Jon and Hannah Finch: “We are so excited to be joining in with what God is already doing in Southampton!”
In September, Jon and Hannah Finch re-launched Saint Mary’s Church in Southampton, with a small team from Holy Trinity Brompton and other linked churches.
Saint Mary's is going to have a particular emphasis on reaching young people and those that don't know Jesus. 70% of young people in the UK now have ‘no religion’, let alone a life-changing faith.
Jon comments, “Our desire is to see this stat reversed and have young people flooding to church to find meaning and purpose.” That has certainly happened at previous HTB church plants around the country (including Bournemouth and Portsmouth).
Their vision isn’t just ‘saving souls’. “We are also here to serve the city. We have been learning as much as we can about Southampton’s needs so that we can help bring social transformation.”
The iconic Saint Mary’s building is still being renovated, to make the church space more flexible, funded in part by a grant from the C of E’s Church Commissioners.
What’s been the reaction from other church leaders? “We have felt so welcomed by many church leaders. It has been exciting to hear the vision and passion for each of those communities. Our prayer is that the Spirit of God would bring the tide in and all the boats would rise as people encounter and follow Jesus.”
Do pray for Jon, Hannah and the team as they start out on this adventure; for the existing congregation of Saint Mary’s as they respond to major changes; and for the thousands of young people and students in Southampton who don’t yet know Jesus.
Peter and Tamsyn: "God took the opportunity to really meet with us and start a long healing process."
What could be so special about camping for a week in Shepton Mallet – with thousands of others?! Tamsyn and Peter had heard various friends rave about ‘New Wine’, so decided to see for themselves what all the fuss was about.
“We’d gone through a tough few weeks personally beforehand so were prepared for a range of emotions and probably tears. Turned out that was just getting the tent pitched and surviving the first night’s wind and rain!!
Having survived the first night, they settled into the New Wine week - days and evenings filled with amazing teaching, fantastic worship and opportunities to build and deepen relationships with others from St James’ by the Park. The groups for children and young people are exceptional, and good provision for those with additional needs.
“We both had amazing spiritual experiences whilst at New Wine. He also surrounded us with a special group of people to share this part of our journey.”
How would they sum up New Wine? “Faith, fun and friendship. And you can’t get through New Wine without cake!”
And would they go again? “We’re booked up for next year already - 27th July to 2nd August. We want to know who will win the next floss-off. If you want to know what that’s all about you’ll have to come!”
New Wine moves to Peterborough in 2019 – a bit further away, but with more accommodation options nearby – eg hotels etc for those who don’t like camping. And apparently it rains less in Peterborough!
If you want to find out more, go to www.new-wine.org or chat to Peter & Tamsyn.
Those who’ve come to open youth services in the past will know that they’re inspiring times: hearing the struggles and joys as our teenagers seek to follow Jesus, joining in with passionate sung worship, digging deep into God’s word, and praying from the heart.
In the past, such open youth services have been once or twice a year. Now they’re going to be on the first Sunday of each month – and called Elevate.
“The word ‘elevate’ means to lift higher and that is what we will be doing in these services,” explains Josh Cook, our youth worker. “We will be lifting God higher in sung worship, through opening the Bible, and in prayer.”
The service will be planned and led by our teenagers, but everyone is invited to come along and join in. “There is a saying that ‘It takes a whole village to raise a young person’,” says Josh, “and by supporting the young people at Elevate, you will be building them up in their faith. We hope it will benefit you as you seek to worship God in these times too!”
“If you’re unable to get to church on a Sunday morning,” adds Dan Clark, “or struggle to receive from God in our morning services for some reason, we hope this will be a new space for you to meet with God.
“Please pray for our young people and their leaders as they step out in this way. Then come along with humble hearts, willing to receive from God and our young people. And come with servant hearts, wanting to encourage our teenagers.”
Elevate will start with coffee and cake from 6.30pm, with worship from 7pm.
The St John’s Centre has served us well over many years, but is now more of a hindrance than a help to us. The toilet and kitchen facilities are in a poor state of repair, and the basement does flood on occasion. At our September Church Council meeting, we unanimously agreed to sell the site.
Why sell St John’s?
The decision is partly pragmatic – we only use the building a few hours each week for our own activities; much of the time, it is empty.
The decision is also strategic - when a church was originally built on the site in 1911, it served the new housing in the area. These days there are other churches in the vicinity (including St Mark’s on Archers Road and St James Road Methodist Church) – and we’re not out to compete with them! Our own St James' by the Park (which is in a better location) is only half a mile down the road, and many people are willing to travel much further than that to church these days.
The decision is also financial – all our buildings need work doing to bring them up to modern standards, but we cannot afford to do that work on all the buildings. St John’s is the building that is least used and most saleable.
What about the current users?
We only have two of our own groups who use the building regularly – The Ark and Pray n Play. We will probably relocate both of those groups to St James' by the Park. We will work with the other current users to try to help them find suitable alternative accommodation before the sale goes through.
What will it be used for once it’s sold?
That depends who buys it! If a developer buys it, it is likely to be turned into housing. But the building could be sold as it is, if another church or community organisation want to buy it (and some are already interested). Under charity law, we are obliged to get as good a price as possible when we sell it.
How long will it take to sell?
Selling a house typically takes many months. Selling a building like St John’s will take considerably longer – we will need to liaise with church authorities, city planners, solicitors, the Charity Commission and estate agents. How long is a piece of string?!
Tell us your St John’s memories!
For some people, selling St John’s isn’t pragmatic or financial – it’s deeply personal and emotional. We have tried to tell individuals who have the deepest personal connections to St John’s before announcing this news publicly. Before any sale goes ahead, we will have a final thanksgiving service at St John’s to give it a good send off!
We’d love to hear some of your memories of St John’s – and if you’d like to help compile those into a history / memories book – do let us know!
In August, Josh (youthworker) took Katie and Tom (two of our teenagers) to Minnis Bay in Kent for a week’s Beach Mission. Katie picks up the story …
“When Josh first asked if I wanted to go I wasn't sure what to expect. On arrival I couldn’t have been more welcomed, the community of 70 people were lively, friendly and open, and it was clear why Josh saw these people as a family. I stayed with a lovely host family, and we were fed three meals a day to keep us energized to run the children’s holiday club. I was motivated by the ways children learnt about God in their crafts, prayer and singing. There were also social activites for us as team, such as skating and inflatables.
“In the evening, there was a team time of testimony and worship that showed me how connected and supportive a community could be. I was sad to leave after only one week. This experience was tiring but one I won’t forget and I hope to see all these amazing people again next year.”
And Josh’s view? “Throughout the week both Katie and Tom grew as they tried their hand at leading story time, games, prayer activities, action songs and worship for around 90 five to seven year olds, some of which pushed them out of their comfort zone! It would be great if they are able to bring some of what they did back here to Shirley – and it would be amazing to take more of our young people along next year to grow as they serve God and the children of Minnis Bay.”
Do chat to Tom, Katie or Josh if you want to hear more about it!