Welcome to the Family (Autumn 2023)
We are delighted to have welcomed thirteen churches and two church plants into the Fellowship during the second half of 2023.
One of the great encouragements at FIEC at the moment is the growing number of churches that are seeking to join us.
This seems to have increased in the period post-Covid and as more denominations and churches abandon the biblical teaching on marriage and same-sex relationships. Churches value our clarity on these issues and want the help and protection of being part of a larger national group of like-minded churches.
They increasingly see the value of mitigating the danger of isolation and share our vision to be “independent churches working together to reach Britian for Christ”. Taking church closures into account, this means that there are now 639 independent churches affiliated to FIEC.
We were delighted to welcome 13 new churches into FIEC at the meetings of our National Recognition Team in June and September which reflect the wonderful diversity of FIEC.
They are located in all parts of the country, though it is unusual to affiliate two churches from Houghton Le Spring in the Northeast at the same time!
Some are larger and other smaller. Some are long established whereas others are more recent plants. Some are revitalisations and others are very ethnically diverse. They all hold unashamedly to our Doctrinal Basis and Ethos Statements on gospel unity, women in ministry, and same sex marriage.
Abbey Wood Community Church
Abbey Wood Community Church is a church in Abbey Wood, planted out of The Slade Evangelical Church in Plumstead, London, in 2016. It is led by three pastors/elders: Chris Statter as the full-time paid leader; Ryan Johnson sent and supported from the US; and Jeff Laws a retired headmaster.
Abbey Wood now has a regular congregation of around 80 adults and 20 children from a wide variety of backgrounds; with around 24 different nationalities represented in the church.
Their reasons for joining FIEC were: “To benefit from the support and security of belonging to a national body of like-minded believers and to enjoy fellowship. To partner with and, as the Lord leads, support and serve other gospel churches.”
All Nations Church Barkingside
All Nations Church was launched in 2021 and is a wonderful example of ‘partnership’ with local FIEC leaders and churches, the Co-Mission Network, and FIEC working together in cheerful collaboration to plant a brand new church.
They have now become a fully independent church so are becoming a fully affiliated with FIEC.
They meet at Fullwell Cross Library with a regular attendance of 35 with a Sunday school and creche and people from a diverse range of backgrounds, nationalities, and cultures.
There are regular mid-week house groups, a children’s club, youth events, and a range of outreach ministries that include the book table, door-knocking, and a weekly “Hot Spot” Community Hub drop in.
The church has a particular desire to raise up cross-cultural workers and leaders for multi-cultural church planting. In 2022 they launched ‘Equip for Service’ for members and in 2023 launched the cross-cultural ministry trainee programme and a preaching group.
The told us they wanted to affiliate because: “We were already a ‘recognised plant’ and benefitted from grants, consultations, and conferences to get us going. We would love to give back by playing our part in contributing to the work of FIEC in reaching Britain for Christ”.
Bethesda Christian Fellowship
Bethesda Christian Fellowship was founded in 1847 in Helensburgh, a Scottish town on the Firth of Clyde close to the Faslane naval base. The church’s building is located on a prime town-centre site and the there are tremendous links into the community. Throughout the week, there is an action-packed programme including a popular cafe.
The church has continued to grow in recent years. It is led by a team of elders and has a regular Sunday morning congregation of more than 100.
Their reasons for joining FIEC were: “To benefit from the pooled training, fellowship, expertise, research, and wisdom of the FIEC and also contribute as able.”
Bethany Christian Centre
Bethany Christian Centre is a large Brethren background church founded in 1903, located in Houghton Le Spring between Sunderland and Durham. It is led by a team of five elders with a regular congregation of more than 260 adults and 125 children.
They run a wide range of activities and ministries including a CAP centre and foodbank and have seen 12 professions of faith in the last year.
They are keen to strengthen their links with other churches in the Northeast, which is reflected in their reasons for joining FIEC:
“Our hope and prayer is that we would be able to find like-minded churches with whom we could partner and support. Having been an independent free church for decades, there is a sense that we have been going at it alone for far too long. And by ‘it’ we mean the mission of reaching not only our immediate area, but the Northeast and beyond with the gospel message and life of Christ. We are looking for a community of churches that have similar convictions regarding the role of Scripture and mission in the life of discipleship”
Grace Church Sandbach
Grace Church runs various monthly and termly activities, and events for families, young people, and adults. Together with Wheelock Heath they also run weekly clubs for toddlers, children and young people. They have about 100 regular attendees, including more than 20 children.
They said: “We believe in the importance of gospel partnership – churches that are independent, but interdependent rather than isolationist. With God’s help, we want to serve fellow FIEC churches generously through prayer, giving, and other expressions of partnership, and are grateful to God for the help that other churches and FIEC continue to be for us.”
Grace Church St Austell
Grace Church was established in the Cornish town of St Austell in 2018, when local Christians, who had to travel outside of the town for fellowship, were moved by God with concern for a Bible believing church to serve that area of the south coast.
Grace Church now meets in the town’s Scouts Hall, with a regular attendance of more than 45 people, and are focusing on discipleship as a means of building up the body of Christ and reaching the lost. There is also a desire to train church leaders.
Their reasons for joining FIEC are: “As a fairly new church, with a growing (changing) congregation, and being geographically quite isolated in Cornwall, we would benefit from belonging to a wider fellowship of churches for mutual support and encouragement in the Lord's work.
High Barnet Baptist Church
High Barnet Baptist Church (HBBC) in London was formed in 1892 and has a regular congregation of 40 adults. Following the departure of a pastor they have sought revitalisation help from Enfield Town Community Church. After resigning a few years ago, HBBC are re-affiliating.
They said: “HBBC has recently developed strong relationships with local FIEC churches – in particular Enfield Town Community Church. We want to strengthen that fellowship and we believe joining will help that process. HBBC has no pastor and has a reduced membership. We believe working with local FIEC churches with the support of national FIEC resources will help revitalise HBBC. Over time we believe as the church grows it will be able to help other FIEC churches, especially in the local area.”
The church is also a member of the Evangelical Alliance.
Hope Community Church Biddenden
Hope Community Church Biddenden (HCCB) was planted in 2020 in a village in rural Kent. Hope Community Church is led by pastor Dave Stone with three other elders, and they have a regular congregation of thirty to forty people.
They are seeking to reach their community, including contributing to the parish magazine and taking a stall at the Village Fete. They are also working to equip the church members to share the gospel in their own local contexts.
Their reasons for joining FIEC were: “As a newly formed, local, independent church, HCCB recognises that belonging to a national church organisation will raise the church profile and help our community identify who we are. We also recognise that the training and resources available through FIEC will help us reach out with the gospel more positively and we would hope through FIEC connections to be involved with, assist or support other like-minded churches in sharing the gospel.”
HCCB are are also members of the Kent Gospel Partnership.
Immanuel Church Bodmin
Immanuel Church Bodmin was formed in 2021 as a result of the merger of two churches in this strategic Cornish town: Bodmin Community Church (an FIEC church that had been planted by Grace Community Church Cornwall) and Bodmin Christian Fellowship (a Brethren church).
It is led by pastor Simon Smallwood and a team of elders and a trainee assistant pastor was appointed in September 2023. The church has a congregation of 40 adults and 12 children.
Their reasons for joining FIEC were: “We believe strongly in the independence of the local church, but equally in the mutual benefit when independent local churches enjoy fellowship and partnership locally, nationally, and internationally, in particular in shared wisdom, resource and prayer, and partnership in gospel mission and training where more can be achieved by working together for a time than in isolation.”
They also belong to the Peninsula Gospel Partnership.
Kenilworth Community Church
Kenilworth Community Church was planted in 2018 into the town of Kenilworth between Coventry and Leamington Spa. They rent a URC building to meet on Sunday afternoons with a regular attendance of around 60 people.
The church become fully independent in 2019 and is a member of the Midlands Gospel Partnership.
Their reasons for joining FIEC were: “We were very grateful for the support and encouragement of the FIEC as a recognised church plant, and we are glad to now become a fully affiliated member.”
New Life Church Catford
New Life Church Catford (NLCC) was a joint plant that included a small group of 12 adults and 9 children sent from Grace Church Brockley in 2018.
Remi Adedire was sent by Grace Church Brockley as one of two pastors to lead the plant.
NLCC now have a congregation of around 55 (including children) with a wide ethnic mix. They currently meet in a local primary school.
Their reasons for joining FIEC were: “We would like the accountability and stability that comes through being part of a wider network of churches.”
Rossington Community Baptist Church
Rossington Community Baptist Church was planted in 2004 in an ex-mining community just outside of Doncaster by Eric and Lisa Simpson, who are from the USA.
They are a small church with a congregation of around 20 and have links with other FIEC churches in Doncaster.
God has been gracious to provide inroads into local schools: their Messy Church has restarted after Covid and has seen a new cohort of parents/children.
Their reasons for joining FIEC were: “As a small church plant in a former pit village, we have struggled over our twenty years. There have been times of incredible highs and lows. I have felt lonely for the bulk of it. I hope to both gain and bring a sense of fellowship and mission to other FIEC churches and accountability in areas of admin.”
St John’s Evangelical Church, Houghton Le Spring
St John’s Evangelical Church in Houghton le Spring near Sunderland was originally founded in 1941 as a ‘Spritualist Church’. The leader, a Mr. Miller, was born again and persuaded the congregation to follow the spiritual teachings of the Bible. There was only one other leader afterwards who passed away in the 90s so for over two decades St. John’s had no leader.
It is now led by Mike Bradley, a church planter supported by the Association of Baptists for World Evangelization (ABWE), who has been in the UK for many years and came to the church in 2017.
They have a regular attendance of between 50-60 people, and are active in the community through a Community Food Shop & Foodbank, Hope Café, a toddlers, children’s & youth club, an Alpha Lunch, school ministry, Craft Club, Guitar Club and several Bible Study groups. About a third of the church are from an ethnic minority back grounds.
Their reasons for joining FIEC were: “St John’s has never had any affiliation. As a church planter, it would be wise to make this connection to allow the possibility of securing a Senior Pastor with a good doctrinal position.”
Recognised Church Plants
Over the same period, we have also been delighted to recognise two church plants.
We are encouraged that church planting seems to be picking up again after Covid, and recognition means that we are able to provide legal, financial, and practical support to these new churches.
The Upper Room Fellowship is a plant in Bitterne, a suburb of Southampton, led by Ray Kelly and Joe Sutton.
Eyres Monsell Community Church is a plant from Avenue Community Church into an estate in Leicester. It is led by Dan James and is also part of Medhurst Ministries.
Over the same period, five churches have sadly closed:
- Finneston Evangelical Church, Glasow
- Hailsham Evangelical Free Church
- Grange Free Church, Essex
- Lenzie Christian Fellowship
- Grace Evangelical Free Church, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
We were considering more churches for affiliation at our National Recognition Team meeting in December. The next opportunity to join us will be in March 2024.