Lay Witness Movement
Alan and Jennifer Goulden
The Lay Witness Movement, once described as “A jewel in the Methodist Crown”, has a double reason for celebration this year. Formed in 1976, the Movement celebrates its 30th Anniversary and on 6-8 October holds its 1,000th Weekend at Meir and Normacot Methodist Church in the Stoke on Trent South Circuit. It’s a tremendous achievement. The work of the Movement is as relevant today as it was 30 years ago and is still in demand.
The aims of the Movement are:-
~**To bring individuals into a closer relationship with Jesus*~~*To bind a church family into a loving caring community*~~*To encourage prayer and fellowship groups**~
In short, the Movement aims to centre a church and individual lives on Christ.
This is done through two types of Weekends. Firstly, a Sharing God’s Love Weekend, concentrating on exploring key aspects of the Christian faith and secondly a “Living in God’s Love Weekend” designed to help and encourage people to grow as Christians. All Lay Witness Weekends are gentle and low key. They are led by ordinary lay people who respect people where they are, never putting anybody on the spot.
Weekends comprise meals, times of fellowship, worship, team stories and themed discussion groups. They start with an evening meal on a Friday and finish with a Sunday Evening Celebration Service. Times of sessions are flexible to suit the needs of individual churches.
Weekends are not intended to be an end in themselves but a springboard for church strategies, building on the benefits a Weekend can bring. They are helpful in building up churches and individuals, bringing a fellowship closer together and equipping a church for outreach.
The Weekends are suitable for any size of church in any location – from large inner city churches to small rural parishes. The size of a visiting team is determined by the size of a church’s worshipping congregation. They are designed for the whole Church family, totally inclusive and free of charge. Members travel at their own expense and the work of the Movement is financed by voluntary donations from churches and individuals.
The Movement has in excess of 200 active members coming from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. They are representative of church congregations today, being closely vetted and accepted into membership only if their own Minister is fully satisfied that they are suitable for the work they are required to do. Whilst the Movement had its roots in the Methodist Church in this country, it is totally independent and non denominational with members coming from a variety of main line Christian Churches. It is a splendid example of Christians from various denominational backgrounds working together and serving God in a common purpose.
Members are fully trained by the organisation and have to keep their training up to date at least every three years. The strength of the Movement is in the large number of prayer members who underpin the work of the Movement and individual Weekends in prayer. They are the “engine house” of the Lay Witness Movement.
The first Lay Witness Weekend was held at Bolsover Methodist Church on the first weekend in October in 1976. The 1,000th Weekend is exactly 30 years later! How it came to this country is an amazing story of God’s intervention into the lives of individuals and their obedience to step out in faith and follow His leading. Individuals from America and this country were miraculously brought into contact with each other and the Lay Witness Movement in Great Britain came alive at Bolsover those many years ago. Dr Roger Haining, then a dentist in Seattle, but now living in Washington USA, who led that first Weekend has said:
“After 1,000 missions we can now look back and see how God brought strangers together from two continents. He raised up leaders who had never spoken to each other. He raised up a pastor with vision and energy to faithfully serve Him. He raised up a team from America and brought us together in harmony and the results are outstanding”
The Lay Witness Movement has much to celebrate and will be holding a Celebration Day at Mansfield Baptist Church, Rosemary Street, Mansfield on Saturday, 16th September from 10.30am to 4.00pm. The guest speaker will be Rev Tom Stuckey, President of the Methodist Conference 2005/06. Tom, a supporter of the Movement, said in a recent article 'Again and again over the years, I have heard stories of how a Lay Witness Team has come into a Methodist Church or Circuit and triggered a renewal of discipleship and Christian vitality … There is a spiritual hunger out there; there are people within our churches praying for renewal: the world is waiting and the Lay Witness Movement will be a key player in the renewal that is coming'.
It is a real privilege for us to be at the helm of the Movement during such a momentous time in the life of the Movement. With an effective Management Committee and help from colleagues covering various roles, we have all been concentrating on bringing a fresh image and vitality to the work of the Movement. New publicity leaflets and promotional display boards are now in place. A new DVD about the work of the Movement for church information talks has just been produced and a new web site is about to be launched. The new DVD has some powerful testimony on how Weekends have helped individuals and churches. David Wilkinson, newly appointed Principal of St. John’s College, Durham ends the DVD by describing how, as a teenager, a Lay Witness Weekend at his home Church “transformed his life”.
The Movement is always willing to arrange church publicity talks and further details and copies of our new leaflets are available from the Lay Witness Office, 7 Sandown Road, Toton, Nottingham NG9 6GL (tel 0115 877 3827) Email firstname.lastname@example.org or www.laywitness.org.uk
Alan and Jennifer Goulden are joint General Secretariesd of the Lay Witness Movement
Headline Autumn 2006 pp 4-5.