part of the story themselves.

Paul Carter, Associate Pastor at Nailsea Baptist said ' we are excited about taking the Christmas message out into the market place and hope that people will engage and discover and rediscover what Christmas is really about.'

The experience takes place from the 3rd -8th December and will be open on the evening of Friday 7th December.

For further details contact the church office on 01275 859339.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Big Hearted Fellaship

Many of us who were at Big Hearted Living with Chris Duffett last month came away itching to try some simple things that would get us 'out there', connecting with the people around us.

For the men's group at Hanham Baptist Church (they call it Fellaship) a decision to go down the pub after their monthly prayer meeting provided that opportunity. Yesterday I spoke to the group's leader, Matt Caswell, who told me:

"The pub has a weekly quiz night. Due to our wide range of ages we had every subject area covered - we won every time! As a result people asked 'Where are you all from?'
We told them we were from the local church, and they know where it is, they know people who go there, or their parents might have gone at one time. Most of this is just over the bar. It's nothing big, it's just comments, having a chat. It's no effort, it's the most unforced outreach we've ever done."

Stepping out of church and into a different space, where encounters with those who Jesus is seeking might happen seems easy and obvious, but how often do we actually do it? If you've tried anything like this, however small, we'd love to put it on this blog. Email ruth.whiter@webassoc.org.uk or phone the WEBA office on 0117 965 8828 - or you're welcome to comment below.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Big Hearted Tour hits WEBA!

Last Friday Chris Duffett and Stuart Earl arrived in the region we call WEBA. (Chris is on the right)

They wanted to encourage us to be Big Hearted; to capture a passion for those around us who God is seeking. So we had some gatherings; the leaders met at The Hub in Minchinhampton:
WEBA staff, trustees and others met for Curried Goat and Jerk Chicken at Rice & Things in Stokes Croft, Bristol, and heard stories of the people he's met and listened to:

On Saturday, 50 people gathered at Clarence Park Baptist Church for some Big Hearted Training. There was some of this:
But there was also some of this:
Going out into the town centre with trays full of free sweets, doughnuts, or fruit. If anyone asked why we told them it was a free gift to remind them that they are precious to God. This led to lots of smiles and a few long conversations.
On Sunday, after a service and lunch at Coleford Baptist Church, Chris and Stuart joined the WEBAY team for the first big youth event WEBA has staged for ages. It was a great success, with some powerful testimonies from our young people.

On Monday, small teams walked through the city centres of Gloucester, Cheltenham, and Bristol, noticing things they hadn't seen before, chatting with those who happened to be around.

Then Chris and Stuart went home. But we think that some of the things that happened last weekend weren't one-offs. We suspect they will lead to more.

We'd love to hear what your Big Hearted Weekend was like. Please write to ruth.whiter@webassoc.org.uk or just comment below.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Big Hearted Tour hits the South West

 The Big Hearted Tour will arrive in WEBA in just 2 weeks' time!
Here's a report by Sam Griffiths, a Somerset minister, about the SWBA leg of the tour. It first appeared in The Baptist Times online:

I've never seen anything like it in almost 25 years of ministry as a Baptist pastor. It wasn't like this in the old days you see.

The president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain would always be one of those suited chaps, well known, Phd, brown floppy briefcase, black shoes and a smooth haircut, and with a presidential theme that was probably generally forgettable after he had departed your church.
And many churches do sort of get on the presidential band wagon - they must have the president come and preach, regardless of who he is and where he was from. It was kind of what you did as a middle class, middle of the road Baptist Union Church. But not this president.

Chris Duffett is a president who is absolutely right for this time and this moment in our culture, where we find ourselves as a union of churches. I for one would support having him for a two year stretch!
Arriving with enthusiasm pouring out of him, and a delight in every person present who was bravely there to be trained in being big hearted, Chris is plain speaking, inspiring, and rapidly makes you feel that you CAN do the stuff that he does, and that we can afresh see people on our streets and in our communities comes to faith.

As we sit café style listening to story after story from this now bare foot, hoodied and shorts wearing BU president, we are passionately encouraged to be on the streets of our communities so that people "get it".

That's what Chris has experienced on the streets of Peterborough, and is how he sums up people understanding the Gospel. 'I just want people to get it!' he repeats.
And so through the use of sofas, red carpets and hi-viz bouncers, the giving away of fruit with a prophetic word, a wall with the title 'when I die I want to ......' , or an offer of prayer, or a Bible study in a coffee shop - or most radical of all - to go treasure hunting using the prophetic leading of the Holy Spirit, that some be reached and won for Jesus.

This is a president like no other in our history. And the teaching is absolutely what we need for now if our churches and our communities are to be transformed.

You see as lovely as those presidents of old were, I can't remember much about what they said or how it changed me. This one gives it to us practically and passionately wants to see us and our towns change, because our evangelism methods have grown stale, and our streets become far more challenging.
This was one of his challenges: 'I want you all to go into a betting shop and place a bet with £1'. Stunned silence. 'So you can understand just how foreign it is when someone unchurched comes into our churches.'
And so off we went - £1 on Murray to win the US open, brought me a £2 return.

The Revd Sam Griffiths is minister of Wellington Baptist Church in Somerset

Friday, 14 September 2012

Changing the Conversation

I met Kaye and Jane on the train home from this year’s Baptist Assembly in London. I knew where they’d been because of the packets of fairtrade biscuits poking out of their bags - we were all given chocolate chip cookies as part of our lunch during the Saturday Day Conferences.

Soon I was sitting with them and chatting about the conference they had attended. The title was ‘Pass it On’ and taking part was the newly appointed Baptist Union President Chris Duffett.

“Chris told us stories of giving out free fruit marked with the fruits of the holy spirit,” Kaye told me,  “standing in the market with a sign offering free hugs, leaving a pile of stones in the high street – each one marked with an encouraging Word of Hope - and then watching as God guided individuals to the message He wanted them to receive...  These words sent tingles down our spines and we felt filled with a ‘get up and go’ feeling – this motivation of wanting to ‘give this a go’!!

Giving out roses as part of a Big Hearted Tour event

 “With those words ringing in our ears we went out to eat our lunch under the shadow of Big Ben... as we sat there a man approached us and clearly wanted to chat... so we did.  “Jane offered him a sandwich and the three of us joked together about the weather, tourists, inane engaging chatter really. 

“He then told us that he had been working really long shifts and that he had hurt his back badly when he chased a burglar out of his garden - it was at that point that Kaye had an out of body experience and heard herself asking if he would like us to pray with him... he laughed and walked away.  Not put off, Kaye called after him and he agreed that we could pray for him after he had gone... so we did!!  We could not quite believe it when he came back… we both felt that he was probably embarrassed, and we were pleased he had not just scorned and left.”

By the end of the train journey, Kaye and Jane had begun a conversation about God with the young student who was sharing their table. They had also offered their church, Clarence Park Baptist, as a venue for a very special WEBA training day on Saturday 13th October. We’re calling it Big Hearted Living.

Chris Duffett will be joining us as part of his Big Hearted Tour of WEBA, and sharing some of his unique brand of street art with us in Weston-super-Mare. Conversations with strangers, however, aren’t everyone’s cup of tea – and there are other ways we can all change the conversation about God.

Table Talk takes the form of a game you can play with any group of friends

Table Talk is a simple game you can play with the family and friends you already have. It provides a safe place for people to begin to have conversations about the important questions in life, from ‘how do you live a meaningful life?’ to ‘how rich are we?’

Paul Griffiths will provide an opportunity to play Table Talk at Big Hearted Living, as part of his seminar How People Journey to Faith.

There will also be seminars by Alisdair Longwill (about transitioning your church into a mission-shaped congregation) and Stuart Earl (about doing youth work in a Big Hearted Way)

If you want to live every day as a disciple of Jesus Christ, this day is designed for you. Clarence Park Baptist Church is within easy walking distance of Weston-super-Mare railway station, and it’s also accessible from the M5. The cost for the day is £5 per person with big discounts if you bring a group of four or more. You can book online   at bigheartedliving.eventbrite.co.uk or go to http://www.webassoc.org.uk/event_det.aspx?id=380 to download a postal booking form.

This article originally appeared in the Autumn 2012 edition of WEBA news.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Getting Ready for the Tour

 Chris Duffett's Big Hearted Tour will be visiting WEBA in just six weeks' time. Here I'm reproducing a short blog post he wrote in July about his preparation for each leg of the tour.

So, how do I prepare to visit each of the associations on the Presidental Big Hearted Tour?
  • Yes there is the expert planning of Nicky Edwards who works with me in Chester (as I typed this sentence Nicky actually phoned to go through some of the itinerary of the Southern Counties tour!) 
  • Yes there’s the books and information that I bring to each event.
  • Yes there’s preperation for the teaching and training.
  • Yes I book the van and make sure all the equipment for outreach is ready…
Most importantly and running the risk of trying to sound megga spiritual the most important thing I do is pray and fast. Seriously, this is the most vital part of the preperation. Evangelism is a much neglected discipline of most of the church in the UK. To change this and to motivate Christians to share their faith there has to be a supernatural encounter. I pray for that.

We are all being called to a day of prayer on Sunday 9th September. Perhaps we could pray for some of this  supernatural change in ourselves when we gather together then.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Rocky's Plaice

4 evangelical churches in Moredon and Rodbourne (Swindon) held a joint holiday club at St Andrew’s Methodist Church. (The other three were AVC International, St Mary’s CofE and Rodbourne Baptist). All the churches supplied team members. The children were entertained by Mrs Tagliatelle the chef; Peter the apostle who interviewed people who were around in the days of the first church in Jerusalem; Captain Ketchup; Colonel Mustard and the worship band: The Sardines.

Each day we looked at a key word and everything, except probably the games, tied in with this word. We had HOPE because if God says that He will do something, He will. One of the promises is that whoever asks for the HOLY SPIRIT will receive Him (about 2/3 of the kids did). We looked at how the Holy Spirit gives us FAITH to believe God for miracles and finally how God wants us to TELL our friends and family.

The kids obviously took note of the latter one because when we had our Parents’ Evening there wasn’t a spare chair!

As the Leader of the Club, I was grateful to have such a talented, dedicated and enthusiastic team of helpers, many still in their teens. We have given them all information about children’s work at the four churches and look forward to seeing them when term starts ....

Paul Rhodes
Rodbourne Cheney Baptist Church

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Good listening at a crucial point

This is a story about being salt and light in an inspired and innovative way - providing a listening ear to detainees at the local police station.

Gill Putnam wrote this article for the newsletter of the Diocese of Bath and Wells, and it was sent to me by Jenny Collins of Clarence Park Baptist Church in Weston-super-Mare who is also involved with ChAt, an ecumenical group of volunteers from the town's churches. 

When first launched in 2005, ChAt (Chaplaincy About Town) was set up as a confidential, non-judgemental listening ministry and signposting for all people in Weston-super-Mare town centre, regardless of faith, background or lifestyle, making visible God’s love and concern for all his creation. Described by Bishop Peter Price as “an exciting way of living out the gospel”, we had very little idea of how exciting it was to become!

An ecumenical project, with some 30 volunteers (and a vision to increase the team to 90!) drawn from all Christian denominations, ChAt has grown and found its niche in the life of the town. Whilst still working from shop premises and focusing primarily on ministry to individuals, ChAt has also developed other strands of ministry, and works with other groups in the community, including North Somerset Council, the Town Council, the Town Centre Partnership, Weston BID, Somerset Racial Equality Council, the Black and Ethnic Minority Network, NS Alliance for Cultural Harmony, NS Faith Forum, the Children’s Centre, as well as a number of nursing homes. 

The latest step has come at the request of the Police for us to provide a team of ChAt Custody Chaplains to visit any detainee at Weston-super-Mare Police Station. After months of planning and training the team, which includes both ChAt Chaplains and Street Pastors, the project was finally operational on 16 April 2012. Cllr Roz Willis, Chair of ChAt, Volunteer Chaplain Reg Hiscox and I, the Lead Chaplain, went to Weston Police Station for the launch at 8.00am.Before 8.30am the first detainee asked for support and I was in a cell! Less than an hour later, the detainee, who had been held for most of the night, was focussed and calm, had a plan to seek professional help on returning home, and was in a much better state of mind for the police interview.

We have these encounters at a crucial point in the life of an offender, a time of regret, remorse, shame, and a time of longing to make life-changing decisions. Through good listening and signposting the person is empowered, lives can be transformed and new beginnings made.

We come to every listening session with faith that three people are present – the speaker, the listener and God; it is His presence and peace in the session which makes these encounters different from those with other professional aid agencies.

With the Custody Chaplains as a pilot scheme in Weston-super-Mare, the Police hope it may be possible for the service to be offered in other custody suites in the Avon and Somerset area in due course.

We are now ready to increase the team of ChAt Custody Chaplains. We shall be offering a ‘Come and See’ information stand at our Coffee Morning on Saturday, 1 September, from 10am at the Boulevard United Reformed Church, Weston-super-Mare.. If you would like to know more, please contact me or simply come along on the day. Those who wish to join the team will be asked to provide two references, one of which will be from their church leader who has known them for at least one year, attend an interview, have an enhanced CRB check, and attend a training day on Saturday, 13 October.

As to the future, talks are already taking place regarding the possibility of recruiting and training a ChAt team who will specialise in ministering to nursing homes, particularly those for dementia sufferers, and this team would serve not only the patients but also their families and the staff.

If you would like more information with a view to taking any part in this exciting adventure for God, I’d love to hear from you. Please contact me on 01934 643533 or 01934 416917, email me , or call into ChAt at 67 Meadow Street, WsM, BS23 1QL.

Revd Gill Putnam, Lead Chaplain and Trustee

Chaplaincy About Town (Reg. Charity No. 1101541, Co. Reg. 07868068)

The Dream

This testimony was given in one of our churches last week. I've included it here because God is growing his kingdom in WEBA through dreams as well as through our creativity as his church. To protect his identity, I have changed this young man's name to Jamal.

I am 21 years old. I was born in a Muslim country. I am from Afghanistan.

First, when I came to this country, I did not believe in God. Yes, people asked me, what is my religion, and I didn't have the choice to say anything else so I said I'm a Muslim, but I didn't know anything about it, nobody told me because I was not educated in Afghanistan. My cousin, he was a Mullah at the mosque and he didn't teach me anything about God, he just used to hit me.  I stopped going to Mosque because I didn't understand.

6 years ago, my life was in danger and I escaped from my country. I was travelling a dangerous journey across the world to find somewhere safe. Every day I woke up, I didn't believe that I was going to be alive the next day. I was fighting for my survival.

After 6 - 7 months I arrived in England. I started going to college. I learned English language and I got some education - yes, thanks so much to all the teachers at college. I made friends over here, was offered a job, and met my girlfriend.

Last year I was invited by some friends to come to a local Spiritualist church. I started going every week on Sunday. It was good to meet people but there was not too much talking about God. At the time, one of my friends got very sick and he lost his job. He was swearing at God, and it was making me angry. I was scared to be his friend. I told him, if you don't believe in God, you shouldn't swear by him. OK, he was telling me off. He said "Jamal, I don't care. Don't tell me what to do." So I could understand something wasn't right. I stopped going to the church.

But I felt something was missing in my life. I was gambling my money, and drinking too much alcohol, and I was not putting attention into my life - what to do?

But now I am completely changed. 3 weeks ago I had a wonderful dream. All over the room was light. Jesus, Father, Lord, came to me, he said "Jamal, just wake up, come follow me, I'm alive." It was so beautiful.

I made a decision for myself to find a church and find what it means to follow Father Lord. I was cycling around the centre to find a church timetable, but only when I came back I read the timetable at this church, and I started to come here two weeks ago. First day when I came I got something from it. I heard lots of good things about Father God and Lord Jesus.

With the help of Jesus I have stopped gambling, stopped drinking alcohol, and I'm feeling so much better. Thanks to the Minister for welcoming me, to the man who gave me the Bible in the Persian language, and thanks to all the members of the community here who have given me your support. Thanks to all of you who will support me in the future. Thank you for listening.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Cycling to Calne

The day after Bradley Wiggins arrived in Paris, the Home Mission video of me arriving in Calne by bicycle is finally released! This is the first in a cycling tour of WEBA films we're making to promote Home Mission over the next two years. (Read more about that here)

You can give to Home Mission now via my Just Giving page:

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Go for Gold!

We've had this report from Grange Baptist Church in Tuffley, Gloucester, about their Olympic achievement:

With hardly time to catch our breath and take down the bunting from our recent May Jubilee party, we were in full sprint for our June fun day called GO FOR GOLD!

After a week of torrential rain in Gloucester, no-one outside the church expected the event to go ahead. A number of craft stall holders cancelled at the last minute. Tony Minter, minister of Grange, said "Driving back from Swindon on Friday (the day before the party) the rain was non-stop. What should have been an hour’s journey home took twice as long due to the incredibly heavy rain. Even Saturday morning one member of the church asked if we were still going ahead.” So it was nothing short of a miracle that at 10 am the sun was brightly shining and as we set up it was actually very hot!

GO FOR GOLD provided anyone the opportunity to have their photo taken holding one of the official Olympic torches with either the Olympic flag or any country of your choice projected behind. The digital pictures were immediately wired to an email address and were offered free of charge.

There was also a large bouncy castle, Olympic style races and games, and medals were awarded to all participants. We also had our own personal trainer and fitness class instructor Matt Coopey on hand giving nutrition advice and training tips. For those less energetic there were lots of tables to browse over with books, bric-a-brac, candles, plants, honey, etc.

Younger children could have their faces painted with Olympic rings or anything of their choice. They could also make their very own Olympic torch candle by rolling beeswax into a cone.

There was also a bar-b-que and ice creams, tea, coffees, and juice. GO FOR GOLD a great success and so encouraging on many levels as Grange continues to develop relationships and friendships with its neighbours and wider community.

Another new venture for Grange is the launch of Grange Coffee House. Every Monday morning the church now runs a coffee shop where anyone can drop in for a 'cuppa and a chat'. There is fresh filter coffee, as well as instant for those who prefer, and  a wide variety of teas including fruit and herbal. There are cookies and biscuits to enjoy and daily newspapers to read.

This is a modest beginning but it is hoped that once everyone has passed their food hygiene course at the end of the summer, a menu will be developed to include, among other things, soups, paninis, and jacket potatoes. As soon as security softward has been installed there will also be free wi-fi (which is already in the church) available to coffee house customers. 

So, if you are in Gloucester on a Monday morning why not pay us a visit for a great cuppa and warm welcoming people.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Getting on my bike

Since the beginning of 2012, in addition to my role in the WEBA office, I’ve been part of a pilot project to raise awareness of Home Mission within WEBA.

WEBA churches have given faithfully and generously to Home Mission over recent years, but my suspicion is that awareness of what the fund is for might be limited to an older generation who remember a time when Home Mission Sundays and collecting boxes were more commonplace.

These days, churches tend to give to Home Mission from within their general budget, and the amount is set by the leadership team and church meeting. This has worked really well, but what might happen when those now in their 20s and 30s take over as treasurers and deacons?

My suggestion to overcome this relies on storytelling – and on exploring ways to actually get stories to people. Why is there is a Home Mission fund? What it has achieved in the past? How is it helping churches now as they seek to be authentic disciples of Jesus Christ?

I suggested making a series of films highlighting some of our churches who have benefited from Home Mission support, either in the past or at present. It was Amanda Allchorn, Head of Communications at National Resource, who suggested a cycling tour of WEBA, focusing on place, history, and what’s happening in our churches now. The first of these films will be released shortly and features Calne Baptist Church in Wiltshire. It gets a mention in this July’s edition of Baptist Life magazine, which is delivered to churches so that every member can have a copy.

Calne Baptist Church is a lovely fellowship. From Sam King, the minister, with his startlingly original creative thinking, to Cynthia Williams whose enthusiasm for the gospel hasn’t waned during ninety years, to the gentleman who admired my 1960s Carlton Mixtie bicycle, it was a delight to meet them all.

It was also a hot and exhausting day for us (BUGB’s film crew Ian Britton and Alex Baker, and myself) and for those church members who took part. Thanks especially to Sam who choreographed a service, an open church meeting, and all the interviewees for the film all at the same time. And thanks to those who prepared the most amazing and welcome church lunch I’ve ever tasted.
Talking to Sam

Several members commented that Sam, whose ministry is enabled by a grant from Home Mission, has brought the church together, and acted as a catalyst to get things going that were already latent in the congregation. Sam has also developed connections with townsfolk, beginning with the Estate Agents who sold him his house, which have led in all kinds of directions, from live lambs in a service to singing the Hallelujah chorus in Sainsburys – most importantly, they have led individuals to seek God for themselves. Hallelujah.
Cynthia Williams, who took part in the film

At this point I need to come clean – I’m afraid I’m not going to cycle around the entire Association, from one church to another. But for each church I visit, I have been looking up cycle routes on Sustrans’ brilliant website, and working out a way to get to each church with help from a train or two. It’s surprising how many of our churches are near to these routes, and they give you an entirely different way to approach a place. Cycling into Calne on a beautiful Sunday morning, along the route of the old branch line, I could imagine a time before even the branch line existed, when Calne’s first minister, who came from Broadmead Baptist Church, commuted each week from Bristol on horseback. WEBA churches were working together nearly 200 years before WEBA existed!
Ross Mills talking in the supermarket car park where the church works with local young people

Home Mission in its modern expression is 100 years old – as Baptist Life points out, it was inaugurated as the Sustentation Fund a few weeks after Titanic went down. Its earliest roots, however, go back to fundraising for itinerant preachers who would travel the countryside on horseback, preaching in villages. Its roots are not in the preservation of existing churches, but in going…to make disciples, as Jesus commanded.

From 2014, Home Mission Grants will be administered regionally rather than nationally. Hopefully this will be part of a move to a more engaged, local mission strategy that we can all see and become engaged with.

Watch the Calne film here

Friday, 29 June 2012

A Successful Season for Cambray FC

Never mind England coming home after another quarter final defeat - WEBA's Cambray FC had an excellent season, losing just one game - and that was in the final of the Cotswold Churches League, when they were runners up to Cornerstone United.

For Cambray FC good football means a good opportunity for mission. "The twenty-five players who represented us last season are a mix of those who attend Cambray and those that don’t" said Steve Jones in this month's Cambray magazine. Cambray's Sports Ministry Apprentice Tim Wallace has also re-established a 'kickabout' during the hour before the team training. "God has been at work amongst our group this year" Steve writes, "and we were very thrilled that one of our players came to know and trust the Lord and was baptised at Easter – a massive thrill."

This year the team chose to enter the 'secular' Gloucestershire FA County Cup instead of the National Christian Cup, again because this gives them an opportunity to stand out and be different, witnessing to their faith. They reached the second round of this competition.

In the same magazine Cambray pastors Tim Welch and Jonathan Loose present their suggestion of adding the word 'everyday' to the church's mission statement, which currently reads ‘Encouraging all people to become fully committed followers of Jesus’.
"Churches can convey some wrong signals - that following Jesus is really about our church-based activities and commitment, rather than the very places where we find ourselves. We come together in corporate worship to then go out and serve the Lord Jesus as his followers, with the help of his Spirit."

It seems to me that Cambray's footballers have found an excellent place to serve as everyday followers of Jesus.

Does your fellowship support a football team? Perhaps you'd like to tell us a bit about how this season went for them...

Thursday, 28 June 2012

It's not rocket science

Great story reported by our man in Lawrence Weston, Alisdair Longwill.

I visited Mare (the minister in training) and Richard Clark at Lawrence Weston today and left encouraged and excited about what they are doing there.  I particularly remember two simple stories – about a plant and an invitation.

Richard proudly showed me the manse front garden – the Jubilee garden, no less!  It seems that everyone from the church bought a plant and these were planted during a ‘garden party’ earlier this month.  The garden is adjacent to a busy pathway en route to the nearby school.  Lots of people are now walking by the garden commenting on how ‘lovely’ it is as their children walk across the low garden wall.  One lady passed by and said how beautiful the garden was and commented on how much she liked the ‘elephant’s ears’ plant.  Richard took note of this, decided to buy her one and gave her the gift the next time she passed by.  She was delighted and greeted him with a kiss and a hug and was reminded that some people actually care for their neighbours.  It’s not rocket science, it’s very simple, but through an ordinary garden and a friendly disposition a greater sense of community is being created and people’s lives are being blessed in a small way.  It reminds me of Jesus words in The Message paraphrase of the Bible, ‘…You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world.  God is not a secret to be kept’ (Matthew 5:14).  It made me ask myself – how might I bring out the God-colours in my local community?

Mare told me of when she visited India earlier in the year that God had challenged her in a particular way.  This was about having the courage to approach three ladies in Lawrence Weston and to invite them to meet with her at the manse one evening per week to share some stories about Jesus because God has something important to say to them.  When she returned from India she approached them individually – and now they meet on Friday evenings to explore spiritual ‘stuff’ together using the questions from Paul Griffith’s resource Table Talk.  Mare says that when she approached them ‘they were visibly moved – one cried, they all came and are continuing to turn up on a Friday night’.  She says these ladies with different histories are all on a journey that is taking them closer and closer to Jesus.  They too are enjoying a sense of community with Jesus at the centre.  For Mare, it’s not rocket science – just a simple combination of obedience and availability.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Before I die

As we look towards Chris Duffett's Big Hearted Tour coming to WEBA in October...

... here's another example of his street ministry from his blog, Be the Light.

He also explains the inspiration for the idea, so it's a long post but worth scrolling through:


Friday, 1 June 2012

When the flame came to Hanham

Rob English works as Trust Manager here at WEBA, and he's also Secretary of Hanham Baptist Church in Bristol. He told me about the day the Olympic Torch passed along Hanham High Street, where the church is situated, on Tuesday 22nd May 2012.

"We found out it was passing our doors and thought it was a marvellous opportunity to open up to our community" said Rob. "We've got this marvellous facility of this walled garden, so we opened up the gates and put on teas, coffees, cupcakes, and a bouncy castle, as well as toilet facilities."

"I got there about four" he went on, "and I drove past the church first and thought why would I go in there? We needed something on the street, so we improvised. I got two go-pack tables and lashed them together like an 'A' board, made a sign and stuck it over the top."

Rob confided that the part of the afternoon that involved a flame passing by was almost a let down - it was over in a quarter of an hour. "For me it was to see all those people, the enthusiasm and expectation, that was really exciting. It was more than an opportunity, it was a gift. Perhaps we should open the gates more often and let people in."
Thanks to Peter Cook and Terry Hooper for the fantastic photos.

Palm Sunday at Hillfields Park

Jill Helps of Hillfields Baptist Church in Bristol sent us these photos of a Palm Sunday march of witness they shared with St. John's Church, Lodge Causeway.
They were blessed by good weather and the presence of Chicko the donkey!
Hillfields Park newsletter reported that "over the years the sense of unity with our brothers and sisters has deepened. We are all God's children."

Monday, 28 May 2012

Rediscovering Hope

The article below is from the summer 2012 edition of WEBA news which has just been sent out to all church secretaries. It launches our New Churches Initiative focus for 2012.

Our idea of hope is often based on certain ideas about aspiration (ie getting a job, personal achievement), but is that what Jesus means by hope? By living in community where hope seems all but lost is a way of rediscovering the depth of what hope is really about. In the process we find we have to deal with our own internal anxieties and prejudices – and get healed as we do that. That’s what I see as incarnational.  Rev Mike Pears

The WEBA New Churches Initiative is part of a dream to plant 10 new churches in 10 years. Like planting seeds, this is a task which requires great care and patience. This year’s focus will be Urban Bristol, where ‘seeds’ are now growing in some of the city’s most challenging areas.

Phil and Alice Lawrence and their three daughters moved to the Knowle West estate when Phil began his six year course on the Urban Ministry track at Bristol Baptist College. They are one of several families who have followed God’s call to work and live in that area, and form a ‘community of households’ to support one another for an incarnational approach to mission. The community have intentionally taken a long term view, letting relationships and opportunities develop organically. They are encouraged to see, growth is emerging in the gaps between the ‘community of households’ and the traditional churches on the estate.
Phil Lawrence
A local GP has run more than one Alpha course at his surgery; the most recent one attracted around 50 people. A café church was set up to cater for one group who’d done the Alpha course; this group of 10 has now grown to 30. Thanks to the enthusiasm of one local couple, an idea for a mens’ breakfast in the building where Knowle West Baptist Church used to meet has turned into a hugely

popular monthly event for everyone, with a full-on, all options fry-up that goes on all morning (there’s even black pudding). Recently people have started bringing instruments along to play hymns and songs during breakfast – and the church organ is getting some exercise!

Each of these groups feeds and cross-fertilizes the others, and there are usually conversations going on just outside the doors too. Phil uses the image of water splashing, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that splashes people who are standing nearby. The challenge is what should happen next. “At what point do people become disciples?” Phil asks. “Do we drag them into a service? What should grow, the community of households, the church services, or the breakfast?”

As co-ordinator of re:Source Bristol, Mike Pears wrestles with what constitutes church, conversion, and discipleship in these contexts. What does hope mean when no one in your family has ever worked, and there’s a suicide in your neighbourhood roughly every six weeks? He recognizes that there are levels of depression and despair most of us never encounter, and that the challenge is not to deliver the gospel but to rediscover it in the light of these circumstances. For example, he suggests, “our idea of hope is often based on  a certain idea of aspiration (ie getting a job, personal achievement), but is that what

Jesus means by hope ? We can’t know until we live in community and discover for ourselves, dealing with our own internal anxieties and prejudices. We get healed as we do that. That’s what I see as incarnational.”

This year’s gifts to the WEBA New Churches Initiative will help towards a transitional, start-up fund for urban ministry in Bristol, enabling people to take bold steps like the one Phil has taken with his family. “We’re working in areas where no church can offer transitional support” says Mike. Through the New Churches Initiative we can provide that together.
As in previous years, we would like to suggest that each church gives £200, or £75 for smaller churches. Please make cheques payable to WEBA, marking them New Churches Initiative on the back, and send them to the WEBA office.

Churches and individuals can also contact us to set up a payment by Standing Order.