Story 15 - The Importance of Stories
Ian Purcell, South Wales
Written by Suzie Abramian in conversation with Ian Purcell - June 2020
‘Stories are so important, they have a way of getting through, underneath and connecting,’ so says Ian Purcell, Rural Missioner from Monmouth. It therefore seems only fitting to begin with a story from Ian himself in order to describe the missional adventure he has been on over the last 4 years in this rural part of the Monmouthshire/Herefordshire borders. Back in Easter 2018, Ian and a lady from one of the local chapels had gone door knocking with bags of chocolate Easter eggs. When they approached one house which kept the door firmly closed to them, they in turn left a card and one of the bags of eggs.
15 months later Ian went back to this house with a booklet, ‘Stories of Hope for Rural Communities’ funded by the South Wales Baptist Association. This time the door was opened and the lady inside shared of how her late husband had been dying of cancer at home when they knocked on the door before. Furthermore, her husband had been having cravings for chocolate which that day she hadn’t been able to get for him when they dropped that bag of chocolate eggs at their door. The husband passed on soon after this happened, but his widow felt that what happened that day had given her assurance of God coming and meeting a real need, providing for her husband even at the very end.
Stories such as this capture just some of Ian’s role, which began as a joint venture from 12 Baptist chapels in 2016 with a 5 year brief to encourage, equip and mobilise the chapels as they currently existed in mission, as well as looking for new forms of church life in the Monmouthshire/Herefordshire area, about 30 miles north to south and 10 miles east to west.
With a clear mandate not to preach every Sunday within these chapels, Ian was then given relative freedom to explore how to put this brief into practice. Perhaps one of the most surprising practices in this venture has been rediscovering the art of door knocking, especially when Ian himself, reflects on how this was something he hadn’t participated in since the 1980’s! Nevertheless, whether it be due to the rural context or the message itself, Ian shares how this method of missional engagement has actually been working in his context to the extent he can’t remember one occasion where there has not been some kind of fruitful engagement. Furthermore, when there are tangible books or pamphlets to give, full of stories which often include locally known people, the door literally opens for conversations to develop. The ‘Stories of Hope…’ booklet has been particularly instrumental in this, sharing some local testimonies with a focus on giving the hope of Jesus into places of despair.
As Ian prepares to finish his time in this post he challenges us to reflect that for any healthy church to flourish we should all as believers be in a position where we are open to change. And whilst there hasn’t been the kind of growth within the chapels which was possibly expected, he also gives the encouragement that, "we live in times where there are so many ways we can be expressing good news." Even though Ian would never have imagined he would be door knocking in 2020 he has embraced this because this has been one way God is working, being faithful to wherever the Holy Spirt leads.