New life springs up in Sheffield
Exciting things are happening in the Yorkshire city following the plant of a Baptist church
Around 200 people attended the official launch of The Well last month, and both dechurched and unchurched people are beginning to make commitments to Jesus there.
The ambiguity of its name and a modern redesign even led one person to inquire whether it was a new bar.
‘I loved that,’ says Baptist minister Nick Allan, who together with wife Marjorie is leading The Well.
‘The name stands for living water, and drinking from a spiritual well. It is a place where people will hopefully be refilled. Whether they realise it or not, everyone is spiritually thirsty.’
Nick and Marjorie had been leaders at St Thomas’ Philadelphia Church for several years when their posts were made redundant due to financial restrictions in February.
Sensing their time in Sheffield had not yet run its course the couple rested on the Lord for their next steps. Alongside them were their missional community, a group of people who had journeyed together through life’s ups and downs.
‘When we knew we were going, this community said “We’re coming with you”,’ Nick says. ‘We were like a family. We had this community ready to go.’
Around this time Nick happened to be reading the Sheffield Star, and noticed that Horizon (formerly Endcliffe) Methodist Church had sadly closed, and that its building in busy Ecclesall Road was now empty. The road is one of the heartbeats of the city, with a bustling mix of students, businesses and homes. (‘A brilliant place to share the gospel from,’ says Nick).
After a mutual discernment process which included the Yorkshire Baptist Association (YBA), the Methodist Circuit and the couple themselves, Nick and Marjorie were invited to plant a new church into the Horizon church building.
‘We were super excited when we got that telephone call,’ says Marjorie ‘and we’re very aware of the wonderful missionary heritage.
‘We find it interesting that the congregation that had been here for 111 years, serving faithfully, came to an end in April of this year, the month that we stepped out of our context and became available to begin something new.’
After several months adapting the building (the front has been transformed into a contemporary café, which leads into a more traditional church sanctuary with pews) and simply praying in it, the new church was launched last month with a party open to the neighbourhood.
Missionaries loving a people and a place
Nick says they feel less like ministers planting a church, more “missionaries loving a people and a place”. Their heart is to reach the unchurched, including the 60,000 young adults and students who live in Sheffield. The website has a very modern feel, and the language used is deliberately accessible.
‘We’ve tried to present what a community of faith is to people who aren’t yet Christians.’ Nick says.
But while he talks about an attractional model and the importance of welcome, he says there is no compromise on the message of Jesus.
‘All we do is preach the gospel, give people the opportunity to turn to Jesus. And people are responding. There is excitement among the existing congregation. There is a great power in the gospel.’
A 'Baptist journey'
Nick says the formation of The Well has been a very Baptist journey.
‘It’s been going on a journey with my extended family. We’ve also had wonderful support from the YBA. We’ve been discerning together, deriving confidence from each other that the Lord is in this.
‘That’s how Baptist churches often began. I really appreciate my Baptist heritage. I’ve been learning more about it through the process.’
It's just the beginning
And while so much has happened already, it’s a process that’s still very much at the beginning, notes Graham Ensor, the Regional Minister Team Leader of the Yorkshire Baptist Association.
‘It’s been a real privilege to journey with Nick and Marjorie and the core team at The Well, seeing God open one door after another and pave the way for a new church plant on the Ecclesall Road in Sheffield. On occasions the journey has been challenging – but God’s grace has always proved more than sufficient for the challenges.
‘If truth be known they are only at the beginning of a journey not the end of it – so they need our prayer now more than ever, for as we all know, ‘unless the Lord builds a house, the builders labour in vain….’
‘So, let’s be excited by all that has happened to date, but let’s trust and pray for much more that is to come.’
To find out more about The Well and how it came about click here to read an interview with Nick and Majorie, and Graham Ensor, the Regional Minister Team Leader of the Yorkshire Baptist Association.
Visit The Well: http://www.wellsheffield.com