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Welcome to the Family (May 2019)

From Aberdeenshire in the North, to Dorset in the South; from Suffolk in the East, to Cheshire in the West. John Stevens introduces us to the eleven churches that recently joined our Fellowship.

Welcome to the Family (May 2019) primary image

At the most recent meeting of our National Recognition Team, we welcomed nine churches to the FIEC family, along with two new church plants.

Bourne Evangelical Church

Bourne EC was planted in 2013 in a growing market town in south Lincolnshire with a population of 16,000 people. This is an area of the country with a relative paucity of gospel witness. It is led by Jason Wright, who was converted from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They began by meeting in a home and now use the “Wake House Community Centre.” They have a market stall to engage the community and undertake open air work. The church has 22 members and has seen one baptism in the last twelve months.

They connected with the FIEC when Jason attended an FIEC Pastors’ Network Conference in Nottingham in 2018, and they have a growing partnership with Calvary Baptist Church Spalding, which also recently joined FIEC. Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“To network with like-minded believers in the advancement of the gospel. To have accountability and where possible support the work of FIEC”.

Christ Church Hemel

Christ Church was planted in 2014 in Hemel Hempstead, a rapidly growing town in Hertfordshire with a population of over 95,000, by The Independent Chapel in St Albans. It is led by Sam Buckley, who trained at Oak Hill College, and now has a regular weekly congregation of 62 adults and 28 children. It was a recognised FIEC church plant, which enabled the church to receive some financial and legal support. Now that it has become independent it is becoming a fully affiliated church.

I was very encouraged to preach at Christ Church just before Christmas and to hear all they are doing to engage with the local community, including a service in a residential care home and an acoustic night with short talk in a café in town. They had delivered flyers to homes on the local estate four years ago and even from those initial flyers new people are making contact with the church.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“We wish to join FIEC because of our desire for gospel partnership with like-minded churches. We were planted out of an FIEC church and feel ourselves to be most closely aligned to the FIEC theologically. We very much appreciate and value the support, resources and training we gain from being part of the fellowship, and are excited by the vision to reach the nation for Christ.”

Duke Street Church, Richmond

Duke Street Church is a long-established Baptist church in West London that was founded in 1870. Today it has a membership of over 230 adults and a regular congregation of over 300 adults and children. It is led by John Samuel, who also serves as trustee of the Proclamation Trust and UCCF. The church has chosen to leave the Baptist Union and affiliate with FIEC. They also belong to the London Gospel Partnership, Affinity and the Evangelical Alliance. They have seen twelve baptisms and several professions of faith in the last year.

I have been hugely encouraged over the past couple of years by the growth of FIEC in London and the growing partnership between the 70 or so FIEC churches in the capital fostered by the work of Trevor Archer, our London Director. It is encouraging that more independent gospel churches in the city are joining FIEC, which will enable us to do more reach the eight million people living there, and to support church plants and revitalisations.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“1. Partnership in a national association of churches with a clear doctrinal basis; 2. Mutual encouragement to persevere in faithful gospel witness local, nationally and in an increasingly hostile environment.”

Fressingfield Baptist Church

Fressingfield BC is a long-established church in a village in Suffolk that was founded in 1835. Today it has a regular congregation of over 100 adults and children. I was privileged to preach at the church a few weeks ago, and it was thrilling to hear their story. Forty years ago the church was down to just four active members with no leadership. But after three men were appointed as deacons, the work has prospered and they are now looking for a full-time pastor.

They have just started to build a new church building to enable them to reach more of the village. The building is in the centre of the community, adjacent to the village school. The church has seen four professions of faith and two baptisms in the last year. They also support Grace Baptist Mission and the church is affiliated to Affinity.

One of our goals within FIEC at the moment is to support and encourage gospel ministry in rural areas, which are home to 17% of the UK population. It is hugely encouraging that FIEC will be able to draw on the experience and expertise of churches like Fressingfield BC to help us know how we can promote gospel ministry in rural communities.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“We feel we could benefit from being made aware of evangelical churches in this country – those struggling and those being blessed. We also want to stand with like-minded fellowships in witnessing the gospel.”

Grace Church Waterloo

Grace Church is located on the Waterloo estate in Poole, a deprived community in the midst of one of the richest towns in the UK. The estate has poverty juxtaposed with upwardly mobile couples as people buy starter-homes in the area.

The church began in 2012 as a pioneer plant in the Broadstone Youth Centre and was replanted in the Waterloo Youth Centre in 2017. It is led by Steve Utley and now has a regular congregation of 20 adults and children. They have a close relationship with Broadstone Baptist Church, an FIEC church led by Tim Gamston, and have just started a joint monthly prayer meeting.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“As an independent evangelical church, we want to engage more meaningfully with the wide network of evangelical churches in the UK. Although we are doing this relationally at the moment, we would value being part of the wider family of churches that form FIEC, and also to have increased levels of accountability. As a pioneer church seeking to grow, we need to be connected to kindred churches whop have a burden for the Gospel and Kingdom growth. We would seek to engage with local networks and be instrumental in the propagation of the Gospel in our area, working in Gospel partnerships towards the work of the Kingdom.”

Hebron Evangelical Church, Wallasey

Hebron EC in Liscard Village, Wallasey on the Wirral is a Brethren heritage church that was founded in 1930. The area it serves is heavily built up with a population of 75,000 people. The church has a congregation of 55 adults and children and has seen two professions of faith and baptisms in the last year. The church is led by three elders and has been through a process of revitalisation over the past four years, helped by Steve Robinson of Cornerstone Evangelical Church, an FIEC church in Liverpool. The church is also a member of Partnership.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“We hope to receive support and prayer from FIEC and we hope to be able to support other churches in seeing the gospel go forward in the UK. We would like to build relationships with other FIEC churches around Merseyside.”

Hope Evangelical Church, Snettisham

Hope EC in Snettisham, Norfolk was established in the late 1970s. It serves a coastal village of 2,500 people between Kings Lynn and Hunstanton. The church has a regular congregation of 28 adults and children which trebles in holiday season. They outreach into the local community through Christianity Explored courses and regular village events. They have good relationships with other local evangelical churches, support Word on the Wash and partner The Men’s Breakfast in Kings Lynn which regularly hosts 50 for breakfast with an evangelistic talk. They have already sought consultation with the FIEC Leadership and have a long standing and cherished relationship with Ray Evans.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“The church had, already for many years, adopted the FIEC articles of faith and after much prayer and discussion we unanimously agreed that the time was right to seek membership. These are challenging times for gospel ministry and we believe that we will be more effective as part of an organisation that is dedicated to reaching people for Christ. We look forward to being part of the FIEC family with all the benefits and responsibilities that it brings and we thank the Lord for providing so many faithful and gifted people in the organisation”

Huntly Christian Fellowship

Huntly CF serves a town with a population of 4,500 people between Aberdeen and Inverness. It was planted in 2015 by Tim Gordon-Roberts and Alex Morrison, after they left the local Church of Scotland because of doctrinal compromise. They were visited by FIEC Scotland Director Andy Hunter in 2016 and became a recognised church plant. They now have a regular congregation of 46 adults and children, and have seen two professions of faith and baptisms in the last year.

The church is led by three elders, two work in secular jobs and one is retired. Now that the church has been established as a SCIO (Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation) they are becoming a fully affiliated church.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“We wish to join FIEC to be part of a wider church family with similar beliefs, for encouragement, support, advice, guidance, mission and vision so we don’t become isolated and stray from God’s word. We would look to contribute financially when possible, and pray for the organisation and leadership and to promote FIEC and its work.”

Stoke Ash Baptist Church

Stoke Ash BC is a long-established Grace Baptist Church in Suffolk. It was founded in 1805 and was the first church pastored by Richard Underwood, who retired as FIEC Pastoral Ministries Director in 2017.

The population of the Parish of Stoke Ash & Thwaite is only 304, but there are more than 25,000 people living within a ten-mile radius of the church. The church has a membership of 42 and a regular congregation of 45 adults and children. It is led by three elders and they have been looking to appoint a new pastor. They run a children’s club, a holiday Bible club and lunches for those in the village who are on their own. They are member of the Grace Baptist Association (East Anglia) and were encouraged to also join FIEC after FIEC hosted a “Gospel Vision Evening” in Suffolk. They are being helped by Edward Connor Solicitors to become a CIO.

Their reasons for joining FIEC were:

“Guidance and help, link to like-minded churches in our area. Training and Support.”

Church Plant Recognitions

As well as affiliating nine new churches, FIEC has also recognised two new church plants.

Hope Church Halifax

Hope Church will be planted in the Ovenden area of North Halifax. The launch team of adults and children is currently meeting on a Sunday afternoon, inviting individuals to join with them, before launching with a more public event later in 2019.

The plant is led by Doug Clark, who was formerly assistant pastor at Worthing Tabernacle, and who moved back to the area together with another couple from Worthing. The plant is being supported by Gospel Yorkshire, and churches including Hope Church Huddersfield and Halifax Grace Baptist Church. Halifax is town of around 90,000 people, and there is relatively little gospel witness. Ovenden is a white working-class community in the north-west of the town. The plant has also received financial support from SaRang Presbyterian Church in Seoul, South Korea.

New Hope Church, Balmedie

New Hope Church is being planted in the Aberdeenshire village of Balmedie, which has a population of 2,500. The church is led by Graham Wintour who lives in the community.

Most of the core team were members of Deeside Christian Fellowship, which has supported the plant along with Huntly Christian Fellowship, which has itself just affiliated to FIEC. The plant is also in the process of being assessed by Acts29.

Church Closures and Departures

We are always saddened when churches close or choose to leave FIEC. Courtney Memorial Church in Aspley Guise near Milton Keynes, Nettleton Baptist Church in Wiltshire and Wakefield Evangelical Free Church have all closed in the last three months.

The Crowded House has undergone a restructure, becoming several independent churches rather than a single church with gatherings in different locations. Christ Church Loughborough and Grace Church Boroughbridge have become fully affiliated churches of FIEC in their own right, whereas The Crowded House Sharrowvale in Sheffield has decided not to renew their affiliation to FIEC. We wish them God’s blessing on their ministry and are thankful for our continued gospel partnership with them through Acts29 and the Planting Collective.

The net result of these new affiliations and church plant recognitions is that FIEC now has 614 churches across Britain.

John Stevens photo
John Stevens - FIEC National Director

John is FIEC's National Director. He's married to Ursula and they have four children. He loves books. John blogs regularly – and at length – over at www.john-stevens.com


Follow John Stevens on Twitter – @_JohnStevens