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
Watch the Calne film here