By way of update on our news, this post is a copy of an interview we’ve just done:
In June 2015 Revd. Nick and Marjorie Allan sat down with Revd. Graham Ensor, Regional Minister of the Yorkshire Baptist Association (YBA), to talk about the church they are planting in central Sheffield. Here’s what they said:
Graham E: “So tell us, what is The Well?
Nick: “The Well is a new plant into the student/young adult heartland of the city of Sheffield, on one of our busiest streets. The core team began as a spiritual extended-family with a clear mission to the city, a mix of several families with young kids and some young adults/professionals. We’ve journeyed closely together over the past few years through life’s ups and downs, and we felt that journey was to continue. Since then, a few others have sensed God’s call to join in, so now we’re a mixed bunch of all-ages and backgrounds, ready for whatever is next.
We’re at www.wellsheffield.com
Marjorie: “What we all probably have in common is a passion for Jesus, His presence and purposes and a passion for our city. Yes, I think it is fair to say that we all dream for Sheffield, and our prayer is that through the Lord our dreams would shape a city. People are probably aware that in April 2015 we stepped out of leading St Thomas’ Philadelphia, after almost a decade on senior team of its umbrella Network Church Sheffield. Yet, throughout this whole process we’ve both carried a strong sense that our time in this city is not up yet, the next chapter is yet to develop…
Nick: So for Marjorie and me our mindset is not so much that we are ministers planting a church but rather we are missionaries loving a people and a place, and leading others to do the same. In fact, our vision is not just to plant a local church but to plant a church that would train others to plant more churches in due course.
GE: So The Well is a Baptist plant?
Nick: Yes! I don’t think Marjorie and I would have been ready to embark on this journey before now, though some of our younger friends have planted over the years. I think only now have we reached a point in our lives and leadership, that we have developed our own values and sense of direction and a desire to live out particular passions. I think this might be best summed up as a journey exploring “what does it look like to build communities where the missional life and the supernatural life really come together?” The power and presence of God channelled out to neighbours and our world around us.
As a Baptist minister it’s been really important to me to go on this journey in mutual accountability of weighing a call from our own Christian friends and others to plant a new community – and I’m so grateful for the grace and welcoming support the YBA and yourselves [Graham and Mary] as Baptist Regional Ministers have extended to us.
GE: “Tell us about the provision of the incredible building on Ecclesall Road?”
Marjorie: Yes, Ecclesall Road is such a focal point in Sheffield that when a respected Methodist church sadly closed its congregation after 111 years, we felt it was a God-given opportunity to keep His life and good news alive in the premises and area. So after a mutual discernment process which included the YBA, the Methodists and ourselves, we were invited to plant a new church into the Horizon church building. We were super excited when we got that telephone call – and we’re very aware of the wonderful missionary heritage of this place.
We find it interesting that the congregation that had been here for 111 years, serving faithfully, came to an end in April of this year, the month that we stepped out of our context and became available to begin something new.
But while we’re very aware of the significance and opportunities that come with this site, our heart remains for the city as a whole. 10 years ago we moved into our home in Nether Edge and named it “Hope House.” Over this decade, community has formed around this home, there have been many parties celebrated in the garden, meals around the table, powerful times of prayer in the front room, tragedies comforted, sick bodies made well. We would love to see many communities and similar ‘Houses of Hope’ around this city. Homes where disciples are made.
GE: So why have you named the church The Well?
Marjorie: Because over the past few months we’ve heard the Lord say in various ways, and through various people, that in this new season we are to “dig new wells” – welcoming the Holy Spirit to move in the city – and “open up old wells of the past”. It is fascinating that a local river actually runs through the church garden – right in the centre of the city.
When I walk into the main body of this church I often cry these days – there is already such a sense of the presence of God here. As we have done our homework we’ve discovered that this building was once a place of significant physical healing. I love the story in John 4 where the woman at the well encounters Jesus, His incredible love and prophetic power, it transforms her life and she in turn transforms a whole community.
GE: This sounds very exciting – When and how will you begin, what will it look like?
Nick: Well, our journey has already begun with core team in worship, prayer and painting! Without a doubt worship, prayer and engaging with the presence of God is the starting point. We open our doors on September 20th and will probably begin with an open-party celebrating with the neighbourhood.
We’re clear that this is a missionary journey reaching the unchurched. The young adults of this city and students (around 60,000) are a huge unreached people group for the gospel, so we’re passionate to have a part to play alongside the other churches in reaching them. As it happens, the first friends we have made here are actually two men with alcohol addiction who bring their friends and sit on the steps – there’s a lot of hidden poverty and loneliness to city life.
If we’re to be true to ourselves we will have a particular focus on the young and the poor and bringing the two together. But Ecclesall Road is not just student town, it is also the natural place of belonging for the business folk of the city and it is probably not by chance that I embark on this journey with some of my close friends who are themselves city people, who long to see a city transformed. As we listen to the Lord, no doubt he will guide our steps in where/who to engage with.
Marjorie: I think we will be begin with dreaming! Wide awake dreaming, empowering people to dream again for their lives and for this city. Whenever you begin something new it can seem messy, and I’ve no doubt we will surely make mistakes, but it’s an adventure and, yes, we are excited!
GE: You mention the young adults of this city – how do you intend to go about reaching them?
Nick: Well, Jesus came to “seek and save that which was lost” and we are aware that whenever Jesus spoke to people, He used the language and culture they understood. Our experience has been that today’s generation longs for genuine relationship. They are drawn to family and equally to a tangible experience of the power and presence of God. They’re also the best ones to reach their friends, one by one. So, real relationships with God and others would be a good starting point. The next challenge is to see a generation learn to shape their lives by scripture and we are equally passionate about this.
Marjorie: I imagine the church will have a contemporary feel going forward, that’s important. Much of our set-up costs are being invested in sofas, good PA equipment and coffee machines! But for me, being culturally relevant isn’t so much just becoming like the culture around us, but modelling what the culture longs to become.
GE: So what is your relationship with Network Church Sheffield (NCS) and St Thomas’?
Nick: We would like it to be a good one going forwards. We’re currently birthing something new, since we are no longer part of NCS – because of being made redundant along with some other staff team due to financial restrictions in February 2015. Yet we very much bless NCS and are very grateful for all that we have learnt over the last 10 years as senior staff.
While we were sad to leave that church, we leave behind many friends and great leaders who we believe will continue to fulfill the call of that church in the city, and we bless Peter and Anne Findley in their leadership.
In essence, we would love to partner with anyone for the kingdom of God in this city. These past few weeks we’ve actively spent time meeting some of the great local church leaders in the area, building relationships and communication – and that’s been really good. There is only one King and His name is Jesus!
GE: Can people give financial gifts of support in the start-up phase?
Yes, a few people have asked about how they might give financial gifts to The Well as it opens. We would be very grateful for any support as we’re starting from scratch as a group of friends.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
GE: So who is welcome at The Well?
Nick (laughing): Someone willing to get stuck in – it will be all hands on deck!
Anyone is welcome. Jesus has already told us that we are to treat people according to their destiny, not their history. But this is not a church for those unhappy with other churches. We are not encouraging anyone to leave an existing church. While there are many churches in this city, there remains much kingdom work to be done. We are primarily a church for those who do not yet know God in Sheffield and we trust that the Father will send us the right people to join that missionary journey.
Marjorie: For us, the life of a disciple is about learning to listen to Jesus and doing exactly what we believe He says… sometimes that may be more than you have dared to dream, ask or imagine; sometimes it may involve laying down other dreams and navigating disappointment, becoming dependent on Him through weakness. But we serve an incredible God of love who longs for us to serve His cities and towns.
“It’s been a real privilege to journey with Nick and Marjorie and the core team at The Well, seeing God open one door after another and pave the way for a new church plant on the Ecclesall Road in Sheffield. On occasions the journey has been challenging – but God’s grace has always proved more than sufficient for the challenges.
If truth be known they are only at the beginning of a journey not the end of it – so they need our prayer now more than ever, for as we all know, ‘unless the Lord builds a house, the builders labour in vain….’ So, let’s be excited by all that has happened to date, but let’s trust and pray for much more that is to come.
Please continue to pray for Nick and Marjorie and the core team; and if you feel inspired and feel God is calling you to church plant why not get in touch with the YBA team so we can tell you of the support and opportunities we provide for local churches.”
Graham Ensor – Regional Minister, Yorkshire Baptist Association