Blessed to see God’s church responding to his call
Carol Richardson reports on collecting 100 stories of Baptists involved in missional adventure
Late 2019 a small team of us here at RiverTree were tasked by the Baptist Union to collect 100 stories of Missional Adventure to inspire the church. As part of this project, and a member of the local church, I have been blessed and surprised at how God has continued to work in such amazing ways through the creativity and commitment of his people - you, the church!
Using written articles, interviews, podcasts and videos these 100 narratives cover the length and breadth of the country. Each missional adventure has also been posted on Facebook.
We start in the depths of Fenland Lincolnshire when God had a plan for Sutton St James Baptist Church. A few years ago, they had three in their congregation and the average age was 85. Arnie and Sue Hensby opened the church up to the community offering a place of support, advice, peace, prayer and healing. God has been working transforming lives and bringing hope - now the congregation is 30+ with 22 children regularly attending.
In Alnwick, Northumbria, Chris and Caroline Friend lead the Baptist church and three missional communities. One of these is Weavers Court Retirement Complex where over the last two years a worship and testimony session, Faith talks, and pastoral prayer teams have all been established and grown.
Chris said, 'We had a picture of God's hand opening up over Alnwick and the work in Weavers Court is testimony of God answering our prayers.'
Many of the stories show the church creativity creatively bringing Gods Kingdom to vulnerable people. One example of this is 57 West Church in Southend, Essex. The community cafe and a weekly communion focus on the transformation and hope the cross brings. Pam Davis the minister concludes 'church is chaos but a lot of fun as we praise God for all he is doing.'
My favourite video is from Revd Kay d’Albertanson in Axminster, a beautiful region of Devon. LIFE Community church has grown out of Pippins Community Centre. The reason I find this inspiring is it was through different Axminster churches working together which enabled the community centre to grow from two groups to 42. Pioneer minister Kay was appointed chaplain and leader of the missional community which meets to worship each week. How wonderful that the vision and unity of Christians in this small area of Devon has been blessed by God.
Baptists in Devon have found other ways to make God’s love known – in the pedestrianised area of Devonport church members have cleared litter, weeded the planters and yarn bombed trees with bunting and knitting. Residents are grateful of the care shown and aware that the church is there for them which has seeded many conversations.
I am also inspired by two different types of mission in Leeds both of which have led to dramatic changes in people’s lives and aspirations. Starting in Feb 2020 the Wren Bakery uses baking and barista training as tools to help vulnerable women build self confidence and employment skills. Emma and Clare encourage us all to 'push the door and see what God can do!'
Karen and Jonathan Grey certainly have done this in the Crossgate area of Leeds – committing themselves to the people of this city the couple have led a wide range of projects that focus on children, young people and mental health to gather people and spread kingdom values. Watch for yourself at story 57 on the missional adventure page of the Baptist union website.
One of the joys of collaborating these storeys has been interviewing people with a deep love of God and desire to see the adventure of mission spread across the UK. Podcasts of these conversations are released every fortnight, so search for missional adventure in your favourite podcast provider on your smartphone or tablet.
In podcast 6, Ian MacDonald describes how a commitment to love God and to love the people of King Sutton in the Cotswold started with a messy church and led to new life and energy in this rural location. Meanwhile at the coast, John Good (Podcast 13) describes how in Poole, Dorset, the church started a water sports library, enabling those who would never normally be able to enjoy a variety of water sports to take part by borrowing equipment at a low cost.
Gathering storeys of missional adventure in a year dominated by lockdown has not always been easy, but we have been delighted and challenged how God continues to work in imaginative and creative ways. Here at RiverTree we are excited for the future and blessed to see God’s church responding to his call.
Let’s continue to encourage one another in the adventure of mission as we share in what the Lord is doing.
Carol Richardson is a member of Southgate Church in Bury St. Edmunds (a Baptist, Anglican and URC Local Ecumenical Project). She’s married to Shaun, and together they love to cycle and walk in the Suffolk countryside.
She’s part of the team at RiverTree, an organisation Simon Goddard set up in 2018 to catalyse, cultivate and collaborate to enable fruitfulness in the mission of God.