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Story 27 - West Craven Baptist Church

Julie Bryan

Julie Bryan reflects on her first year as a minister in training…
Story27Pic1Over the past few years, I have had a growing sense that God was calling me to train as a minister and work with my home churches in the West Craven Baptist Fellowship: a group of three small churches coming together to formally amalgamate into one church. In September 2019, I began training at Northern Baptist College and I was excited at the prospect of new missional adventures. I felt strongly that there was a need to re-discover our pioneering Baptist heritage and experiment with new ways of connecting with people in our local community. After prayer and conversation, two initiatives began
  • A monthly Sunday Stroll to a local café, which included a short Christian ‘Thought for the Day’. This was an alternative gathering to the main worship service.
  • A weekly ecumenical conversation group, which met in an evening in a local café.
 
By early Spring, both groups were showing encouraging signs of growth, as relationships formed and deepened, but then coronavirus arrived, and lockdown began.
 
Story27Pic2Like all churches, we quickly had to adapt to the situation. For me, that meant helping the congregation find ways to be connected during a period of social isolation, working with the food bank as it experienced increased pressure, and adjusting to college work as it moved online. I also led my first funeral service, which was moving and memorable. Through all this, I consciously spent more time listening to God in prayer. The over-riding message was that I had to wait – it was a season to trust him and rest, resisting the pressure to start anything new.
In July, after prayerful consideration, we decided to open our church to provide A Space to Pray, not just for church members but as a resource for anyone in the community who would find it helpful. There was a sense of adventure as we decided to see how God would use us. Over the past few weeks, we have been encouraged as we welcomed new visitors, and fresh relationships are growing.
As we move out of lockdown, West Craven Baptist Church is in a liminal place, not just due to the adjustment to the “new-normal” that we all find ourselves in, but also as we welcome Stephen Keyworth as Minister and Team Leader, and a new phase of mission and ministry begins. The lessons I’ve learned in lockdown: trusting that God is at work in peoples’ lives, being reminded of the importance of prayer, and needing patience and discernment in listening for prompts to act on the Spirit’s call, are going to be crucial as we adapt to the changing situation ahead.
Looking back on my first year in training, I give thanks to God for all I have learned and the ways I have been supported by church, community and college. As I look ahead, I am excited by the prospect of sharing the next phase of missional adventure in team ministry as we seek to be a pioneering church and journey into the unknown future together.

 
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