Jersey boys reaching out
‘Food glorious food’, as the cast of the musical Oliver would sing, or being ‘Gud with Fud’, as the actor Ewan McGregor would say, remains the way to people’s hearts in Jersey.
The Channel Island folk love their food and their tastes are well served by a large number of excellent bistros and restaurants. Jersey’s eateries are made even more accessible to locals during the autumn ‘Tennerfest’ season when, before closing down for the winter months, they reduce their prices.
From September 2002, four local professional men (Nigel Strachan, Ron Mitchell, Jonathan Speck and Jim Naish) clearly identified this local love of ‘eating out’ as a basis for running Christianity Explored (CE) in Jersey. The first meeting was held around the table in Ron’s own conservatory, but by 2007 the demand for places on the two annual CE courses had outgrown this venue. It was then that they decided to relocate the operation of CE to the Blue Fish Caf? and, after a year there, to the aptly named ‘Upper Room’ at the Pizza Express in St. Helier.
Hundreds of seekers
Over the past eight years a large number of people have been engaged with through Jersey CE. Ron Mitchell confirmed: ‘We have been blessed by 348 seekers accompanied by 308 friends. While we have not kept accurate statistics of conversions, we believe over half the seekers made commitments and additionally we saw friends grow in their faith and gain tremendous confidence to witness to others. One shining example has been Steve who brought two friends on the course and got a taste for evangelism, took himself to an Evangelists Conference in the UK and on to Bible college before becoming a full-time evangelist’.
The original four movers who set up Jersey CE have, to date, continued to lead the programme. Two of them belong to Jersey Baptist Church and two belong to Jersey Freedom Church. Furthermore, members of several Anglican and Methodist churches have helped to either lead or support the tables. Bob Key (the present Anglican Dean) is included on a list of committed friends and supporters of Jersey CE.
Thus, a bi-partisan group of church leaders and supporters are actively involved in Jersey CE and, as a result, the benefit of this outreach is felt across the evangelical community in the island.
In specific terms, as the pastor of Jersey Baptist Church (JBC), David Prothero confirmed to EN, about half the names listed in their church directory have, as either leaders or attendees, supported Jersey CE. In the last two years Jersey Baptist Church has conducted baptisms for John, Peter, Jenny and Micky, who were drawn to them largely through personal friendships or social networks. Three of the four mentioned had had no prior contact with evangelical teaching or church life and were (along with the regular ministry) directed to the local CE programme. These four baptisms have been unusually powerful because of the maturity and strength of the testimonies provided by the baptismal candidates.
To date, all four remain committed to supporting our church worship — John, Peter and Jenny have since become members of the church and are actively supporting the life and activities of JBC. Micky and others have returned to Jersey CE to support the leaders of the tables. So, David Prothero is confident, as things stand, that they have been privileged to witness genuine conversions.
In October 2007, Jersey CE was established as a charitable trust and the running cost of between £6,000-7,000 for each CE course is met through the support of its evangelical friends in the island. The continued success of this programme has been confirmed by the fact that each of the last two courses has had around 55-65 people at the Pizza Express.
This year (2011), the planning group of Jersey Evangelical Alliance has planned to operate other outreach initiatives, including an evangelism training course, local church evangelistic activities and a co-operative event during the late summer or early autumn. Jersey CE will play an important role as a bridge into these arrangements. They are looking forward to further signs of God’s blessing in Jersey.
Jersey Baptist Church