'We have facilitated friendship'
Ben Tucker, minister of Seaton Baptist Church in Devon, explains how the vision of the church, released in part by a Home Mission grant at the start of 2020, has led to the explosion of a brand new missional adventure over the weeks of lockdown
Ben Tucker is the minister of Seaton Baptist Church in Devon. With a recent Home Mission grant, Ben has been able to increase the number of days he gives to the church from three to four. In this recent video, shared by the South West Baptist Association, he explains how it's helped enable the church to pursue a vision called Restored - a vision of seeing its community restored, 'seeing people and places brought back into life again, helping people flourish and living life to the full.' The vision for this health and well being project comes from Isaiah 58.
The first day he was able to work on it Ben was asking God to show a way forward. At 5.30pm that he day he received a call asking if he could co-ordinate a new project in Seaton because one of the councillors was too busy to take it on. 'It seemed a great opportunity,' Ben says.
He received funding to set up a group with 'people across the community, working in the community' to help make Seaton more mentally health aware. The group had done about two weeks of meeting together when the coronavirus hit.
It changed everything. The group had a call from the Mayor asking how they might support Seaton during this time, particularly the isolated, lonely and vulnerable.
Ben suggested creating a network of volunteers, and putting cards into each house with a phone number to call and email address to contact if anyone needed anything.
Very quickly they were able to set up 11 co-ordinators and 160 volunteers across Seaton, with every road covered.
'What's grown naturally is this real care and love for the neighbour,' Ben explains.
'The volunteers have grown organically from each road. It's neighbours helping neighbours.
'We have facilitated friendship.'
With the scheme coming to an end as lockdown restrictions ease, Ben and the team are looking at how they transition it across to health and wellbeing. They've reached out to their volunteers - how willing would they be to get involved in something where they are looking after the mental health of those in the community, building friendships, supporting the vulnerable and the lonely?
'It has been overwhelming - people are wanting to continue in some capacity,' Ben says.
'It's been incredible to witness. Half the co-ordinators are from the church. Many volunteers are part of the Churches Together in Seaton. We are very much connected and in relationship with lots of people. It doesn't have a Christian banner over it. It doesn't need to. It's Christians working alongside the community and it's great to watch.
'We are now being asked to partner up with the community, and to transition this across. God has given us an opportunity that is far greater than we could have ever imagined. It doesn't look exactly how we imagined, but it seems to be an opportunity that's different and wider than we could have ever done on our own. We're moving with God and trying to join in with the things He's doing.'
He's grateful for what's happened so far, and would appreciate prayer for what lies ahead.
'I'd like thank Home Mission and all who support it, and ask for your prayers that we would know a clear way forward, that as Christians, as the church, we could have an impact by building relationships with the community.
'I don't know what's going to happen, but it's us following the mission statement of the church
- we are a church without walls, we don't own a building, but we are completely involved in the community. We want to show the community the church cares, and build an opportunity to share God's love.
'My message is to trust God in the unexpected, and to expect that He might do unexpected things in our communities.'