Home Mission pics

Home Mission pics

Friday, 23 March 2012

A Reverse Missionary in King’s Stanley

Nigel with Franklin Small
Kings Stanley BC looking busier at Nigel's commisioning service
 Those of you who watched the 'Reverse Missionaries' documentary on Friday 16th March may be interested to read this report on the experience by the lay pastor of Kings Stanley Baptist Church, Nigel Price. (Read more about Nigel's call to Kings Stanley here)

“Reverse Missionaries” started for us with a visit by a researcher from the production company, Twenty Twenty Television. Her task was to ascertain which of the Baptist churches in the Stroud area was most conspicuously failing and would therefore provide the best contrast with the full and lively churches in Jamaica which they planned to feature in the programme. With its large congregation and ebullient worship, Minchinhampton Baptist Church was clearly out of the running. John Street Baptist Church in Stroud and Stonehouse Baptist Church similarly proved too vibrant for the programme maker’s requirements, so the lot fell to King’s Stanley Baptist Church. With our small and mostly elderly congregation, bumblingly English lay pastor and persistent threat of closure, we were just what they were looking for and therefore carried the prize in this strange ecclesiastical reverse beauty contest.

In addition to featuring the visit of a Jamaican pastor, the programme was due to look at the life of the pioneer Baptist missionary and abolitionist Thomas Burchell. He actually came from Nailsworth and worshiped at the now defunct Shortwood Baptist Church, but he married a woman whose maiden name was “Lusty” and “Lusty” is a common name in the group of villages known as the Stanleys. It was therefore conceivable that she had been a member at King’s Stanley Baptist Church, and this notional link with Burchell was duly carried over into the programme.

The programme was shot by director-cameraman Rob McCabe, accompanied by his assistant producer Tara Nolan and his researcher-soundman Harry Kaufman. Rob and Tara came down to video some interviews and a service before Franklin Small arrived from Jamaica. The service was a tense and distracting affair with the camera constantly on the move and often between the preacher and the congregation. The congregation said that this wasn’t on, and it was agreed that future services would be shot from the back or the side of the church, with camera movements only during the songs.

Rob and the team then went off to Jamaica to meet Pastor Franklin Small and video one of the two churches he leads in Kingston.

They returned a week later, bringing Franklin with them. Franklin was great! As anyone who has seen the programme will know, he is a remarkable person. Tall, warm and passionate about his faith, he is not only a gifted preacher and evangelist, but a committed people-person, interested in all and genuinely concerned for the lost.

For the first week that he was with us, Franklin stayed in a bed and breakfast in King’s Stanley. Anne Keogan, one of our members and the widow of a Baptist minister, had offered to have him but she was on holiday for the first week of his visit and could therefore only give him lodgings for the second half of his stay. I offered to have him stay with me, but I live over 20 miles away and, besides, wouldn’t allow a camera in the house, so initially it was a B&B for Franklin. (For the benefit of continuity enthusiasts, this is why Franklin has two different beds in the broadcast programme!)

Although I had previously met Franklin, I had to be videoed meeting him outside the church on his first Sunday with us as if for the first time. We then made him sit through one of our services, which must have been torment. Most of our regulars were away on holiday, though, so this was good television, with even more empty seats than usual.

Franklin was with us for just over two weeks, and during that time he worked astonishingly hard. Rob and the crew videoed nearly every waking hour of his day. He and I were videoed walking up on Selsley common in the pouring rain, discussing church history and shivering. He met and interviewed all the members of our church, and spent some time at an open youth club in Stroud. In preparation for the rain-affected outreach event at the pub in King’s Stanley which features in the programme, he recruited some musicians and we spent a lively evening rehearsing in the church. Under his direction, we arranged a barbecue after the next Sunday morning’s service, and Anne organised a cream tea for all her neighbours, with Franklin as guest of honour. This last event, at which Franklin gave his testimony, was one of the most moving of his visit, though nothing of it appeared on screen apart from some decontextualised dialogue about scones with Anne.

At some point during his stay, Franklin was whisked off for a flying visit to the Lake District. He was also taken to folk club (by me) and a beer festival (by the television crew). At the former, he smiled in polite bewilderment, and at the latter he evangelised the drinkers.

Franklin led two of our Sunday services. He is a most extraordinary and mesmerising preacher, dazzlingly kinetic and using every inch of his tall frame and long arms to emphasise his words. His glorious bass voice is also far louder unamplified than mine is through a PA! He invited everyone he met to come to our services and many did, though not as many as he would have liked.

As you may have seen on the programme, the weather was often cold and wet during Franklin’s fortnight in Gloucestershire. The Bank Holiday Monday was the coldest of all, not at all the type of weather that you’d want for an outdoor service. But Franklin was tireless in inviting people along and, despite the weather, and despite the fact it was a bank holiday, many people came along. Franklin preached and others sang and gave their testimonies, and a little of all this eventually made it onto the screen.

And then Franklin left and returned to Jamaica and the camera crew went home.

Rob and his team videoed around 63 hours of material and we were all left wondering how he would edit this down to just an hour. Now we’ve seen the broadcast programme, we know the answer. He’s done a fantastic job. Franklin’s faith and love for people comes over wonderfully well and it was inspiring to see the account of Thomas Burchell’s life and work. This forgotten hero of the faith shared the gospel in Jamaica, established churches and worked tirelessly and at great risk to himself to put an end to slavery. I’m thrilled that his story has finally been told, and on prime time television too.

Ignoring those fussy Baptists who were upset at the programme’s references to “the Baptist faith” (No! We’re Christians!) and the voice-over’s bizarrely heterodox claims about baptism, the reaction to the programme in the Stanleys themselves has been largely positive. The Anglicans were a little puzzled by the way the programme implied that they didn’t exist and some of those who were videoed last summer but didn’t appear in the final programme were disappointed. Some people were irritated by what they felt was the programme’s overly negative picture of the local community, but most were absolutely fascinated and delighted by what they saw.

Meanwhile, back at King’s Stanley Baptist Church, we’re quietly going on. Numbers are slowly rising and, last Sunday, someone came along for the first time because they’d seen and thoroughly enjoyed the first episode of “Reverse Missionaries”. That was a good result.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Revival in the Cotswolds

Thanks to Matt Frost of Cirencester Baptist Church  who sent us this report about a gathering at the beginning of March:

Revival in the Cotswolds - this was the prayer of over 300 Christians from Baptist Churches across the Cotswolds who gathered at the beginning of March to pray, worship and meet together in the expectation of God at work in our area. The Cotswolds has around 20 Baptist churches (both WEBA and SCBA) ranging from congregations of over 300 to those in single figures. Over recent years there has been increasing contact and co-operation between the leaders and members of many of the churches. This can been most clearly seen in the decisions of three of the smaller churches to enter into partnership arrangements with larger churches to help them turn around and move out again into mission in their communities.
One example is the church at Kings Stanley (near Stroud) that was recently featured on the BBC2 programme 'Reverse Missionaries'. The church was on the brink of closure when four other local Baptist churches stepped in, and through prayer have been able to release someone to become the pastor and to encourage & resource the church to 'go again'. It's early days, but there are already new people joining the church and the congregation is reaching out into the community again.
So the prayer in the Cotswolds is for revival - God let your kingdom come, right here!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Chris Duffet will be visiting WEBA with the aim of encouraging evangelists this autumn. Here are two ideas any church could try, on his blog Be the Light:



Thursday, 15 March 2012

BUGB has just released this prayer video featuring Simon Shepherd, minister-in-training at Stonehouse Baptist Church in Gloucestershire. When I saw this, I realised we've never shared the story of Simon's call to Stonehouse on this blog, which featured in our Baptist Times supplement in November. I'll copy the story below.

Stonehouse is a small Gloucestershire town where two large estates flank a single high street. One of the five churches in town is Stonehouse Baptist Church, where Joy Ramsbottom has been a member for fifteen years. She’s never seen a baptism there, and for most of that time the church has been without a paid minister. With an elderly congregation that reduced to about ten, things got rather depressing and Joy wondered about moving on.

She’s glad that she didn’t. The church became one of WEBA’s growing number of partnerships between larger churches and struggling fellowships nearby. Stonehouse made a two year agreement with Minchinhampton Baptist Church. There was help with finance, leading services, and preaching, and several people took on dual membership for the duration. Then the two churches decided to appoint a minister who would divide his or her time equally between the two churches, strengthening the partnership. A grant from Home Mission would make this possible.

Simon Shepherd was an IT professional in membership at Minchinhampton. Joy told me that the first time he ever stepped across the threshold he felt that God was calling him to be the Minister of Stonehouse Baptist Church. He hadn’t had any formal ministerial training at that point, but he followed the call and applied for the job.

Simon’s call was unanimous from both churches, and since he took up the post in January 2011, change has been dramatic.

“It’s really changed beyond all recognition” says Joy. “Everybody’s so much happier!” Attendance has increased from around 10 to 50 at some services. The church has got involved with a churches together initiative, using an empty shop in the town centre as a Youth Drop In. There’s a service for older people once a month, and a new mums and tots group, and also a parenting course, will be starting soon. There’s also a wonderful lively lunchtime Bible Study, which was filmed recently as part of a new BUGB video to promote Home Mission.

The biggest change Joy has noticed is in peoples’ willingness to join in and help out. She was recently part of a team organising Harvest Supper for 70 people. “I didn’t have to ask anyone to help clear up” she said – “they just got up and did it!” Although Simon works incredibly hard for the church, he has also been a catalyst, breathing life into all the church’s missionary disciples.

The increased numbers are mostly a result of Christians choosing Stonehouse when they move into the area, or locals who chose to stop travelling elsewhere to church. One or two spiritual seekers have come along too. There’s just one thing Joy can’t wait to see: “We’re longing to get the baptistry open!”

Friday, 9 March 2012

Your £2500 better together mission voucher

Dr. Stephen Finamore is Principal of Bristol Baptist College, and here is his innovative (but just at the moment, fictional) contribution to the Beyond 400 blog:


Washing feet - Stowe style

Look out for WEBA news, our quarterly printed newsletter which has been sent to your church secretary this week, along with this quarter’s WEBA prayer guide, a thank you certificate for giving to Home Mission, and a few of the new Just Imagine prayer bookmarks.

In the newsletter we catch up with the fast growing group of spiritual seekers at The Stowe.

Last year we heard about more than one baptism in a paddling pool; now the group has grown so much they have outgrown the living room where they used to meet; thanks to a mission by project grant from Home Mission they are now hiring space at the community’s new school for their Sunday morning gatherings.

Now,  more  new people are arriving to explore faith. Jesus predicted that people would know us as his disciples when we loved one another, and it’s easy to see how this growth has come about as the result of an emphasis on love and service from the day the first residents moved in.

Alison explains how she celebrated Maundy Thursday in the community last year. She wrote to women she’d made contact with, saying: “I want to show that I love and serve you, and Jesus did that by washing his friends’ feet, so come along to a foot and hand pamper night.”

The ‘pamper night’ was a great success and thanks to input from Stowe Intern Sarah King has now become a regular monthly event.

You can download a copy of WEBA news on the resources page of our website:

WEBA resources page

If you'd like some paper copies, please get in touch with the WEBA office.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Learning to Fly

 Another WEBA entry on the Beyond 400 blog:


There'll be an update from Alison in our quarterly newsletter, WEBA news, which will be sent out to churches at the end of this week. I'll reproduce some of that article here soon.