So we have officially begun this new adventure of church planting here in Newton Abbot. We are feeling settled and are enjoying this part of the world. There is plenty to do and see with lots for families to do together.
Newton Abbot has approx 40,000 - 50,000 people living here with a pretty even split between the age groups. About a quarter are 0-14years, then another quarter are 15-35, and then 36-55, and then another quarter are 55+ in age.
It's been good to spend the first couple of days walking the town, listening and watching what is happening. I'm going to spend the first few weeks simply listening, walking and praying around the area to see how things unfold and where God is leading me. Because there is no church to feed in to I am able to spend time doing what I believe ministers should be doing anyway, listening to God and the community and praying to God about the community.
I spent some time in ASDA yesterday having a coffee and then had a walk around near there and I could see a sub-culture all around of people who use ASDA as a place to meet and spend time. I'm going to keep going and see if there is a possible opening for me to get to know some people. Supermarkets really are a 'third place' for some parts of our society.
I was walking in the town centre yesterday and heard someone shouting. As I got near him I realised he was reciting John's Gospel to people as they walked by. I sat down on a bench and listened to what he had to say. He was reciting the last few chapters from John's Gospel, trying to do it from memory but struggling, so did most of it reading it out. Thought I would watch and observe people's reaction and, as you might have guessed, was either to completely ignore him or look in bewilderment. This guy finished and then walked off.
I was just about to leave when a couple sat on the bench and then another guy also and we all started to chat about shopping. Then the guy on his own asked us all if we 'knew the Lord'. We sat and listened as he preached at us and told us that we needed to put or faith in Jesus as what would happen to our soul when we died etc etc. The lady who was there walked off while the other guy sat and continued to listen for a while longer and then walked off, all very polite, but clearly a little unsure.
The preacher guy then asked me and I told him I was a follower of Jesus and had just moved to the area. He was delighted! Told me he didn't belong to a church (church is for religious people he had said earlier and he wasn't religious) but went to a meeting in the area.
Now this was another person I had met or heard about who didn't go to church in Newton Abbot and have thus gone to do their own thing. It seems to be quite a common experience in this area and I'm wondering what to make of it.
Introduced myself to the local police today and they are going to come round and have a chat about the area. Be good to hear what they have to say. They said they are always keen for local people to get involved with community work alongside them so it will be good to listen and see what might grow out of those conversations.
Went to the local pub today down my road and got chatting to the owner. Told me he doesn't like religion! I said I wouldn't preach at him! He's invited me to 'try out' for the pubs pool team next Sunday so that should be good fun. Nice guy and some nice people at the bar so think I may well make it my regular. Hopefully get on the pool team too!
Been a good couple of days listening and walking around the area. I wonder where the Holy Spirit will lead us to as the weeks progress...
On Monday I am going to blog about how as a society we have become 'storytellers' and how that is good for the church if we catch on to what is happening.