Minister partnership for two churches
Two Baptist churches have embarked on an exciting new partnership where they will share two ministers
Both South Bank Baptist Church in Middlesbrough, and East Cleveland Baptist Church in nearby Redcar will keep their individual identities, but ministers Jon Edwards and Mark Hubbard will share duties at each.
Jon, who has been leading South Bank since 2013, will continue to spend three quarters of his time there, while Mark will spend three quarters of his time at East Cleveland. The new partnership means the churches will benefit from the gifts of both ministers, and work together in new ways, explained Jon, who will serve as team leader.
‘We are still two congregations, not one church in two places,’ he said.
‘Mark is very much the minister at East Cleveland, and me at South Bank. But we will bring our gifts to both churches.
‘Mark has a pioneering spirit, a gift for evangelism and discipleship. He has a drive and a vision for breaking new ground, a prophetic insight. My gifts are establishing and nurturing, making something sustainable.
‘The way Mark and I can work together will hopefully mean that each church gets the best of each minister.’
The partnership came following the departure of the previous minister at East Cleveland, around 18 months ago. The churches are eight miles apart, and Jon was approached to be moderator. He helped prepare a profile for the new minister, but the process stalled. ‘It was frustrating for everyone,’ he remembers.
Jon went on a sabbatical in April-June, and during that time felt God speaking to him about Mark, then a member of his church who was testing a call to ministry. Mark had completed three years training at Regents Theological College, a Pentecostal college in Malvern. During the previous year Mark had a number of opportunities to lead and preach. ‘In my sabbatical I felt God tell me do whatever I can to help Mark fulfil his call for ministry.’
With Mark having preached at East Cleveland a couple of times, Jon thought about the possibility of Mark leading there.
While Mark was open to the idea, the leaders at East Cleveland were less keen due to his lack of experience.
It was then Jon came up with a sense of working together and sharing ministry. ‘Not just me leading both churches and mentoring Mark, but a partnership, working together and bringing our different gifts to both churches,’ he explained.
They started exploring, taking it very slowly. The congregation at South Bank were initially cautious, fearful about losing the stability that Jon had brought. But gradually God spoke, bringing particular verses and visions to different people.
For instance, one elder at South Bank was given a picture of a cave. Jon explained, ‘She’s afraid of caves, but felt God saying “step inside”, where she saw all the beauty contained in caves, beauty that you can’t see from the outside. She felt that God was saying he was in this.
‘There were several like this.’
The congregation at East Cleveland also welcomed the proposal. It was taken to both church meetings and received unanimous approval.
Mark was inducted at East Cleveland in November, and Jon was commissioned as Team Leader. Then on 8 January there was a commissioning service for Mark at South Bank (below).
‘One of the most exciting things about this is the church unity,’ said Jon. ‘Both churches have taken different ways to get here, but are both fully behind it.’
As well drawing on the gifts of the two ministers, the partnership will enable the two churches to work alongside each in new ways.
‘This is just an example to illustrate, because it has not been discussed, but I don’t think either church would be able to bring a full-time youth worker. Between us, maybe we could do that. Or we could think about getting a Youth for Christ worker for 12 months.
‘East Cleveland has a well-established weekend away. We have been thinking about a church weekend at South Bank - we can maybe join together.
‘This new initiative has opened up exciting possibilities for both churches.’
In his first pastor’s blog, Mark said, ‘I still catch myself wondering how God brought about my calling to be your Pastor. As a family we’re thrilled to be here and are excited for the journey of faith we’re going to be taking together.’
Top from Mark's induction at East Cleveland, with the Revd John Claydon (NBA Regional Ministry Team Leader) left, Mark centre, and Jon on the right.
The second is from Mark's commissioning at South Bank, surrounded by leaders and members of East Cleveland and South Bank churches. On the left is the Revd John Singleton, who used to be a regional minister of the Northern Baptist Association, and is a member of East Cleveland Baptist. He conducted the commissioning of Mark.