'God laid this fellowship firmly on my heart'
The congregation's desire to reach out to more families led the Revd Vanessa Rye to Princes Risborough Baptist Church in Buckinghamshire, where she becomes the first female minister in the church's 311 year history
Vanessa had served as associate minister of Didcot Baptist Church for six years, where among other aspects of her ministry she had played a key role in developing prayer spaces in schools in the town.
'After many years of serving God and the church in Didcot, I felt the nudge of the spirit of God, prompting me to explore what new adventure God might be calling me to next. So, the unsettling process of settlement began,' she said.
'Meeting the deacons of Princes Risborough Baptist Church one September evening I posed the question, "What are your hopes and dreams for this church?"
'The answer came back a quick as a flash, "To see it filled with children and families." Those who know me well will understand that is a passion of mine.
'God laid this fellowship firmly on my heart and although I was sad to leave Didcot and all we had achieved together, now was the time to move on and go where God was leading.'
Vanessa Rye is now the 29th minister of PRBC and the first female minister in the church’s 311-year history. More than 160 people attended her induction service, which took on Saturday, 30 June, 2018, including more than 70 members of the fellowship of Didcot Baptist Church. There were also representatives from Union Baptist Church, High Wycombe, where Vanessa grew up and was baptised.
Paul Gabbott, PRBC Treasurer, gave a warm welcome to everyone and the service was then led by the Revd Geoff Colmer, Regional Minister of the Central Baptist Association.
Geoff opened with the words from Psalm 145: “The Lord is gracious and compassionate . . .” A time of worship followed, including prayer and the singing of: To God be the glory, Bless the Lord, O my Soul and Jesus, be the Centre.
The induction was introduced by Geoff, who commented that no two induction services were the same. God doesn’t do the same thing twice but he brings together a church and a minister who covenant to walk together.
Paul Gobbott gave a statement for PRBC, in which he first thanked the Revd David Nash, who had acted as moderator during the church’s pastoral vacancy and Geoff for his wisdom and guidance to the Church during this time. He then went on, with humour and sincerity, to recount the steps taken to bring church and minister together under God’s guidance. The vote by the church membership to invite Vanessa to the ministry of the church had been a unanimous one, which confirmed the belief that this was God’s choice too.
Vanessa in turn spoke of her call to Princes Risborough, adding, 'This is the beginning of a new adventure with God for me and the church.
'I pray that as we step forward in faith, that God will reveal the plans he has for us, to prosper us and to give hope to us and the community we are part of. To develop us into a church that welcomes children and families and helps them to come to a saving faith in Jesus.'
The words of the covenant were spoken by Vanessa and the church, before the words of recognition of the covenant made were spoken by friends and representatives of the wider church.
A prayer and blessing was given by Geoff, the Revd Tim O’Brien (minister of Didcot Baptist Church), the Revd Malcolm Hazell (Minister of Union Baptist Church, High Wycombe) and the deacons of PRBC.
The Revd David Kerrigan, former General Director BMS World Mission and an elder at Didcot Baptist Church, gave the address. Speaking from the story of those walking the road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 28-32), David preached that we were all in the business of helping those who won’t make it on their own and it was all about transformation that comes from recognising God. It is love that transforms. We have the potential to transform the community around us. Transformation comes from the ordinary things (such as a loaf of bread).
He continued: Vanessa Rye and this church are ordinary but if we encourage and respect each other, then this is a new day and the church is unique. If we “Be ourselves” we will not stay ordinary but we will be blessed. By faith God takes us in his hands, just as he took the bread in his hands, and we will then be agents of transformation. That may not be easy – so be creative – pray – believe it will happen - and then lives will be transformed. This is God’s message.
Greetings were brought by the Revd Marcus Pawsey, on behalf of Churches Together in Risborough. Further Greetings were brought by Councillor Andy Ball, Deputy Mayor, on behalf of the Town Council and Community of Princes Risborough.
After the service tea was served in the adjacent hall, during which a letter of greeting was read out from the Revd Richard Allwood, former Minister of PRBC, now retired. Greetings were also brought by Tim, on behalf of the fellowship of Didcot Baptist Church.
Report prepared by Dr. Anthony Knight, PRBC church member