So, after 11 years I’ve taken my final service as Senior Minister of PBC. It still feels a bit odd to say ‘I was the Senior Minister’ but we had a great send off last weekend.
Leaving inevitably makes one nostalgic; and after more than a decade I ponder what impact I’ve had. I hope that my legacy will be that he released people rather than controlled things, the minister who liked to say ‘yes’. Over the last decade we have seen the introduction of ‘Interactive’, an alternative way of gathering on a Sunday morning which a discussion based style of learning; ‘The Sunday Club’ held in a local music venue, with Christian artists creating a positive environment and social space to bring friends to. ‘Hope and Anchor’ (which is the legacy of Ruth, the Associate Minister not me) a monthly group for those who face struggles for well-being; a mentoring scheme for the growing number of 18-30’s in the church; and I think I’ve baptised more people than I have taken funerals for.
I hope I’ve led the church through change and to respond to changes in society. I’d like to think that I’ve preached with theological depth and given people a breadth of understanding, sometimes challenging answers as much as teaching truth. I’ve tried to help us develop our worship life to include an awareness of culture and the world outside in addition to a desire to connect with God.
Over the years I believe we have gently become more Baptist, plugged into more of UK Baptist life, though some would contest this feeling that I’ve moved away from Baptist foundations (as they understood them). Perhaps there has been a cost in this as the church has been less involved in Mainstream / Fresh Streams and in other pan-evangelical movements.
We have remained mission minded with an engagement with the local community. In my early years we created a national mission team to go alongside a global team, seeking to support and engage with mission in Manchester and the wider UK as well as overseas. However, over the last decade mission has become more global and the distinction between local, national and international is no longer as relevant. Being local focused has meant that we have had less of a big-church draw but there is still much more that can be done to help engage in the transformation business in the local community.
I’m not sure I’m yet in a position to say what I would do differently if I had my time again, it feels a bit early to say these three areas are probably key.
- Emergent congregation: in my early years I discussed planting an emergent congregation locally. We never did (and that may have been the right decision) but I think we could have pursued the missional community insights more strongly.
- Work differently: my decade here has taken a toll on my emotional, physical, spiritual, mental health. By nature I’m fairly resilient but there have been many occasions when I’ve not been an early bird or a night owl so much as a permanently exhausted pigeon. Part of that is ministry, you give yourself to the work. But I’ve missed some opportunities to set up other ways of being and doing.
- Been more out there as a leader, clearer vision, direction.(not less Baptist, but church needs clear ideas to be able to process / decide / move forward). I’ve been less constrained in recent years but there’s a way to go here.
But for now a new life beckons, where we are exchanging:
- Stability of a UK church pastorate for the challenges of global mission.
- Financial predictability of stipend for the uncertainty of raising support.
- Security of life in Poynton for nomadic life back & forth to Peru.
Over the years I had great encouragement & help from previous ministers and staff at PBC; Roger Martin (sadly no longer with us), Rob White, Mark Elder, Andy Aldridge. I hope I can continue this tradition of being an encourager and supporter of my successor (whoever the church appoints to the role).
It was September 2005 when I was first approached to see if I was interested in meeting the search team. Would I still say yes if I had the chance again? You bet. I’m immensely grateful for privilege of serving, leading and being part of PBC – thank you to everyone who has been part of the journey.
Picture at the top is of folk praying to commission us as PBC mission personnel; led by Stuart Christine who was the BMS regional team leader for South America and first introduced the idea of a partnership with Iquitos to the church in May 2007.