New life at New Mill
New Mill Baptist Church in Hertfordshire has always felt called to be a church of the community, not just one that happens to be located in it – and is now beginning to live out this call more fully
No-one knows when they replaced the old mill, but a group of Baptist believers were first recorded as meeting in New Mill, Hertfordshire in 1655.
This first group had grown so much that in 1818 the Baptist Annual proudly reported that a new chapel to seat 700 people had been opened, the building which New Mill Baptist Church uses to this day.
Since then, the church at New Mill has experienced many ups and downs. The local town of Tring has grown and the settlement of New Mill was swallowed up by successive housing developments in the 1970s and 80s. When the current minister, Andrew Openshaw arrived as a Minister in Training (MiT) arrived in 2011, the church had been without a stipended minister for some years and the membership was under 30.
Indeed the church was only able to take on a MiT with the help of Home Mission (HM), support which has since continued, enabling the church to call Andrew as their full time (80%) minister at the end of his 3 year training.
So what difference has Home Mission made in this context? Why support New Mill when there are other, perhaps more obviously pressing needs for HM support, and more pertinently even another church of our Union a mile away in the centre of Tring.
Prior to 2011 and more so since, the church feels called to be a church of the community in New Mill, not just one that happens to be located in it.
Andrew Openshaw, a minister with the gifts and vision to enable this church to develop its mission, has been able to re-start some community focused activities and encourage use of the buildings by non-church groups.
This has been especially valued by local organisations as the only community venue in New Mill closed around the same time. From being used only occasionally, the church buildings are now used around 40 hours a week.
Andrew has also been encouraged by the church to take on community roles; he is a governor in two local schools and is very active in Churches Together in Tring.
The creation of “The Mill” Community Café, run each Thursday, has also proved a great way to create and maintain links with the community.
Using a Mission Initiative Grant from the Central Baptist Association (funded by Home Mission) the church were able to purchase key equipment such as a soup kettle, panini machine, coffee machine, freezer and larder fridge, allowing them to offer quality meals and drinks at reasonable prices.
The café has proved a great success, a place to which people can be invited and where relationships can be built gradually in a safe and non-threatening way; something not always possible on a Sunday.
With Home Mission help, New Mill BC will continue to be about invitation rather than attraction; to be seeking to blur the edges, so that there is no “outside” or “inside”; to be looking for opportunities grow a missional community as a natural part of the community in New Mill.
Click here to read more stories about how the money you give to Home Mission is being used to bring the love of God to communities around the country.