This is my final article for the Church Magazine (July/August 2012)
As I write my last magazine article after eight years as pastor of Park Road, there are three questions that come to mind.
The first question is, ‘What have I done?’ Why am I taking myself and my family from a place where we are settled to a place where we will have to begin again? Why am I causing my wife to leave a job that she enjoys, and my children to leave a school with which they are content? For all of us, why are we leaving behind friends and starting again with, well, strangers? The answer is ‘God’! We believe that God has called us to go to Newbury, and that he is calling us from Newbury to serve in the Baptist church there. God is the reason we are going, and in faith we are seeking to follow him.
Of course, that question can be taken another way: ‘What have I done in eight years of ministry in Peterborough?’ I prefer to tackle that with a second question: ‘What have we done?’ Ministry is something that we as a church of God’s people are called to do together. I happen to have had the privilege of being paid for it, and of serving you as your pastor! As I look back on eight years of our ministry in the city, these are some of the things (in no particular order) for which I believe we can give thanks:
· Alpha Courses. The first course that we did after my arrival was the best in which I have had the privilege of being involved. Some of you were on that course – you might remember. God was so clearly at work!
· Baptisms. These are always a high point for any Baptist minister and church. From age 12 to 85, we have had the blessing of people being baptized and setting out on the journey as disciples of Jesus!
· Church Members’ meetings – no, really! My first church did not really have a strong sense of identity as a Baptist church. You have shown me more of what it means to seek the mind of Christ together as a church. Of course, I still get frustrated with them at times, but don’t we all?!
· Inspirations Studio. Linked to the last heading, the series of three church members’ meetings through which we explored and affirmed the vision of Inspirations Studio were inspirational! And it’s been great to see the work developing under the guidance of our church member and project manager, Stuart Mathers.
· Mentoring. For a couple of years or so, Stuart, Mark Tiddy, Joel Mercer and myself met about once a month to explore different aspects of church leadership. See above and below for updates on Stuart and Mark! We can give thanks too for the opportunity to support Joel as he has explored a calling to Baptist ministry. Watch this space for where he will be in September!
· Café Kindness. This is such a simple idea – opening up the front of the church and offering free coffee and cake – and yet it has probably put us in contact with more people than anything else we have done.
· CaféChurch. This was a great experiment in a different way of doing church. Although we brought it to an end after a year, it was good to have the experience.
· Mark Tiddy. A few months into my time here, we applied to receive a church-worker from Careforce for one year. We got Mark Tiddy and we ended up having him for four years! He was a great blessing to us and especially to our young people. We can be proud (for God!) of our part in training Mark for full-time Christian youth ministry.
· BMS, Street Pastors and Interim ministry. A blessing of being set aside as a paid minister is that I can work on your behalf in areas for which you might not have the time. I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve as a trustee of BMS World Mission, in helping to set up Peterborough Street Pastors and as interim minister/moderator of Open Door Baptist Church (Harris Street).
· BMS, again! We can be thankful to God for the faithful service of Pat Woolhouse over many years in Kimpese, DR Congo. Three of us have had the opportunity to visit Pat there, and to see the impact that her work with others has made for God. Now we can pray for Fiona Macdonald as she prepares to pick up the baton as a member of the forthcoming Peru Action Team.
· Churches Together in Central Peterborough. Looking back, I believe that the Lord brought together a group of like-minded clergy at just the right time. We had a desire and a will to build upon the ecumenical links that already existed. It was a very moving occasion when we came together in January 2009 to become CTiCP. Fruit is growing from our relationship: Love came down at Christmas, City Centre chaplaincy, Inspirations, Children’s Fun Days etc.
· Small groups. Back in 2004, we had a couple of small groups but most of our members were not in a small groups. Today, we have ten small groups and with many more involved, they are at the heart of our church.
· Baptisms, again! At the time of writing, it looks like we will have two baptisms on 15th July. Maybe, there will be more? God is still at work!
Of course, there are many more things for which to give thanks, but this article is beginning to gush like an Oscar acceptance speech, so I’ll leave it there!
The third question is, ‘What has God done?’ For the answer to that, see above! ‘…for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose’ (Philippians 3:13).
Wendy and I and our girls will go from this place with sadness because of the friends we leave behind, and with gladness at all that we have been able to do together. We go, too, with excitement at all that God will continue to do in Peterborough and Newbury.
Please pray for us, as we will pray for you. We will welcome visitors from Peterborough, once we get settled into our new abode.
Thank you so much for sharing the journey of faith with us. It’s been great! Praise God!