This month has gone by in a flash and we continue to love this church. With the start of the new school term, we have all hit the ground running. The 2 womens Bible studies have about 20 women in them and we are enjoying studying the book of Ruth. They are also still really enjoying their social evenings together as well. Tomorrow night will be the first time that both groups have ever met together for their night out so I’m sure we are in for a long evening of great conversation. Dennis and Geoff decided that the guys would meet at one of the many curry places here in South Shields. There were 8 fellows who came. Dennis along with Andi Price ordered the hottest dish on the menu and then took great pride in telling everyone about it. We’ve decided that we really like curry. We’re just not sure where we will find it in West Texas. So, the social side of Westoe Road is alive and well.
We had an amazing opportunity to do a little Baptist history tour with Ray Richardson during the month of September. Ray is one of the regional ministers in the northeast and was a great tour guide. Baptist roots in the northeast of England go all the way back to the 1630s. We spent the day traveling around the Newcastle area and even got to go into one of the oldest Baptist churches in England. Ray told us that the original folks of Rowley Baptist Church were forced to move from farm to farm in order to avoid persecution during the mid-17th century. The farmhouse in the background was where they met last before building the church in 1652. Hamsterley Baptist Church at one time had an AIPM pastor. Ray preaches there from time to time now. When we first signed up with AIPM, Hamsterley was looking for an interim. We can remember looking at the pictures and wondering what it would be like to minister in such a tiny village and small church. It was really fun to finally see it. Hamsterly dates back into the 1650s, also, so this is not the original building. This building is just 236 years old.
Mark and Diana Layton arrived on September 19 and we spent a wonderful week enjoying their company as we saw the sights of Tyneside as well as participated in church activities. Mark participated in the Sunday morning service and Diana spoke to the Sisterhood about her trips to Haiti. It was a great blessing to have them with us; however, we never did talk them into “plodging.” Here are a few pictures from their week with us:
Among the ruins of the Monastery of St. Paul where the Venerable Bede lived and wrote.
Overlooking the River Tyne piers
At Bamburgh Castle
On a double-decker going into Edinburgh
Marsden Bay – a 10 minute walk from our house
We have had some beautiful weather to start October. October 1 was the warmest day since we arrived in June. It hit 80 degrees, so we headed to the beach. Unfortunately, the water hadn’t warmed up any, but we did “plodge” for a few minutes.
We have done a lot of training with the deacons and ministry leaders on how to work as teams. One of the most enjoyable training activities was building something out of spaghetti and marshmallows that could stand on its own for at least 2 minutes. The competition was fierce. Geoff, in an effort to at least make a showing of enthusiasm for his team (which lost), exerted extra energy . . . but they still didn’t win. The leadership has done a good job of stressing the importance for all members to have a part in the ministry of the church. At this point there is probably well over half the membership involved in ministry.
Julie Price impressed us at the last deacons meeting with pie charts and colorful graphs showing some really encouraging statistics. In running the numbers for 2010 and 2011, her findings were an increase in participation and attendance as well as number of visitors and children. While the overall attendance has significantly increased, the average age has dropped due to the increase of people who are between the ages of 20-40. Things are lookin’ good for Westoe Road Baptist Church!
We would appreciate you prayers as the church will be making a decision soon about the AIPM pastor who will come in January. We are confident that the Lord is already preparing his heart to minister to these precious people and while we are sad to think about leaving them, we are excited about all that is going on here.