A Mixed Up Minister?
What insights does the book of Jonah have for ministers today?
Led by The Revd Tom Stuckey, a former President of the Methodist Church.
Among God’s People - The Reside Project
When proposals for the new housing developments to the south of Loughborough town became public, Churches Together in Loughborough saw the potential for mission. As part of the development, space was to be made available for shops, healthcare provision, a community hall and a place of worship. After lots of discussions, the Anglican and Methodist Churches agreed to be the primary resourcers of a mission project based on the estates. So I was appointed with a remit to create community and a 5-year plan, with an aim to be a leading part in the construction of this community space. By the time I arrived the housing market had slowed dramatically and so the context was already different. We had to begin the listening process and try to discern the vision for this mission work.
Very quickly a small group of resident Christians from different denominations came together and, using Nehemiah as an example, began to fast and pray for the area. Not knowing exactly where to begin, we began to wait on God, trying to be patient. This verse spoke very strongly to us: Habakkuk 2:3 ‘But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.’
Soon we began to go into the community in different ways:
Open community events
- Christmas Carol singing developed into Outdoor Carol Services on both estates
- Community Fun Day of races and a treasure hunt gave residents chance to play together.
- Easter Fun Day, which began as a small scale Egg Hunt around the estate, has developed this year into a bigger Kite Flying event
- Linking with the Hope ’08 initiative, we ran an exploration course which became a nurture group and resulted in a small cell group
Prayer structures have been various, from fortnightly prayer walking to Community Prayers, which we hope to develop to make more accessible. We’re currently looking at encouraging more prayer links from supporters.
- We began leading assemblies twice a term.
- A prayer group for the school developed, with mums and teachers from the primary school, who prayer walk and meet to pray about school issues.
- I was invited to be a School Governor by the school.
- In October we were able to invite families, met through school, to Open House and did something similar for Holy Week.
- Our Prayer Group have just led 8 Easter Lessons with KS2, giving a clear Christian message to approximately 200 children plus the school’s adults.
- We learned about opportunities for Christian involvement and partnership with schools through the Extended Schools programme.
The Resident’s Association
- I began by attending meetings.
- We shared a basic community survey about space available.
- I built relationships with members and was invited onto the committee.
- As a result of listening to the concerns of the residents, we are working with them for an Open House session on anti-social behaviour. We are also working alongside the police to provide a place to locally access security details. We are co-operating with the residents association to explore setting up a Neighbourhood Watch scheme in the area too.
Listening – through this variety of engagement with the community we have heard concerns raised about:
- Loneliness and isolation – particularly of those not in work or without private transport.
- Lack of meeting places for any group.
- No places for young people to meet.
- Lack of community feel and safety and security issues.
- Inadequate support for children struggling at school, for whatever reason, and their families.
- Also we have heard the concern of resident Christians about the lack of a visible Christian presence on either development.
Alongside this engagement with the community, we have been continually exploring the longer-term vision for mission in this area, which began by naming the project Reside with a strap line of Community, Relationships, Faith. The name Reside speaks about the incarnational ministry of the resident Christians in the area but also hints at Revelation 21 verse 3, ‘Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.’ We want to be a part of realising this promise for the people of South Loughborough.
And so our vision is for Reside to be an evolving Christian network, one that provides safe and welcoming places to explore the Christian faith, care for the community and collectively expresses each element of Church.
We envisage people becoming involved with Reside through one of two avenues: either through the developing Cell-Church structure or through the Network of activities serving the community.
Cell Church – open to Christians and non-Christians, but this is their Church.
A space to:-
- Explore God and faith
- Be discipled
- Engage in mission
- Exercise pastoral care
The Network – open to Christians and non-Christians, as part of serving their neighbours, but they are still part of other Churches if appropriate. Currently the Network links are the biggest but the hope is that, as Cell Church grows, this will balance out and eventually Cell will be the biggest inflow. Though Reside will never be exclusive, as we will never suit everyone’s needs, we do want to encourage and enable service in the local community.
So next we are hoping to grow the Cell-Church. We want to set-up a Community Bus project that will become a mobile meeting place, serving some of the needs raised in the area and strengthening further the network of resident Christians serving in the area. Also we need to confirm the long-term sustainability for Reside as we are already half way through the initial 5-year grant funded term.
It is an exciting project to be involved with and there is so much potential for development, but it is the discerning of what is God’s will that is the greatest challenge. Please pray for us!