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Pastor's Annual Report - 2017


This report covers January to December 2017 and is our fifth year in Frenchay Village Hall. I probably always say this, but it's been yet another really exciting year with so much happening, not least with me finishing work at Hewlett Packard and now working full time for the church. I feel God has been leading us along new paths and we're starting to introduce some key changes as we enter 2018. I feel so blessed to be leading New Life Church and I trust as you read this report you too will feel blessed to be part of it.

The 2016 Pastor's Report can be found here

Outreach and Community Initiatives

Here is a summary of some of the main events and initiatives we've been involved in within our community and the wider Bristol scene. Much of what we have done has been through our Churches Together in Worship which is covered in its own section.

Bristol Churches Winter Night Shelter Project

In November 2016 we started to prepare to be involved in the Bristol Churches Winter Night Shelter Project which was taking place in January 2017. The vision of this project was to give a really warm welcome to about 10-12 people referred by the St Mungo's Outreach team, share a meal with them, and ensure a safe and peaceful night, offering a light breakfast at around 8am the next morning. The project was a huge success and all those within NLC who were involved were greatly blessed. It was wonderful and very humbling to draw alongside those who spend much of their time on the streets. It can be so easy to jump to conclusions as to why people find themselves in such difficult circumstances and this then often leads to unfair judgement of character. Most of the people we spoke to wanted their lives to be different but for one reason or another found themselves stuck. To be able to show them unconditional love and compassion really is doing the work of Jesus.

Due to the success of this pilot, the project will be running again in 2018 from January through to March. A number from NLC will again be serving an evening a week, this time at two locations, St. Nicholas of Tolentino near Old Market where we served last time, and E5 on Jamaica Street. Please pray both for the success of the project overall and also our involvement.

The Turning

In April churches across Bristol joined together in an outreach initiative called "The Turning". This is a citywide, cross-church, movement to speak to people on the streets about Jesus. It is traditional street evangelism in one sense but its distinctive features are intimacy with God; people are trained to wait on the Lord before going out in small teams under team leaders. The teams are trained in what to say and how to approach and deal with people. Individuals, if they are willing, are asked to pray a commitment prayer there and then and are followed up later. The aim is to reach people for God in the city rather than build our churches. It has been led by the Gate Church in Reading under the leadership of Yinka Oyekan.

Several people from NLC participated in The Turning, talking to people on the streets both in the city centre and also around the Kingswood shopping area. Those involved had several opportunities to pray for people who were later followed up by Christians more local to where they lived. Whilst we saw no people come to NLC as a result of The Turning, it was good to be involved and I believe this has contributed to raising our sensitivity and urgency for us all to share our faith.

4Front Theatre

On 1st April 2017 we hosted 4Front Theatre's Easter production - "Fisherman's Tail", an hour long musical showing the life, death and resurrection of Jesus through the eyes of the fishermen disciples, as they discover what it means to be fishers of men. The event was really well attended and I was able to share a short 2 minute gospel message at the end.

4Front have served us well over the years and in previous years we have also hosted them around Christmas time. However, we learned that their Christmas production was going to be a repeat of last year's which is why we didn't book them. We have booked them again for Easter 2018 where they will be doing a sketch show called "So On and So 4th". In their own words, this is a live entertainment event like no other, comprised of sketches, improvised comedy, audience participation games, and music which result in a whole lot of laughs! It is suitable for the whole family and is 1 hour long. Sunday 25th March, 5pm @ Frenchay Village Hall.

Serving the Community @ Frenchay Village Hall

We continue to serve the local community in practical ways, especially building on our strong links with the committee that runs Frenchay Village Hall. We thank God that Dave Summerhill continues to be chair of the committee and this helps us to stay strongly connected with what is happening.

Our NLC vegetable plot continues to be a great success and I want to thank all those who spend time looking after it. Val Harris came up with the original idea and the actual plot was completed in 2016. Since then it has provided an abundance of vegetables for the local villagers and the children who attend the play group often take time to water it.

In the summer we organised another working party to clear the grounds of weeds and brambles and do some general tidy up of the premises. Serving the community in these practical ways, I believe, honours God and builds bridges with our community. We receive much appreciation for how we serve.

For the third year running NLC served cheese and wine at the FVH AGM, simply to bless them.

Resound Foodbank

We continue to support the Foodbank at Resound Church through Sally Williams. We have held many collections throughout the year and again several people in NLC pulled together special Christmas food boxes to be distributed to those in need.

Churches Together

Our links with other churches in Frenchay and Stapleton continue to strengthen as we do more initiatives together. Under the banner CTiW (Churches Together in Worship) leaders from New Life Church, Waterbrook, St. John the Baptist Frenchay, Stapleton Baptist and Holy Trinity Stapleton meet regularly to pray and discuss how we might reach the community through our "togetherness". We all share the same heart of wanting to take the gospel out to the community, especially as we consider the new houses that will be built over the next few years around the Frenchay Hospital site. Here are some of the things we have done together this year.

Easter Dawn Walk

Rev. Charles Sugden organised a walk early on Easter morning up the hill at Purdown where we gathered as local churches to worship together and pray over the city. Afterwards we all joined together for breakfast at Stapleton Church Hall. It was a wonderful time being able to walk together, chatting across church boundaries and sharing one vision for the salvation of our city.

Churches Together in Worship

We have held three main worship events together this year, one hosted by ourselves in FVH, but with the worship being jointly led by NLC and Waterbrook. The second one was held at St. John's Frenchay and took the form of a healing service and the last one was held at Stapleton Baptist Church which was where we held the very first CTiW back in 2016. This time Waterbrook led the worship and Nicky Purnell shared her personal testimony which was really powerful - well done Nicky!

Seniors' Lunches

This year Waterbrook held three seniors' lunches and Kim served at all three. These are again a wonderful way in which we can demonstrate the love of Jesus in a very practical way, and each time there has been opportunity for sharing powerful life testimonies. If anyone else would like to offer time to support these lunches in 2018 then please contact Kim.

Open the Book

Kim continues to be part of the Open the Book team. This is a national scheme recommended by the government for teaching bible stories to children in schools. This particular Open the Book team is led by Waterbrook church. If you are free during the day and feel this is something you would like to get involved in then please talk to Kim about it; they're always looking for volunteers.

The Big Picnic

Well it wasn't that big really, but it was the name that Tony Davies gave it. In the summer the CTiW churches were invited to join Waterbrook for an open air church picnic with a fun family element and fellowship between and amongst churches with a gentle open invite for passers-by to join in and have some refreshments and for children to get involved, with a gentle gospel message and some open air singing. All the planning had been done and NLC was signed up to provide food and PA. Of course, whenever organising any outdoor event we are always at the mercy of the British weather and sadly the picnic was rained off. However, the event still went ahead indoors at Stapleton Hall, and whilst it was not what we had all hoped for, the event continued to demonstrate churches working together.

Joint Cards for Christmas

For the second time we sent one Christmas card from all the Churches Together to the houses and flats around Frenchay and Stapleton. In addition to this, we joined in the Carols on the Green and some attended the Frenchay Church Christmas by Candlelight service where our very own Nicky Purnell was doing one of the readings.

Welcome Pack

Over the last few months we have been working jointly on a Welcome Pack that can be delivered to the residents as they move into the new houses that are now on the old Frenchay Hospital site. These packs include a jointly signed letter written on behalf of the five churches, plus a leaflet about each individual church. Also included in the pack are daily reading materials plus books for children. It has taken some time and effort to get to where we are now as many decisions have to go through church councils before we can move forward. I am glad to say that we are pretty well done now and Dave is in the final stages of delivering the final draft for approval. Once this is done it will go to the printers and then be delivered to the houses as people move in. Extra copies of these packs will be made available to all participating churches to use as they feel fit.

Sponsor a Pastor

You will probably remember early in the year we took an initiative to support Luke and Samantha Goodway from Cynon Valley Elim Church in Wales. I visited their church on Sunday 12th March to preach and whilst I was there I felt a real joining in my spirit with what God was doing there and in particular with Luke and Samantha. I really felt that God wanted us as a church support them and this happened during a Pastor to Pastor exchange of heart over lunch.

To cut a long story short, this led to a "Sponsor a Pastor" initiative where individuals within our church would provide monthly support towards the pastoral leadership at Cynon Valley Church. In particular, this sponsorship would go to support Sam and Nia Johnson who left Bible College in June 2017 and had indicated a desire to serve alongside Luke and Samantha at Cynon Valley.

Having put all this in place, in August Luke and Samantha were asked by Elim if they would consider moving to Cheltenham to lead a church there. Luke believed this was what they should do and are now in place in their new church. For those who had signed up to sponsor Sam and Nia, we all agreed that we should continue to support them for the 12 months we agreed. We continue our links with Luke and Samantha but I believe God opened a window for us to see the need at Cynon Valley Church and step in.

Sam and Nia will be visiting Bristol on Sunday 14th January when Sam will be preaching.

"Be Still" prayer initiative

Just before the summer we held another all church prayer initiative, this time around the theme of "Be still and know that I am God". The motivation came partly from when I shared about Abraham and talked about "From my concerns to His" where I explained that often we bring our requests to God and then don't wait around long enough to hear what is on God's heart. So, the emphasis of this prayer initiative was to wait and listen. I believe this was a really important time in giving us all insight on how to pray and wait on God and my hope is that as a church we're learning to carry this forward into our own quiet times with God.


We continue to support our work in Zambia through our ongoing sponsorship programme School4Kids, the annual Cave Gathering Conference and personal support for Pastor Evans Luwi. A detailed report exists for our 2017 trip and can be found here. Details on our School4Kids work can be found in the regular newsletters here.

General Church News

Visiting Speakers

I've always felt it is important as a church to maintain healthy external links and I've been greatly encouraged this year as speakers from other churches have visited us and confirmed God's word to us. This year we had 11 visiting speakers including: Simon Williams from Woodspring Church in WSM, Rick Miller from Swansea Community Church, Tony Martin from Glastonbury Community Church, Keith Brockbank from Living Word Community Church Basildon, Rob and Pam Scott Cook from Woodlands Church, Luke Goodway from Cynon Valley Elim Church, Mark Rich from River of Life Church in Hartcliffe, David Powe who now serves as associate vicar in Chipping Sodbury, Tony Davies from Waterbrook and finally Dave Mitchell from Woodlands Church.

I feel really honoured that pastors who are busy leading their own churches are willing to come and share God's word with us. I will be looking to continue inviting speakers for 2018. I also feel really blessed that more people within NLC are now stepping out in faith and preaching on a Sunday morning. I value this so highly and I'm now struggling to find dates for me to preach - a nice problem to have.

Hope Bristol 2018

Even though our youth work is currently quite small, we have sought to tap into the wider Bristol youth scene. In particular, Sue and Alison have been able to attend some youth prayer meetings led by Tim Dobson of Woodlands and this has helped us to become more aware of special youth initiatives that are taking place throughout the city.

One particular initiative is called Hope Bristol 2018 and is about mobilising our youth towards mission. From the Hope Bristol 2018 Website: Join us from Tuesday 3rd - Saturday 7th April as we serve alongside local churches and organisations to bless the city of Bristol. This is a fantastic way to put Jesus' love into action, demonstrating the good news in our words and actions. We'll be gathering together for times of worship, teaching and ministry before going out to work on a variety of projects. Our hope and prayer is that we go back to our cities, towns and villages knowing that mission is a part of who we are and what God has called us to do.

Alison Purnell has attended some of the initial meetings to explore how as a church we can be involved and since then several members of the church have registered to participate. Our hope is that we can encourage our young people to sign up to local and city wide projects and adults in the church work alongside the youth to support them.

More details about Hope 2018 will be available as we get closer to the event.

The Pastor's Bit

What have I been up to?

Much of what I have been up to has already been covered above. However, now that I am working full time for the church this has enabled me to be involved in many more daytime networking opportunities. I now attend bi-monthly Bristol New Wine Hub meetings led by Dave Mitchell and this brings together several church leaders around the local area who are part of New Wine. We share together, worship and pray and this has allowed me to get to know more leaders across our city. I have also been able to meet up with leaders from Alan Scotland's Global Horizons/Lifelink group of churches in the Southwest, more on a personal level for mutual encouragement. What I find particularly encouraging is seeing how God is bringing similar words to us all.

As always it is an honour to be invited to preach at other churches and this year I have visited Cynon Valley Elim Church, Dunstable Community Church, Woodspring Church Weston-Super-Mare, and Waterbrook. Where possible I am trying to prioritise investing into NLC rather than itinerate preaching.

As a city we are blessed to have a Christian mayor, Marvin Rees. I was glad to be able to attend a prayer breakfast also attended by Martin Rees, who shared his heart for the city and his desire to see the churches more engaged with social issues. There are more prayer breakfasts arranged for 2018, which I hope to attend.

Of course, it won't have escaped you that I am now doing a Graduate Diploma in Kingdom Theology with the Westminster Theological Centre. Most Monday evenings I attend a hub meeting at Woodlands Church where we have video lectures and group discussions. I also attend two residentials each academic year up in Telford. I am really enjoying the course and I feel that it is inspiring me in my leading of the church. However, please pray for me as I write my essays as I am finding this part rather more challenging, having been out of academia for such a long time.

Looking ahead into 2018

I am still seeking God for a specific word as we enter 2018, but I feel that we should be building on what God has said to us through 2017, and in particular how we finished the year thinking about becoming more missional in our day-to-day lives. I feel this is going to be the key theme for the year and that everything we do should have that "intentional" purpose of sharing the gospel and seeing lives changed.

As a church we are already signed up for Bristol Churches Winter Night Shelter, and Hope Bristol 2018. These are two really important initiatives for reaching out beyond the four walls of our church building. However, it's not going to be just about the big initiatives; God is calling us all to live our personal lives with a strong sense of mission. I would encourage us all at this time to be seeking God for whom He might be wanting us to connect with and how we might bring the good news of the gospel into their lives.

As you know, in January we're making changes to the whole midweek home group structure, putting in place something I believe will position us better for growth. My faith is that as each small group develops in its own unique character, it will also capture God's heart for mission and provide an environment and opportunities for reaching out to friends and family. I'm particularly excited that we will be having a daytime group hosted in Frenchay; I feel in my heart that this is an important step to increasing the spiritual light in and around the area we meet on a Sunday. It is early days and I don't expect things to change overnight. However, as we align with God's will I believe fruit will come.

So, that's just a glimpse back into 2017. I know there are many other things I could mention, personal testimonies and powerful words that have been preached. However, I hope that from just these few highlights you can see that God is really blessing us at this time. Of course, we must never sit down and become complacent. As it says in Proverbs 6:10 "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest- and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man." But I know that as we continue to press into the Holy Spirit, as we've been learning about in recent weeks, we have great times ahead of us.