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Story 96 - Jacobs Well
Abbotswood, Yate, Goucestershire

By Suzie Abramian in conversation with Ruth Ward  25/03/2021
 
Story96 - Pic1“Listening to God and Listening to the Community.”

Ruth Ward is the part time Community Development Worker for Jacob’s Well in Yate, near Bristol, which comprises of a worshiping community who are familiar with gathering in pioneering ways and who also partner extensively with broader community action work.
Jacob’s Well, the church, was established 15 years ago and Ruth notes how over this time 4 core families have remained whilst the rest of the community has been quite transient, with many people coming and going for what Ruth describes as times of healing. As a worshiping community they have always been intentionally flexible, connecting especially well with people who would not engage with more traditional forms of church and most recently this has led to them being particularly focused on single parents.


Story96 - Pic2Without a building, the community meets in people’s homes and for a regular family gathering in a local pub using the Godly Play resources. Since the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, the community have transferred their main gatherings online and found that people wanted to meet even more regularly. One of the most recent developments has been their explorations to develop forest church, prompted by the restrictions for indoor gatherings but, in fact an idea which Ruth says had been bubbling for years for them. As a community accustomed to constantly reassessing their practices and approaches, Ruth says that in some ways the pandemic has not shaken their community too much, explaining that their ethos has always been to listen to God and listen to the community, so it does not come as much of a surprise when they see God doing something new.
Although the church community of Jacob’s Well is relatively small, it is perhaps surprising to hear the quantity and scale of community action work they have participated in over the years. This is in part due to their involvement with a larger community group called Abbotswood Action Group of which Ruth has been the Secretary of for over 5 years. Whilst this group is not a Christian group, Ruth describes how God has clearly been at work there, with Jacob’s Well able to help their community because of their partnership with this larger group.

Story96 - Pic3With Abbotswood Action Group there have numerous ways that Jacob’s Well have been able to contribute to various community projects and events, the greatest of which has been the regeneration of one of the main green spaces in the centre of Abbotswood. The central green area had become disused and unkempt to the extent that residents said they felt unsafe. Initiated by Jacob’s Well, and now overseen by Abbotswood Action Group and the local council, this area has been transformed through clean up days with the community becoming involved and has resulted most recently in a new play area. Asking local families what this has meant to them, they describe it now as a point of gathering and a place to connect with people which they never had before.

Story96 - Pic4
As the church community of Jacob’s Well look ahead and continue to discern what God is already doing around them, Ruth states how important it has been to establish a rhythm of prayer, explaining that it is out of the continuous practice of listening to God that much of their action happens. She also reflects how the words of Isaiah 43:18- 19 has been particularly pertinent to them during this time and that how, as a small worshipping community, they are able to maintain the flexibility to try innovative approaches.
Choosing to take a pioneering route may not always feel like the easiest path, and for leaders there can sometimes be the added burden of seeing the vision ahead but accepting that others may not be in the same place, which also requires patience and perseverance. Ruth encourages others going down a similar route to be patient and to find support from other pioneers, mentors, and prayer partners to share this adventurous journey with.







 
 
 
 
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Simon Goddard
Story91-100, MA_Podcast
Suzie Abramian
EMBA, Story91-100, MA_Social Action
Michael Shaw
SWBA, Story91-100, MA_Social Action, MA_Evangelism
Timothy Haines
CBA, Story91-100, MA_Church Planting, MA_Evangelism, MA_Social Action
Ruth Ward
SWBA, Story91-100, MA_Pioneering
Ben Lucas
Story91-100, SCBA, MA_Podcast
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