Pioneering stories in the north
Chris and Caroline Friend - Alnwick, Northumberland
The call to train for Pioneer Ministry – together as a couple – came very clearly to Chris and Caroline towards the end of 2015. Having been a Community Worker for Alnwick Baptist Church in Northumberland, Chris had already been involved with initiatives around a ‘social gospel’ to reach out to the community and meet the needs of the local context. In leading Messy Church, Caroline also recognised the importance of ‘church beyond walls’ with an accessible relational gospel. They both knew that God ‘had a plan to extend His kingdom in Alnwick’; they didn’t fully understand what that might mean!
Realising the importance of listening for God’s voice, along with six others, Chris and Caroline formed a Missional Listening Team for the explicit purpose of waiting on God for words of knowledge, pictures and verses and listening to the community. From this, they started Costa@7, a weekly drop-in for friends of friends and those on the ‘missional edges’, providing a safe space and the opportunity to ask the bigger questions. In time, this opened up The Gathering: a monthly get together in homes on a Sunday afternoon over a meal, for those who wanted to explore Jesus more intentionally. Other opportunities have followed such as; chaplaincy in the local secondary school and ‘Faith Talks’: a conversational time in the lounge of a retirement complex with an eclectic group all on a journey from the curious to the fully committed.
Walking with people has been a key element of discipleship for Chris and Caroline and has also become an integral part of their own formational training. Meeting weekly with their fellow Baptist Ministers-in-Training at Cranmer Hall, they ‘huddle’! Not to be confused with what the England cricket team do when they take the field but rather an accountability process around character and competence, requiring vulnerability, authenticity and integrity. These times together have brought the group closer as they share in the joys and challenges of ministry, facilitated and overseen by Roy Searle, Baptist Union Pioneer Coordinator and Linda Donaldson, the Northern Baptist Hub Tutor at Cranmer Hall, Durham.
In addition, they have been inspired by the Northern Rural Learning Hub; an initiative supported by Rural Ministries which brings together pioneer practitioners from Northumberland and the Borders to share stories and learn from each other. This mutually supportive network has been incredibly important to them as they seek to step out in faith and step in with God.
Chris and Caroline have just been called to lead the church as co-ministers / pioneers.
Image| Chris and Caroline Friend
This article appeared in the Summer 2019 edition of Baptists Together magazine