'Open the doors and love people’ - Sutton St James Baptist Church, Lincolnshire
‘Open the doors and love people’ – this was the call that God laid on the hearts of Sue & Arnie Hensby as God called them to pick up the baton of leadership in a rural chapel at the heart of a village near Spalding in Lincolnshire.
Sutton St James village has much to offer its community of approximately 1,100 people, including a village shop, butcher, baker, hairdresser and pub. It is also blessed with a village hall and a church hall which offer numerous venues for special functions. So, in many ways, the village is well served. However, Sue & Arnie were struck by the lack of a gathering place to meet other than the pub.
As a tiny baptist church in the heart of this Fenland village, their vision is to provide a hub for the community, where people can meet for a cuppa and a chat, with the openness to allow folk to just sit and read the paper in comfortable, relaxed surroundings, access support and advice from visiting professionals, or find a place of peace, prayer and healing.
The strap-line for the church is ‘Revealing Jesus’, and the church’s aim is to demonstrate the love of Jesus in all that they do, enabling people to feel part of the church family without expecting them to make any profession of faith first. The philosophy is ‘belong, believe, behave’; essentially creating a loving and all-encompassing environment where everyone is welcome regardless of their beliefs. Sue goes on to explain, “We do pray that, as they get to know us, visitors may become interested in our beliefs and want to begin their faith journeys – and we are already seeing this happen!”
From the original inherited congregation of three wonderfully faithful ladies, Sue & Arnie have seen the numbers grow to 35 people regularly attending Sunday worship, 18 of whom are children and a further 23 who attend the special services the church put on from time to time. Sue adds, “We are also running two ‘Life Explored’ groups with a total of ten people taking part. All of those attending this group have started their journey at one of our coffee mornings, community lunches or special events, where we have welcomed them with open arms and invited them to join the family. What an awesome God we serve!”
The church has been undergoing some repairs and maintenance to bring the building up to the level where dampness and draughts are no longer an issue. A new state-of-the-art heating system has taken care of the first stage in the refurbishment. The church is now looking to build a kitchen/café space at the front of the building to help in their outreach as part of the second phase of updating the building. Please do support them in your prayers, and perhaps drop in yourself for a cuppa!