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Story 81 - Mission on your doorstep

By Suzie Abramian in conversation with Nicola Gerrard from Lymm Baptist Church, Cheshire.
 
Lymm Baptist Church, just outside Warrington in Cheshire, have recently begun their own missional adventure after some of the church felt God calling them to explore what pioneering looks like on their own ‘missional doorstep.’ Nicola Gerrard on the leadership team at Lymm BC, has been coordinating the pioneering group in the church since they started meeting in 2018 to discern God’s will in this. She recalls how the group took approximately 8 months to intentionally pray into this calling, laying down any preconceived ideas and plans, with a desire to be truly led by God. From this time of prayer and waiting they felt led to pinpoint 2 local geographical areas for mission.
The 2 areas they highlighted are the small village of High Legh and the larger village of Thelwall, both within a 5-mile radius of Lymm. Like many larger churches in rural areas, Lymm BC attracts many of its congregation from its surrounding villages including these 2 villages. Nicola and her family have been attending Lymm BC for some years and travel in from the village of High Legh. However, Nicola notes how she and her husband have always felt a heart for the village they live within and had experienced ways of engaging with the people in the village for some time before this specific calling came about. Likewise, others in the pioneering group felt called to the other village of Thelwall because they too were residents there and had a similar heart for their own context.
Story81Pic1With the geographical areas identified, the pioneering group noticed early on the importance of avoiding certain language in this venture. The language of church planting proved to be an obstacle and furthermore, as Nicola clarifies, traditional church planting was not necessarily the aim. Rather, the priority was to engage with the local communities and see what would grow out of that. Unlike some church planting models they also avoided the approach of sending out a team from a central church as people were already living and embedded naturally within these communities.
As the pioneering group discerned their specific locations it also became apparent that despite their proximity to each other geographically speaking, God had very different ideas for each place.
In High Legh, Nicola and her husband Nick already had a good relationship with the various parts of the local community with Nick on the chair of governors at the village primary school and with Nicola, who is a professional musician, known for performing in the local area, particularly in the village’s 16th Century chapel where she has held musical meditations at Advent time for the past 10 - 12 years.
Story81Pic2They also had a good, established relationship with the small and traditional Anglican church, and they recognised the importance of a church already present in the community. With no experience of running or attending an Alpha course before, Nicola felt God saying to run one in the village and to connect with the Anglican church for running it, who likewise had no experience of running Alpha! Nevertheless, the idea was warmly received by the Anglican church, especially for helping with meals, and 10 weeks of the course was able to run in the neutral venue of the village hall before the first lockdown in March 2020. Despite its brief running, Nicola says there was an amazing impact made not only on some of the attendees on the course but also on some of the congregation of the Anglican church. She tells how some who had been in the church for many years were having encounters with God for the first time, as well as others experiencing miraculous healing each time they attended. Although the course had to be suspended due to the Coronavirus restrictions and it didn’t seem right or fitting to transfer things to online, Nicola hopes that looking ahead the group can resume and that the relationships started there can be rebuilt.
In Thelwall a different approach was taken, fitting to its own context and using the people God already had in place there. In their case, they felt God leading them to set up a ‘Beacon group’ which aims to be a house group with a very outward focus. Only after that group had been running for a while the group felt it would be right to run an Alpha but to hold it online. From this came other online ventures, initiated by the leaders of the group who are also professional musicians and experienced in using online technology.
Even within these different approaches it interesting to see there were further surprises along the way. Such as the way the groups assumed the pioneering approach would be specifically for people living in the villages of High Legh and Thelwall but they have also had people joining in the online Alpha courses from around the world and some attending the Alpha in High Legh from Lymm. As this pioneering venture in both villages looks ahead, especially to a time without Coronavirus restrictions, Nicola shares her hopes for seeing some kind of worshipping community grow in High Legh but like all the ventures so far this will undoubtedly be led by God and with his plans, unique to their context. As Nicola says, ’God does different things in different places…and you can’t prescribe what he will do in your area.’
Two main aspects of their journey so far particularly stand out to Nicola as she encourages others who may be considering a similar venture. Firstly, to try if possible, to maintain unity with local churches as much as possible. And secondly not to do anything merely for the sake of it. A pressure often felt by leaders who feel like they need to be seen to be doing something, Nicola encourages other leaders to lay down that pressure and only do something they feel God has truly led them to.
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Deb Stammers
NWBA, Story81-90, MA_Pioneering
Sally Mann
MA_Podcast, LBA, Story81-90
Rose Uitterdijk
NWBA, MA_Pioneering, Story81-90
Nicola Gerrard
NWBA, MA_Pioneering, Story81-90
Red Letter
MA_Pioneering, MA_Social Action, Story81-90, LBA
Paul Revill
nba, MA_Pioneering, Story81-90
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