Based on the Grange Park and Fairmeadows estates in south Loughborough, Reside is a community supported by the Methodist and Anglican Churches. One of its leaders, Debbie Shields, tells of an eventful year.
It has been a very special time for me as a Methodist lay worker and for Reside's co-leader, Adele Adshead, who is training for ministry in the Church of England. We work side by side and that work was acknowledged in October when we were both commissioned as Pioneers at a service in Leicester Cathedral. It is the first year that Pioneers have been recognised by both the Methodist and Anglican Churches here and it was fantastic to have the Bishop of Leicester, the Chair of the Northampton Methodist District and Superintendent of the Loughborough Circuit all praying for us!
Things went in a different direction than we expected when Reside's original leader, Methodist Deacon Ellie Griffin, moved on in August 2012. Having failed at interview to identify a suitable candidate to become the next full-time worker as expected, it was felt that God seemed to be calling for leadership to come from within Reside; something we had always planned for but thought was much further down the line!
So Adele, Methodist minister John Anderson and me took on the running of Reside. John has now moved to a ministerial post in Prestatyn but we are so grateful for all he did. As a result of all the changes, we took some time this year to carefully consider the vision for Reside; recognising the fact that we no longer had a full-time person in post. This was a significant time of prayer and discernment as we involved the whole Reside Community alongside the Steering Group in a 'vision seeking process' which ran from January to June.
So here we are now going into year 7 of the project, fully licensed and ready to go! We have been delighted that another member of the community has recently joined the team and together we spent a quiet day at MONOS – a charitable organisation that seeks to foster a monastic spirit within the Christian church and society – setting our priorities for the year. Shortage of working hours is quite an issue but it means that it's vital for us to encourage and develop new leadership and build on the involvement of members.
We have a wide-ranging programme of activities. Our alternative Halloween is particularly popular with our children dressing up as angels and heroes to give out glow-sticks and goody bags to 'trick or treaters'. We have also just run our lantern-making workshop and they will be used at our open-air carol services.
In terms of regular activities, a recent highlight for us was starting 'Sunday Space', which takes place on the first Sunday of every month and aims to give people opportunity to explore faith through art activities, discussion, prayer and conversation.
Our cell group Excel meets on Mondays and this has seen exciting growth in discipleship and commitment of its members as well as a small increase in numbers.
We have regular contact with some people with no church background, mostly through our Friday 'Coffee and Chat' mornings. Different people come every week and there are about 20 adults and children we see regularly. The challenge now is how we grow that and spread our wings a bit. We also have good links with the local primary school and the local residents' association and we are active on the Grange Park Centre group, which is working with local residents, developers William Davis and Charnwood Borough Council to see community facilities provided for the estate.
Lack of community facilities is a real challenge for the estate as well as for the development of Reside – there's nowhere to run activities. However, a great opportunity has recently come through a manse that was bought when Ellie was here; we rented it out for a while but then quite a few people within Reside were thinking, why rent? Shouldn't we be using it as a resource? We went through the process of change of use with the local council and we've now got that permission to use Wysall House for small-scale community events and meetings. The manse is a really modern, four-bedroom house with a big kitchen, lounge, dining room and study. This will help us so much in expanding our activities and being able to advertise publically. Previously any events had to take place in our homes that was not always easy. It's great now to be able to set up for an event and close the door behind us.
So things are really moving on. We are extremely grateful to all the funders and supporters who have stood by us through the changes They have given us financial security for the immediate future and we are now beginning to look seriously at putting steps in place to move towards independence as we grow into maturity.