Home Mission pics

Home Mission pics

Tuesday, 10 December 2013


I asked our churches if they were planning anything unusual this Christmas, and Lechlade Baptist Church sent me this poster for their Cribfest. What a lovely way to share 'Jesus at the Centre' with your community.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Update from Locking Parklands

I've been hearing that many people have enjoyed the WEBA video Weston-super-Mare, a Moving Story as it's done the rounds of the Jesus be the Centre events this autumn. My suspicion is that many of us can relate to this particular story, about two couples who take the step of buying not-yet-built houses on the new development at Locking Parklands so that they can build Christ-centred community there. Perhaps some of us hope God might use us in a similar way one day.

I was recently asked for a short piece to go on a leaflet promoting Home Mission, which all our churches will be receiving soon, and so I got in touch with Liz Cundy, one of the  Locking Parklands four, and asked her for an update. As they've only been there a year, and incarnational mission is a long term business, I didn't expect as much news as I got! I could only write a few words for the leaflet, so here's Liz's full reply for us all to share:

We are still visiting all new people who move in and taking them a welcome bag and card which gives us the opportunity to meet each new family.
Mums and Tots with about 8 families on our books happens at our house weekly on Mondays with both Mums and Dads as does a Community Coffee Morning on Thursdays when we have approximately 6 - 10 people coming along. 

We also head up the Residents Community Group which organises Events  - our BBQ in the summer attracted 200 people!
Other events have included an Easter event ,a  Teddy Bears Picnic, and more recently a Harvest morning using Chris Duffetts ' Fruit of the Spirit'  ideas alongside Tea Coffee and Doughnuts.  As we have no community building we have to do all of these outside but God has been gracious and faithful so that we haven't been rained off yet.  We see our church as being the worshipping part of this same community group and not something separate.

The four of us meet regularly every week over a meal and then spend the evening catching up, praying and listening to God.

Hospitality has been one of the most important ways of meeting with people and we usually spend at least one evening a week just having different folk round for meals and gradually building up relationships with them.  We have discovered there are a lot of 'Prodigals' on our patch so believe that they play quite a big part in what God is doing here.  Please pray that God will inspire us and give us wisdom for the next step forward.

As this is about Home Mission Funding for our training at the Crucible Course we just want to say how valuable the course has been to us, not just in it's teaching but by the encouragement we receive from other like-minded people each time we go.

Please pray for Liz, Malcolm, Debbie, and Andrew as they take all of this forward!
Ruth Whiter

Monday, 11 November 2013

Building Community at Hillfields Park

Last week our new Association Manager Rob English attended a public meeting at Hillfields Park Baptist Church in Bristol. He came back full of excitement about what this small, strategically placed congregation is doing - and hoping to achieve - in this area that has suffered from drastic cuts in council services. So we asked their Development Officer, Sam Carrier, to tell us a little bit more:

Hillfields Park Baptist Church recently hosted a public meeting to talk about its important plans to build a new community centre on its site near Fishponds, Bristol and to consult with local residents.

A number of people spoke - sharing stories about the deprivation of the local community and the great need for a larger facility for all ages in an area where there are no community facilities at all.

 The church is already providing a lot of social services but has run out of space to meet demand. The church is a registered charity, and its patron is Richard Pendlebury, chief executive of the homeless charity Emmaus in Bristol and also a deputy Lord Lieutenant for the City.
Richard Pendlebury with Development Officer Sam Carrier
 He clearly feels very strongly about the poverty, petty crime, poor social cohesion and poor health in the Church's neighbourhood and encouraged the meeting to continue to step out in faith.

Hillfields Park Baptist Church's vision is to have the centre built and operational by 2015 - no mean feat for a small, low income congregation. But it has already raised over £80,000 and is clearly determined to achieve this project. For further information contact sam.carrier@virginmedia.com or 07976 967 290.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Making way for the new at Victoria Park

Rev. Brendan Bassett of Victoria Park Baptist Church in Bristol has sent some photos of the demolition of their church hall, which will be replaced by a new hall plus accommodation developed in partnership with Elim housing. These are the first physical signs of a long term project, Operation Nehemiah, which was under discussion for the whole of Geoff Starling's time working as WEBA's Trust manager. We thank God for the patient endurance of all concerned, and pray that God will bless this work for his mission in this part of South Bristol.

Brendan writes: One of the very interesting aspects of the architecture of the original hall is it reflected the architectural times. It mirrored what was known in the 1950's through to mid 1970's as the 'Brutalist Style' (or Brutalism) of building design which often featured high and sharp angles, which supposedly reflected what going on at the time of post war and cold war anxieties. Critic's of the movement often described brutalism as cold and unappealing.

This picture shows the demolition of the old vestry and hallway. Brendan writes: Although I am now the second longest serving minister I was almost the shortest! In Nov 2001 during my first ' VPBC winter' I put on the gas fire in the vestry and after while felt myself becoming very drowsy and nodding off. By God's grace I turned the fire off. It transpired that whoever had 'repaired the roof' the previous year had covered over the gas exhaust flu, although I laughed it off at the time it should have been reported to the HSE.
 This photo shows the now uncovered underground boiler room (still flooded!)
 Anyone whose has been at VPBC for a few years probably has their own stories about feeling cold or the heating breaking down. My worst memory was Christmas Day in 2011, it was a brutal winter and the outside temperature at 10am was -6C. When I got to church to open up for worship the heating had failed. I descended into the basement to discover the entire system was covered in ice, like scene from the North Pole. The temperature inside the church was -2C. I remember we had to wrap up a few elderly people with blankets and I cut things down to about 20mins!
I’m told that the basement has always flooded ever since it was built and a pump had to be permanently left on. I suppose if we were keeping the basement and as it loves water it could have become a congregational Jacuzzi (good for home groups and meetings), or perhaps a ministers private hot tub…
This picture shows the St Johns Lane trees now down. They were not very old but totally inappropriate to the proximity of the building. We will have some garden in the new development and we can perhaps plant some things that will be more appropriate, maybe some shrubs or box hedges.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


Revd. Dai Davies at Westbury Leigh & Stormore Baptist Church sent us these lovely photos of the fun day the church provided for its community earlier this month:

We could not have asked for more. The weather was fine, the activities fun, refreshments thirst quenching, nourishing, and free, as were both events. What am I talking about  the two Community Fun Days arranged by the White Horse Team Ministry and Westbury Leigh & Stormore Baptist Church, held on Oldfield Park and at the Dilton Marsh Recreational Ground in August.

Well in excess of 100 people turned out at each event which was part sponsored by Selwood Housing, who along with the White Horse Children’s Centre were also in attendance.

So why a Fun Day? Rev Dai Davies said there were two main reasons: Firstly to give folk in these communities a free Fun Day in these hard economic times, and secondly by taking aspects of church life to where the community is, to demonstrate that although we may as Christian people we may have an additional dimension  to life, we are still normal – whatever that means – and like to have fun.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Crossing the Threshold

A visitor to a Baptism at Rodbourne Cheney Baptist Church asked if she could come to the church again.  During the conversation that followed, she pointed out that it wasn't at all obvious that there was an open invitation to come in. Helpfully, she then compiled the following list of suggestions that might help a church send a message of welcome to its community.
Some of them are obvious, but are they so obvious that they can get overlooked? Thanks to Paul Rhodes for sending this in.

Crossing the threshold of the building takes courage so we need to remove the ‘fear element’ and ensure that people know that they would be very welcome.

It would be helpful to have a noticeboard outside the building which allows fresh notices to be placed on it. There needs to be a very clear statement that: ‘NO INVITATION NEEDED - COME IN’ and the church is the people not the building.

     -    ‘Who’s who’ on a board outside or in the doorway;

     -    Photos on the board of people having fun, including light-hearted ones (e.g. Pastor in ‘David’  costume – ‘David’ is a character who tells the narrative at the midweek Kids Club);

     -    List of activities and who they are for.

The church could hold an open day when we have:

     -    Music                         -    Crafts                              -    Stalls

     -    Face painting               -    Bring-and-Buy                  -    Meet and Greet

     -    T-Shirts for kids with balloons being given out to passing children and their parents.

     -    Ensure Facebook page and Website are completely up-to date with a contemporary blog;

     -    Youtube videos;

     -    Leaflet drop to the local area making it clear that they are welcome to join us (possibly including ‘What is a Baptist Church’ from the talk on 18/8);

     -    Door-to-door survey asking people how they would feel about crossing the threshold.

They would ensure that everyone had a good first welcome and would hopefully introduce them to someone friendly and appropriate.

All of the above is about helping people to cross our threshold but ultimately we need to cross it and mix with the community.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Showing it with flowers since 1946

Andrew Stammers sent us this lovely photo of Les and Stella Yarde, and their story, which he's also sending to The Baptist Times:

'Humble service, commitment and dedication' are all characteristics that as pastors we try to personally strive for and lead our congregations to be inspired to emulate.

Pastoral care is a critical part of any fellowship and as such I was delighted to discover, when I took up pastorship at Radstock Baptist Church in 2009, that each week the church flowers were taken to a missing congregation member or member of the community to show Gods love. More remarkable I discovered that the weekly arranging of the flowers and the subsequent pastoral delivery had been undertaken by the same  faith couple (Les and Stella Yarde) since 1946!

In these days of dwindling levels commitment such an act of service is of great encouragement and inspiration to us all.  

Sadly now due to health reasons Les and Stella Yarde have had to pass on this duty. As a church we want to recognise their past service and on going love for the fellowship.

Rev. Andrew Stammers

For and on behalf of
Radstock Baptist Church

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

'I feel like I’m living again’ - stories from The Link Visiting Scheme

 Thanks to Jeremy Sharpe for sending this inspiring article about churches and other agencies working together to bring something into life that's so badly needed...

The Link Visiting Scheme is a befriending service based in Wokingham Borough which aims to combat social isolation among older people.

The scheme - initiated in 1998 by Woodley Baptist Church in Berkshire – arranges for a volunteer to visit an older person once a week for between one and two hours. This contact often provides a lifeline to older people who may not otherwise have any contact with the outside world. After operating in the town of Woodley for 9 years, the church recognised the need for such a scheme across a wider area, and in 2007 church leaders from across Wokingham Borough explored ways in which they could work together to address issues of isolation. This resulted in 19 churches of various denominations creating a network for this purpose. The Local Authority then agreed to provide funding to enable staff to be employed to run the project.

The primary focus of the original scheme remains on home visiting but other projects have since been started according to the needs and interests of older people. These include weekly ‘Understanding Computers’ courses which enable older people to learn how to use email and the internet. (This leads to their being able to communicate regularly with relatives, or investigate other local activities available to them); Regular ‘Pie and Pint Clubs’ aimed particularly at older men who may have been bereaved or are isolated for other reasons; other projects such as Singing Groups, Bowls Clubs and various outings and special events. In all, over 230 older people are now regularly reached of which 150 receive visits and a further 80 engage in other projects and activities. A team of over 130 volunteers enable this to operate.

What are the benefits?
There is growing evidence of the detrimental effect that isolation and loneliness can have on the health, well-being and life expectancy of people of all ages. The model of The Link Visiting Scheme provides a crucial social point of contact which, in itself, helps to build self-confidence and self-esteem and often leads to improved mental health and independence. Consequently, older people can gain improvements in their mobility and explore options to visit local clubs, church activities and events leading to the establishment of a wider circle of friends. The ‘Understanding Computers’ and ‘Pie and Pint Clubs’ provide opportunities for Link friends to engage in innovative and beneficial activities enabling the development of new skills.

Volunteer visitors also gain from the experience of sharing in the life of an older person from a different generation leading to a greater understanding of life in earlier times. Volunteers often report a sense of achievement and mutual benefit by having contact with a member of the community who appreciates them.

Setting up new projects
Since 2012, the charity has been responding to a sense that the model could be used in partnership with churches in other areas across the country. This vision is now becoming a reality with the support of The Cinnamon Network which has been providing guidance and funding towards enabling the model to be replicated. The advantage of the model is that it works well in both rural and urban settings and can be set up with minimal resources. The primary need is for a team of Christians with a heart for older people and an enthusiasm to work with various churches and other agencies. A period of around 6 months is required to plan and prepare for the launch of a local project. This process is supported and guided by those with experience within The Link Visiting Scheme who make available all of the operational documents, policies, training materials and other guidance.

Carol - When we first met Carol she was quiet and withdrawn. She felt nervous at the thought of being with people she didn’t know and didn’t have the confidence to go outside on her own. She had a few health worries and her son lived a distance away. She was spending many days alone and speaking to no one. Like many of the older people we meet she was in desperate need of seeing a friendly face - someone willing to spend some quality time with her and show a real interest.

After meeting her we introduced her to a volunteer who shared her love of gardening and wildlife. Some weeks they would take a trip to a local garden centre and pot plants together. The simple act of visiting began to transform her life and it didn’t take long to see the results. Her volunteer encouraged her to join a local club doing gentle exercise. We arranged for the library to visit regularly and deliver books for her to read. We enrolled her in a club that took her out once a month on an outing and she came to our monthly pub lunch. Her mobility improved too and she began to take short walks in her neighbourhood and joined her local church!

Harry - ‘The first twenty years of my marriage were wonderful but then my wife became very depressed’. This was the story we heard when we first met Harry. Supporting his wife for many years had left Harry feeling down too. Cut off from friends and neighbours, he lacked motivation to do simple jobs around the house. When we met him he felt overwhelmed with feelings of isolation and was tired and anxious. He had regular visits from his local psychiatric nurse and was on medication for his mood. His wife was living in a nursing home and he felt exhausted with visiting her every night.  He was nervous about meeting a volunteer. Now, three years on, he no longer sees his nurse and is no longer prescribed his medication.  He really looks forward to Saturday mornings when he goes out for coffee with his volunteer. We enrolled him in a local transport scheme and lifts were arranged for him to visit his wife. Having someone to listen to him was the turning point for Harry. He knew that each week he would have that quality time with someone who seemed to genuinely care and who chose to be there rather than being paid to be there. Small worries and concerns were easily dealt with and no longer built up to overwhelming issues. His motivation returned and so did his spark.

Sheila (Volunteer) – Sheila started visiting in 2009 and immediately realised that this was what she wanted to do. She had always cared about older people and was concerned about their need to get out more. She quickly realised that the regular visits made a significant impact in the life of her ‘Link friend’ and this in turn enabled her to gain a sense of satisfaction. Sheila explains ‘my role as a volunteer visitor has taught me a lot about what older people have to offer. Once we get through the ‘small talk’ it is wonderful to be able to hear all about the wide experiences of my Link friend. I do not find the visits at all boring – it is a blessing to spend time with her.’ Sheila was moved to have been told by one of the friends she visits ‘you have become the daughter that I never had’.

‘Even when I first met my volunteer I felt so much better. I felt someone cares for me for a change!’

‘Everybody says how much better I am, I’m enjoying myself’

‘I no longer feel trapped inside my house. I feel like I’m living again’

‘When my wife died after 63 years of marriage I felt completely lost. Meeting Sue helped me find my feet again. It gave me something to look forward to each week and she taught me how to cook a few simple meals too!’

‘She says she doesn’t mind talking about the old days or looking at my photos. I didn’t think younger people would be interested and it’s wonderful to make a new friend even at my age!’

‘It’s a life-line. Thank you’

For further details about how to set up a befriending scheme in your area, please go to www.linkvisiting.org

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

A prayer request from Bourton Baptist Church

This note is a prayer request, asking all those with a heart for proclaiming the Good News of the gospel to the children and families in Bourton on the Water and surrounding villages. Please can you pray for this event – using this note as a guide – either for your own quiet times of prayer, or as part of a housegroup, or in church services.

Bourton Baptist Church are organising a Christian Children’s event on Sunday 14th July at 4pm, aimed at children and families – but enjoyable for all who are young at heart and want to come along.

Jim Bailey is an ordained minister who works full time in Childrens ministry – he has confirmed he will provide his ‘Jim Bailey Family Show’ for us. It is 1.5 hours long, great fun, using song, comedy, and puppets. (www.jimbailey.org)

This event is to create the opportunity for our God to speak to the children and families in this area. With prayer, the event will be transformed – with prayer we can bring God and his Holy Spirit into every aspect of this event. Your prayers are so important: with prayer, God will move in power: with prayer, the Holy Spirit will encourage and bring people to this event, and they will hear the Good News. This was Jesus’ commission to us.. please pray!

Please pray for –

  • Jim Bailey and his family as they prepare for and then run the show (both for us, and anywhere else), that the Holy Spirit will move in power through the show and Jim’s ministry
  • People who hear or see information about the event on July 14th will be encouraged to come
  • All the different practical aspects for organising – the venue facilities are all working, the posters and information gets to the right place, the tickets for the event are available for those who want them
  • Pray for those who are speaking to others (people or organisations) inviting them to come
  • To cover costs, we are asking for churches/Christians to purchase tickets – pray that the church families will respond by purchasing family tickets at £10 (or make a donation)
  • Pray that the families (or any Christians) in our churches will come as witnesses to non-Christians at the event - and show that being a Christian is not boring and we can have fun!
  • Pray for the children and families at the schools and organisations who receive info and an invitation to receive tickets (at no cost) for the event – that they and their families will respond and come 
  • Local primary schools in Bourton, Great Rissington, Cold Aston, Stow, Northleach, Sherbourne, Swell, Bledington, Longborough, Moreton
    Pre-school clubs – Bourton nursery/OSC, Noahs Arc, Bumblebeez, others..
    J-Team (Bourton Baptist Church primary school age club on Fridays)
    Junior Sports clubs for children – cricket club, tennis, riding, football
    Beavers, cubs and scouts, Rainbows, Brownies and Guides groups
    Pray for all those who come to the event will be aware of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. As part of the show, there will be a children friendly low key gospel appeal. Pray that people will hear and respond.
    There will be people ready to talk and pray with children (or anyone) who responds to the Gospel at the end of the show – pray they will be filled with Gods Spirit in those discussions and prayers.
    Pray for the local Christian events in the immediate week(s) after the show, that people who come on 14th July will be brought into Christian fellowship and a deeper faith in God
    Curve Active Café and Messy Church on 21st July 4pm at Upper Rissington
    Sunday morning services at the local churches – pray for the leaders of the childrens work, and the church congregations, that any new families are welcomed into the church family and encouraged in their faith

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

A simple concept that has reshaped how we do evangelism

photo courtesy of www.freefoto.com
WEBA is launching Table Talk: An Evangelistic Experiment in June 2013. Every church is being encouraged to try 'Table Talk' (which you could describe as a pre-Alpha course, but actually works more like a game) somewhere in their community - perhaps a cafe or pub - with friends and neighbours. Each church taking part will receive a free boxed set of Table Talk, normally worth £25. I wanted to hear from someone who'd used the game successfully - and got this story from Ruth Rice, a Baptist Minister on the Fresh Streams Steering Group:

We began running a Table Talk group at a local cafe in the suburb of Nottingham where our church meets. The area is fairly affluent and there is a strong cafe culture. We began as a response to people wanting to ask different questions in a different time scale to the ones offered in other, more structured courses.

We invited a few friends who were interested in discussing big issues of life or who just wanted a drink with friends and to get to know some new people. 

"Our regular atheist would now call himself an agnostic"

Although we advertised with handouts, posters and invites all the folk who came were in relationship with someone who brought them. Marketing is largely, in our experience, unnecessary, relationships are essential.

We book the same table each week and everyone arrives from about 7.30 onwards...... grabbing a drink from the bar and joining in the discussion which anyone can start by picking up a card from the attractively presented Table Talk selection, which we vary each week. It's great and really natural, so unlike other courses that have felt forced and a bit preachy at times. 

With table talk if you don't like a question you move on and if the discussion is going well you stick with one card sometimes.

We have a regular table talk group now on Tuesday nights of between 6 and 12 people , many in the 20s and 30s ...a mixture of atheists, agnostics, Christians, and others on a journey from belonging to believing.

Our regular atheist would now call himself an agnostic, has begun reading his Bible from cover to cover and is writing his own questions. Three people have realised they have changed sides somewhere in the process of discussions, like crossing a mountain border on a long hike yet not being quite sure where the border was. 

For those of us who are christians the questions, some basic like, “what makes an attractive life”, some much more searching like “how do you experience God” are helping us to think and search more deeply for truth and be able to listen as well as talk about what we believe. 

"the cards seem more like a game than a religious activity"

We love table talk as a simple concept...and can see many possibilities for the easy to use, well produced little cards in homes, pubs and youth venues.

We have recently used them as a warm up in our pub church Sundays ..as folk arrive they are on the tables and keep the discussion focussed on the big story. Small groups have used them at meals when they have invited friends and there has been great feedback as the cards seem more like a game than a religious activity and yet they generate better honesty and searching than many a BIble study or evangelistic programme.

Table Talk has reshaped how we do evangelism as a church.

Ruth Rice

Friday, 3 May 2013

Rise and Shine

This article comes from the newsletter of One Hope Ministries. Var and Emma Smallwood are receiving support from Home Mission as they pioneer a deliberately 'multi-cultural' church in East Bristol, in partnership with the Church of God of Prophecy.

Var and Emma with Pastor Ray Viera of GOCOP at the WEBA Ministers' Conference

Our new church is now called ‘Rise and Shine’, inspired by Isaiah 60:1.

We meet to pray and study John’s Gospel most weeks and on 7th September 2013 there will be a
launch event when we will begin formally worshiping together as a community.
Building a church that seeks to be ‘multi-cultural’ is... complicated. The difficulty is that white privilege - the core issue at play - is rarely, if ever,
addressed. How do you react when you hear us say that? White privilege? What? In the UK, in the
21st century?

Er... well, yes. If you are white, you probably want us to soften the term, or point the finger at individuals who would be classed as overtly ‘racist’, or you probably feel less inclined to read this newsletter because the authors are on a ‘soapbox’.

If you are Black, you might agree, in part, but would rather it wasn’t mentioned because it make
things awkward and embarrassing especially when you’re trying to get on in a white world. However, the key issues in forming multi-cultural church are not, as often stated, about sharing cultural styles in worship, or having people of colour included on leadership teams (that very word ‘included’, reveals a lot about which group is doing the including i.e. has the power). The issues revolve around questions of ‘who’s in charge?‘ and ‘which culture is dominant?’. So, here we are, two white people commissioned by a Black church to pioneer a multicultural church - and no-one likes
talking about the core issue - like we said....it’s complicated!

Life may be complicated but following Jesus is always a great adventure!
Anyway, our team is made up of ten people (including children) from House of Praise church in Easton, Bristol. 7 of the team have a Caribbean-British heritage and 4 have a White-British heritage. Our strategy is to make friends with people, pray for their needs and invite them to our meetings. Having children on our team really helps us to make our meetings open to everyone. Despite the issues, we have a lot of fun!

If you'd like to keep in touch with how Var and Emma are getting on, contact them to receive the One Hope Ministries' newsletter, which also includes Var's film-making exploits and Emma's reports on the Gospel Generation Community Choir:
Var: var@one-hope.co.uk
Em: emma@one-hope.co.uk

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Alter-Ego of a 17 year old Worship Musician

SPECIAL NOTICE: To find about about supporting MND Global Awareness Day by buying Sam Evan's EP O Zi Placuta click here for all the information on the Welton Baptist Church site

I am Pastor of Welton Baptist Church, Midsomer Norton (www.weltonchurch.org.uk) and want to introduce you to one of our worship musicians, Sam Evans. Sam is a 6th form student who plays keyboard and sings as part of one the worship bands at our fairly large church, based close to Bath.

 Sam plays in an “improvised” style as he has benefited from a number of years informal
tuition from a superb jazz musician. This has developed a “feeling” in the way in which he plays and enables him to understand the sensitivities of the different styles and spiritual content of the worship music we enjoy at our church Sunday by Sunday, and as such has become an important part of our worship team. As well as this Sam also records keyboard worship pieces for our local
community radio station, Somer Valley FM, as part of their weekly religious program output “Faithtime”.

BUT...there is another, some might say darker, side to Sam! Not only does Sam engage in the rather dangerous activity/sport of Parkour (Freerunning) but he is also becoming a critically acclaimed musician and performer in his own right on the small venue circuit having played more than 50 gigs during 2012 in places from St. Austell to Sheffield, Bath to Birmingham as well as playing a
number of times in Romania including premier music venue The Mojo Club in Bucharest. Sam'’s recent gigs have taken him to Mama Stones, Exeter; Nambucca, Islington; The Fleece, Bristol and The Troubadour, Earls Court.

This video  features both Sam's music and some of his Parkour stunts: just don't try these around your church building!

And here's Sam performing on Bristol's Harbourside:

In November 2012 he recorded a single “Tomorrow isn’t Promised” together with his band to raise money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital (see www.vibedeck.com/samevans for the full story behind this).

(As an aside, one of the other lads in the band (Andy Slade - who plays Sax and Cajon) is also involved in the church worship band at the Methodist church in Midsomer Norton!)

I thought your readers might like to hear about an active young person, engaged in church life and worship but who is “doing his thing” as he sets out to try and develop a career as a musician in the commercial sphere. Sam’s story (so far) might be seen as an “antidote” to those who see people involved in church activities as rather 2-dimensional (dare I say “boring”) personalities. Not only that but hopefully it will be an encouragement to your listeners that within the church today there are large numbers of young people who are actively engaged and using their incredible talents both in the church and outside of it!

Pastor Mike Howell, Welton Baptist Church

Friday, 1 March 2013

We're a church now!


This article appears in the Spring 2013 edition of WEBA News, which will be sent to WEBA church secretaries during the week beginning Monday 4th March.

Being part of a church is something most of the readers of this newsletter will take for granted.

It’s different for members of ‘The Stowe’ who have recently been constituted as a church and accepted into membership of the Baptist Union and of WEBA.

“It’s great that we’re a church now; not just a club” said one member. Another commented: “It’s amazing that our little dysfunctional group has been recognised as a church”. The group are so excited about this that more than 20 of them, including children, will be travelling to Blackpool for the Baptist Assembly this May, when The Stowe will be formally recognised as a new church.

It’s four years since Rev. Alison Boulton was first interviewed for WEBA news about her plans to move into the Wichelstowe development in Swindon. A year before that, someone at a prayer meeting had suggested that they pray for the planned housing development, and Alison had “one of those moments…I felt God was saying that we should be involved.”
Alison’s plan was to let mission develop organically through various activities. The group which began to meet at her house soon decided they wanted a Sunday morning gathering. By 2012 Alison’s living room was too small and the group, now called ‘The Stowe’ began to meet in a local primary school.

From the beginning, The Stowe’s emphasis has been to unconditionally bless the community. “The line between church and community remains rather blurred” says Suzanna Miles, Church Secretary. “A number of the congregation serve as trustees of the East Wichel Community Association or serve on the governing body of the Primary School; others are involved in coffee morning, art groups, Brownies, Wichelstowe Youth Theatre, baby & toddler groups, regular litter picks, and the community garden.”

She also lists special events that have been designed to bless the community: “a Pancake Party, a Jubilee Party, the Wichelstowe Olympics and Christmas celebrations to which everyone in East Wichel was invited.  An especially exciting trip took place on an extremely hot day in July; over 120 people in two coaches headed to Crealy, Devon for the day.  All of these activities and events are undertaken as a way of expressing God’s love for the community and serving those who live here.”

Becoming a church is, of course, only the beginning of a journey. “We are prayerfully considering what options are available to us in terms of opening the Bible and deepening people’s experience and knowledge of it” Suzanna explains, “as well as meeting the needs of those still on the edge of engaging with faith.  We also want to find ways of connecting spiritually with the growing number of children in a meaningful way.” 

These are challenges faced by every one of our churches, whether one year old or four hundred.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Why don't White people go to Black-led churches?

Rev. Var Smallwood explains some of the story behind a conference he is organising in partnership with WEBA, Bristol Baptist College, and the Church of God of Prophecy.

Var and his wife Emma with Pastor Raymond Viera of the Church of God of Prophecy

Until last year, I was the pastor of a multi-cultural church in Bristol. We were proud of being mixed because we felt that being ‘Beautifully Different’ is a powerful witness to the gospel. Every photo I took to publicise the church was carefully managed to have both Black and White people and our diaconate was studiously mixed. And yet, and yet... something was not quite working.

Then I went on a Sabbatical. With my family, I toured community churches in the States. As we travelled, the issue of ‘race’ came to the fore again and again. Everything went smoothly until we spent an afternoon with an African-American lady called Anne Stewart. She belonged to a very progressive church in Chicago who shared all their income (Acts 4:32) and were thoroughly committed to being multi-cultural. But in passing she said, ‘You’ve no idea how White you’ve got to be to belong here’.


Suddenly, that one throw-away line opened our eyes to the hidden issues lurking beneath the surface of ‘multi-cultural’ church. Who’s in charge? Which culture dominates? These are the real questions that need to be faced. It has led us to more questions. For example:

Why don't White people go to Black-led churches?
Why do some Black people go to White-led churches?
What is Black theology?
Is there such a thing as White theology?
How is our common mission affected by these questions?

It has now led us to be working for a Black-led church and to be planting a new multi-cultural church in partnership with WEBA.

It has led us to hosting a conference called ‘Re-Visiting Mission’ on Saturday 9th March (2 Tudor Road, Bristol, BS5 6BW). This event is in partnership with WEBA, BUGB, Bristol Baptist College and the Church of God of Prophecy and it will be seeking to address some of these important and current questions. The speakers are of the highest quality and there will also be optional drama and music workshops to help us reflect on the theme. Please come and help build lasting partnerships across social and ethnic boundaries.

Speakers at the conference will include Dr. Anthony Reddie, Rev Dr. Rosalyn Murphy, and Rev. Israel Olofinjana, and the conference moderators will be Rev. Dr. Stephen Finamore (Principal of Bristol Baptist College) and Pastor Raymond Viera (Regional Overseer, COGOP South West England).

The day costs £15 including lunch and refreshments. To book your place please email thebookingplace@gmail.com or call 0117 939 1866. 

Friday, 25 January 2013

Gary McFarlane: "Certainly not disappointed"

 It's likely you will have spotted WEBA's Association Manager Gary McFarlane on the news recently

Gary was one of four Christians who took their claims of unfair treatment in the workplace to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in September; the results were announced on Tuesday 15th January.

Gary had lost his job at Relate Avon after expressing a possible conscientious objection to offering sex therapy advice to same sex couples.

His case was not successful, but Gary insists that he is not disappointed, as he feels his call for 'reasonable accommodation' has been widely heard and understood.

Speaking on Radio Bristol, he expressed "regret that the European Court did not set out criteria to help employers grappling with these issues" but he is "certainly not disappointed. This case was never really about Gary McFarlane, not just about the Christian Faith. There needs to be a better, level playing field, a better balance."

Gary gave an extended interview about the story on the Soul 2 Sole programme on Ujima Radio this Saturday, the 26th January. Click on the link below to 'listen again' - the programme is in two sections - Gary's is in the earlier slot (2-3pm) but please note this is lower down on the web page. The interview begins after about 22 minutes.

Ujima Soul 2 Sole Interview with Gary McFarlane

 There is also information about the case and a video on the Christian Concern Website