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 end of the Sharing Life Network calls for self-sufficiency and a new set of rules. Part 7 of A Short History of MBC

15 March 2012

It was on September 6th 1998 that Rev Gordon Hindmarch (pictured left) was welcomed into the Sharing Life Network. In effect this meant that for the first time in its twenty-three year history, MBC now had two full-time ministers.

However, even as Gordon was joining a team that already consisted of Stephen plus two part-time pastors, a full-time Youth Worker, an administrator and a caretaker, Storehouse, a new name for the Street Lane fellowship was making plans to leave Sharing Life and join New Hope Ministries – a cell church established under the leadership of John Sloan. This it did, but sadly divisions within the Storehouse itself saw its congregation fragment.

Although the remaining part of the Sharing Life Network continued to flourish, by June 2000 some serious concerns had arisen over staffing such a large operation with what was now a reduced financial base.

These fears were to form the basis of a special Sharing Life meeting that was held in October of that year. At this meeting Michael Flowers presented his account of the history of Sharing Life, John Hawksworth spoke enthusiastically of the “great range and strength of the youth work across the network” after which representatives of Chapel A, Meanwood, Revive and Moortown each listed their particular strengths and their views about Sharing Life.

Youth Pastor John Hawksworth

The discussions that followed concluded that while there was indeed much that was working well, such things as the poor attendance at evening services and a lack of connectivity between congregations were areas of very real unease. However, the prime concern had to be the network’s finances.

Add these financial issues to the very real perception that whether by design or by default the congregations that made up the network were each moving towards independence, and with the benefit of hindsight it comes as no surprise that for Sharing Life – a Baptist Church Network this was the beginning of the end.

This was underlined when within two months Chapel A announced that it had decided to look for its own pastor within Sharing Life, and just four days before the March 2001 AGM Stephen announced that he was: “actively looking for where he should minister next.”

Stephen’s search for a new pastorate didn’t take him long; just three months later he told the church that he had accepted a call to Altrincham Baptist Church as ‘Minister for teaching, spirituality and discipleship’.

Andy and Norma Hobbs - Andy became Minister at Meanwood Valley Baptist Church

The history book that these series of articles is based on speaks of Stephen Ibbotson as “a man who brought a wide vision and decisive leadership to the church”.  It goes on to record how while “some Moortown members may not have been carried with him in all his plans the vast majority appreciated the depth of his preaching and teaching and his pastoral care and concern”.

With Stephen’s departure the notion of the Network becoming four autonomous churches seemed inevitable so Moortown, Meanwood Valley, Revive and Chapel A each spent the Autumn and Winter of 2001/2 developing their own constitutions.  For Moortown, the mother church, an added difficulty was knowing how best to distribute the £86,000 that was currently sitting in a Trust Fund. This had been grown mainly out of the sale of two properties.  In the end the fund was divided amicably with half going to Moortown and the remaining half being split equally between the other three churches.

So it was that the final Sharing Life Church Meeting took place on 21st March 2002. Chaired by Michael Flowers the meeting heard how under Stephen Ibbotson’s leadership Sharing Life had changed lives. He spoke of how: “through its Youth Ministry and through its plants the Network now stood on the threshold of becoming four strong independent churches that had already made a major contributions to New Hope and to the Adel church plant that was linked to South Parade”.  At the end of the meeting, to prolonged applause, Michael read out the names of the eleven people who had served as leaders of the Network.

Seemingly the process of making four churches from the Sharing Life Network was accomplished remarkably smoothly even if there was a certain amount of movement of personnel between the four.

With MBC once again an independent body one of the first thing that took place was an “Away Day”.  This drew almost 150 people and is described as “very positive and forward looking.”  From this get-together Focus Groups were set up allowing the minister and deacons to develop a programme of “Main Strategies” which would consequently serve as the core of all church activities and direction. These strategies namely: Building Community; Discipleship; Pastoral Care; and Outreach soon began to produce a number of action groups one of which was the Oversees Mission Group.

On the home front 2002 was also the year that saw several MBC members supporting an initiative  called the One City Project. Sponsored by the Leeds Church Institute the One City Project turned out to be the catalyst for the formation of MBC’s Community Mission Group and it was largely as a result of its efforts that such a large number of local community groups began to use MBC. Another project the Community Mission Group undertook was to carry out a survey amongst our neighbours – that’s people who were living and working on the Queenshill and Leafield estates. One issue that figured high on their list of concerns centred on children and young people, and it was as a direct result of the survey that in 2003 Jan Fennell was appointed as MBC’s first full-time Children’s Worker and following John Hawksworth’s move to Youth for Christ that Glenda joined the church as Youth Pastor.

In 2003 Jan Fennell became MBC's first full-time Children's Worker

With MBC now just two years short of its fiftieth anniversary it may strange that the next thing on its agenda was the drawing up a new set of Church Rules. However, that is precisely what happened.  On approval they led to a new leadership team – based on the traditional diaconate system being appointed and for the first time ‘lay’ coordinators were introduced for the Main Strategies of the church’s life and ministry.

By July 2004 a new vision was beginning to form and Bill Allen, then a YBA Regional Minister, was asked to chair of meeting at which the whole leadership team: Gordon; Children’s and Youth Pastor; deacons; and coordinators met.  Shortly after a second Away Day reduced the original Main Strategies from four to three: Meaningful Outreach, to equip Small Groups (notably House Groups) and to provide a Framework for Pastoral Care.

Next time, in the final instalment of this potted history of MBC, we will see how the church celebrated its golden anniversary and how as Graham takes over from Gordon it redoubles its efforts to be a community church with world- wide vision.

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