Pill Baptist Church
Pill Baptist Church in North Somerset is in a process of transition
A Home Mission Grant is enabling Jon Thurlow to work with the church one day a week as ‘Discipleship and Mission Team Lead’, as three different ‘expressions’ of church take root there.
WEBA Regional Minister Alisdair Longwill asked Jon Thurlow a few questions about this:
Tell me a bit about the journey of Pill Baptist Church during the last 2 years.
For two hundred years, Pill Baptist Church has met for worship in a vintage 19th century chapel and enthusiastically engaged in the life of the village of Pill. However, in 2015, with a declining active membership, the chapel building was closed and the members made the decision to hand over the oversight of the church to a steering group, established by WEBA. Together we have been praying, reflecting and listening to God, exploring a fresh vision for Pill Baptist Church as we look to the future.
As a steering group we’ve been supporting the transition from a more traditional form of gathered church to three expressions of church, meeting in a variety of community spaces across the village of Pill. This includes an already established, monthly, all-age Café style church; a more traditional Sunday morning service on the site of a retirement community; and a weekly Women’s Bright Hour.
We’ve also developed a monthly discipleship focused ‘Lyfe Group’ and partnered with a neighbouring Baptist missional community in launching The Gathering, meeting together in a nearby Costa reflecting on what being a disciple means today.
As our strapline says, ‘together our aim is to glorify God as we seek to live increasingly Jesus-shaped lives and engage in his mission to the world.’
Jon, what is your particular role and how does this work out in practice?
I work for Pill Baptist Church one day a week as Discipleship and Mission Team Lead. I’m partnering with the church to help develop a core group of people who are following Jesus in everyday life and looking to engage with the mission of God in community of Pill and surrounding area.
In practice that means everything from listening, facilitating meetings, networking with local church communities, carrying out a mission audit, trying to be present in Pill to get a sense of the place and the people, praying, listening to what God is saying through the scriptures, preaching/teaching, overseeing a Facebook group, helping with run a village Easter Egg hunt, putting together communications/newsletters/posters…
…Oh, and working four days a week as an NHS Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist in Pain Management, studying for a certificate in theology at Trinity College Bristol, and most importantly being a husband to Sophie and Dad to Ed and Jess. In other words, life is full!
Tell me a bit more about your Café Church event?
Café Church is a monthly all age gathering held once a month in the local community centre. It was the vision of a team of people connected to Pill Baptist Church, some five years ago, as a way engaging with people in Pill exploring the Christian faith in a more relaxed and informal setting, as well as being a church community for people from a whole range of church backgrounds.
Café Church tends to involve a time of eating, drinking and conversation around tables, a guest musician, an interview and reflection exploring an aspect of living as a follower of Jesus and some imaginative crafts, story and activities for younger people. We also meet outside of the monthly meetings in a variety of contexts, including breakfasting together, a legendary regular summer barbecue and engaging in the community together through events like our Christmas Knitted Nativity Project, and upcoming village Easter Egg Hunt.
What are you praying that you’ll be able to achieve in next 18-24 months?
My prayer is that we will continue to develop and gather together a group of people from the local community committed to become what we’re calling the ‘Core Group,’ around which to develop a fresh expression of church that reaches out to, connects, and engages with the community of Pill. We’re not really sure what that looks like yet, but we’re trying to keep our eyes open to what God is already doing in the community.
What principles have you learned thus far, that others might be able to learn from?
Hmm… I’ve learnt that juggling NHS work, bivocational ministry, theological study and family life is only really possible thanks to an incredibly patient, loving wife and family, a supportive and encouraging community of people in Pill Baptist, and a reliance on the fact that those who ‘wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind,’ as the Message
version puts it (Isaiah 40).
What might people be praying for you, your people and for the community of Pill?
For Sophie, myself, Ed, and Jess, that God might continue to encourage and refresh us as we balance the various demands of life and look to the future.
For us as a Steering Group and wider church community, wisdom and a clear vision for the future as well as how best to share Jesus with the wider majority of the community of Pill who may never enter a traditional church context.
That God would give us the eyes to see where he is already at work in the community and show us in what ways we can join in in his mission.
Photos: Jon Thurlow
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