Moortown Baptist Church, 204 King Lane, Leeds LS17 6AA. Map Tel: (0113) 2693750 A member of the YBA. A registered charity No 1128960. Terms of use

The beginning of full-time youth work, and an evaluation team puts MBC “under the microscope” Part 5 of A Short History of MBC

1 March 2012

For MBC, 1980 and the decade that followed was a time of both consolidation and change. As the church celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary, many national and international concerns occupied the thoughts of its members, whilst in-house some still familiar areas of disagreement such as music and worship (in those days largely an organ and choir versus guitar debate) or whether sitting in the round was a suitable solution to overcrowding regularly caused steam to rise.

Almost immediately new minister Michael Caddick, armed with the findings of MBC’s Interest and Skills Survey, set about encouraging members to use and develop the many spiritual and practical gifts they had declared.  At the same time, realising what a huge job Michael and the Deacons had taken on, some in the church began to question whether both biblically and practically a ‘one man ministry’ was the most effective model for a church with over 350 members.

History records that whilst this was something that was taken very seriously. With regard to the question of breaking away from one man ministry the church decided that “change could only be introduced slowly.”

However, the first step on this journey did take place in April 1981 when the church appointed John Wilson – a young member who had recently completed a theology degree at Oxford – as Lay Assistant. John was to be concerned with: young people; preparation of worship; evangelism; visiting; occasional preaching and MBC’s outreach to Swarcliffe.

John Wilson and his young family. John now pastors a church in France

John was to stay with MBC for the next two years before accepting a call to Ministry from Falmouth Baptist Church.

Following John’s departure and with the church still hesitant about employing ‘staff’, June Flowers accepted an invitation to be MBC’s unpaid Pastoral Worker, working two days a week for an initial period of three years.

As we have already mentioned throughout the 80’s – a time of great social change and political division – here at Moortown social and political issues were never far from the surface.  In March ’81 for instance an Unemployment Group was formed, in 1985 the church responded rapidly and generously to the Ethiopian Famine Appeal, in the same year a team began making regular pastoral visits to Eastmoor Secure Unit and in February ’86 one of MBC’s most effective and enduring outreach projects was born… a furniture store.

Enraged by the government’s axing of capital grants for such things as basic furniture and domestic appliances, Hilary Wilmer and a team of volunteers began collecting unwanted household furniture and passing it on to people in need.

A very early flyer from the Leeds and Moortown Furniture Store

More than a quarter of a century later that simple idea is the Leeds and Moortown Furniture Store: a registered charity that each year not only provides hundreds of needy people with thousands of items of good quality used furniture, but which through the provision of high quality training also nurtures scores of unemployed job-seekers as they strive to enter the world of work.

Looking back  to the autumn of 1985, with youth work continuing to be the most successful area of growth, it comes as no surprise that in order to build on the excellent work already done by John Wilson the church’s first appointment should be a full-time Youth Worker.

The young man chosen, John Lowton, was to stay at Moortown until the summer of 1988. Under John’s leadership new groups were developed and through a combination of his work in schools and his passion for football many new community links were established.

Despite, or perhaps because of, all this activity, there were times in the 1980’s when the Deacons were concerned about division.  Indeed in 1987 there was even reference to the church ‘standing still’ in some areas with no allowance in its budget for either evangelism or for something they themselves had considered during a day of prayer… the notion of church planting.

This concern led to the church asking the Yorkshire Baptist Association (YBA) to set up an evaluation team which would visit Moortown and put the whole of its life “under the microscope.”  This they duly did, and their 48-page report was presented in January 1988.  In this document the evaluators, who clearly saw MBC as a successful church of great potential  but one which was at a “critical stage”, concluded: “It is important that the church as a whole should have a clear concept of where it wants to go, and then set goals to be achieved.” You can read extracts from and comments about this report at the very end of this article.

In the wake of this report and in the final two years of Michael Caddick’s ministry in Leeds, MBC prioritised two issues. Firstly the need to strengthen the staff team and secondly growing the idea of church planting.

Jonathan Hayward

The first new recruit was Jonathan Hayward. Jonathan was appointed as MBC’s Youth Pastor in July 1988, and it wasn’t long before he and his team were inventing any number of new initiatives such as ‘Formal Dinners’ i.e. young people playing host to some of MBC’s older members and ‘Christmas Cracker’ a project which saw our young people staffing a café in aid of Third World charities.

Shortly after Jonathan’s arrival, Vera Earl took over from Phil Commons as Church Administrator – a job she did for the next twelve years.  But, alas, the ministerial assistant Michael Caddick had so often asked for was not found.

Vera Earl

Meanwhile, work towards fulfilling the church’s second priority, church planting, stepped up a gear and although a small group of people were praying for Meanwood, a lack of available leaders prevented this becoming MBC’s first plant. Instead a Shadwell group, having started as a house-group, began meeting in Wigton Moor Primary School. At first they met fortnightly as the ‘Shadwell Lane Christian Fellowship’, but before long new premises were found and the Street Lane Fellowship came into being.

By this time, however, MBC was in the middle of another interregnum because in April 1989 Michael Caddick had announced that he was leaving Leeds and moving to a church in Falmouth.  Michael had served Moortown Baptist Church for nine years and although you may be forgiven for thinking that for much of that time Michael had been forced into the role of ‘bridge-builder’ there can be no doubt that during his time at MBC, it was his unique gifts and his abilities that not only saw Moortown Baptist Church continue to grow numerically but also in terms of the widening of its ministries.

Next time we will look at the arrival of a new pastor, the introduction of  a new leadership structure and how the emergence and growth of Sharing Life – a Baptist Church Network led to the calling of a second minister at MBC.


How MBC: The First Fifty Years reported the findings of the YBA evaluation report

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