‘Everybody has a desire to love and care for their neighbour. Tapping into that is powerful.’
The vision of Seaton Baptist Church, released in part by a Home Mission grant at the start of 2020, led to the explosion of a brand new missional adventure over the weeks of lockdown. What’s happening next?
Ben Tucker is the minister of Seaton Baptist Church in Devon.?With a Home Mission grant at the start of 2020, Ben was able to increase the number of days he gives to the church from three to four. This helped enable the church to pursue a vision called Re:stored -?a vision of seeing its community restored, “seeing people and places brought back into life again, helping people flourish and living life to the full.” The vision for this health and wellbeing project comes from Isaiah 58.?
He received funding to set up a group with “people across the community, working in the community” to help make Seaton more mentally health aware.?The group had met for two weeks when the coronavirus hit.?
Ben (pictured) was contacted by the Mayor asking how the new group might support Seaton during this time, particularly the isolated, lonely and vulnerable in terms of basic provisions and general contact. Ben suggested creating a network of volunteers, and putting cards into each house with a phone number to call and email address to contact if anyone needed anything.?Very quickly he was able to set up 11 co-ordinators and 200 volunteers across Seaton, with every road covered.
“It was real care and love for the neighbour,” Ben explains. “The volunteers grew organically from each road, neighbours helping neighbours. We facilitated friendship.”?
With the scheme coming to an end as lockdown restrictions ease, Ben and the team have been looking at how it transitions to something broader, particularly in the area of mental health. Though they realistically they expect to lose around half of the volunteers as many return to work, many have expressed a desire to continue.
'It has been overwhelming - people are wanting to continue in some capacity,' he says. “If we can retain 80 – 100 we will be really pleased. Many people have realised they want to give more time to help vulnerable people.”
Re:store is now set up as a social enterprise (a CIC – a Community Interest Company), and has developed good links with a range of organisations in the town including a local GP surgery, Tesco and I Belong, an independent health charity. As well as signposting people to what’s already there, Re:store plans to make meals from the food it receives from Tesco, set up a hub for recovering alcoholics, and build on a befriending scheme that’s already running.
For Ben it’s all looking a little different from what he had originally envisaged: “At the start I thought it would be under Seaton Baptist Church, and it would bring people to us.
“But it’s become wider and more powerful than that. We’re not putting our stamp on it, we’re joining with the community. And there will be opportunities to speak about faith, but this is kingdom work, helping our neighbour, joining in with what God is already doing.
“It’s given me a bigger picture of who God is and how he works. God’s spirit is already out there. Everybody has a desire to love and care for their neighbour. Tapping into that is powerful.
“It’s really easy to sit back and pray, but there’s also a point where we have to step forward and God will guide our steps.”
This story appears in the Autumn 2020 edition of Baptists Together magazine