Whitchurch Baptist Church Profile (Founded 1656)
Six years ago this church set out on a journey to discover what plans God has for us. Having faced the very real prospect of winding up, prayerful seeking God concluded that He had other ideas. That journey suffered a setback when we were unexpectedly without a minister. We now want to re-engage in the challenge of continuing that journey. Our welcoming church is open to new ideas and trying new things but we are looking to be led into being more effective members of Christ’s body and furthering His reputation outside the walls of the building across the local community.
The Church family is made up of a balanced range of ages with the exception of a distinct absence of 13-25 year olds. Half the church is married couples with no children at home, a further quarter are couples with children at home. Half the church is in employment, 43% retired. Over the last 6 years Membership has been a fairly sustained 35-40 and committed financial income steady. The Church property the Manse is owned albeit currently occupied by tenants.
Broadly age and household makeup are fairly representative of our local community with the exceptions of:
A complete absence of 13-25 year olds,
A greater proportion of retired folk, and
A smaller proportion in full time work than in the town’s general population .
These differences may reflect a typical church’s departure from the general population.
We are trying to be more outward looking, pray for and identify opportunities for the gospel. We had a ‘salt and light’ themed service last year, using graphics to consider comparisons with the town's; house tenure, household size, home location and age. It is noteworthy however that when you look at where people at WBC live, about half live outside Whitchurch, a large proportion in Andover. Andover could be viewed as the next nearest larger town providing e.g. the local supermarket, swimming pool. However Whitchurch is a relatively self-sufficient, small rural town in its own right, equidistant from larger 3 towns (Andover, Newbury & Basingstoke) and Winchester city (all within 12 miles).
Whitchurch takes great pride in its sense of community and has an enviable wealth of community groups and activities. It has one Cof E Primary School, the Secondary School for the rural hinterland, a library, numerous pubs, good provision of local shops, services and businesses .The whole town is within 2 miles of the church building, but the lack of street presence and limited awareness of the church in the town does not capitalize on the central location. Whitchurch town has high levels of employment and diverse range of employment sectors. The 1hr main rail line journey to Waterloo supports London commuters and local employers are well connected via M3, M4 A34 corridors. www.whitchurch.org.uk
Evangelism, at the moment is not organised regularly in a formal way. There is encouragement that each believer should be engaged in personal evangelism of their own family friends and neighbours. There are usually special services at the main Christian festivals that are accessible to people in the community. In the past we have had held community events (Christmas fair and summer BBQ) but not within the last year. We joined the Parish Church’s Alpha course.
Serving Community is focussed on holding out the gospel of Jesus 10:30 – 12:00 Sunday mornings for those who find their way into a hidden building. Encouraging a community of believers to persevere in their personal discipleship of Jesus to make known this mystery which is Christ in you, the hope of Glory.
While perceptions of the Character of the Church are mixed and views, preferences and backgrounds quite diverse, the church’s theology is fairly mainstream, worship style a blend of traditional and modern and informally engaged in ecumenism. The Parish Church has just welcomed a new Vicar with whom we are looking forward to partnering to advance the gospel mission.
It is not rare that the format of our Sunday services are altered to be more interactive, and seasonally special events and services are laid on usually with the purpose of appealing to newcomers. There is a regular bible study group, women’s fellowship and until recently visits to a local care home.
No Formal children’s or youth activities run currently. Children are encouraged to be part of family worship, freedom to sit at tables in the main meeting space to draw or play in church hall through open doors where speakers relay via public address. The repeated reassurance is ‘don’t worry about the noise of young children, it is a natural part of family life which is welcome when we gather together’. When there has been critical mass a Sunday school has been held during the sermon, staffed by parents and volunteers. The local Parish Church runs WAAG (A youth group) for secondary school ages, and communion classes periodically for cohorts of 10-13 year olds.
Strengths & Weaknesses; It is a warm friendly church that welcomes people really well. It has a family feel to it, informal approachable style, genuine in its concern and prayerful and practical in supporting each other. There is a notable gifting of preacher / teachers who are already in fellowship.
However, there is a lack of connection, engagement and impact on the local community in a corporate way. There is a nostalgia for activities and fullness of years gone by and a disappointment that there is not the demand or resource to keep them going. There is genuine life and love but a frustration to expressing that corporately.
The church’s vision had been stated as to: Share the story of God’s love, Build one another up in life and faith, & Create a more just and Christian world. The development of this statement into meaningful interpretation, understanding the implications and applying to everyday life is still in progress.
After considering the profiles of several potential new Ministers, we eventually were drawn to Rev Jack Walker, and following our meetings together with both the Leadership and the Church Fellowship, a 100% unanimous vote from the Church was to invite Jack to be our next Minister.
Jack responded almost immediately accepting the invite and Jack will begin with us on July 1st 2019.
We are thrilled to have Jack, and his wife Jill, joining up with us here in Whitchurch!
The Induction date is set for Saturday July 6th at 2.30pm with Jacks first service being on the 7th.
Jack leads a service through when considering the position.