Rev Andrew Gilbert with the Mayor and Mayoress of the Borough of Worthing, Cllr Sean McDonald and Cllr Vicky Vaughan at his induction service on 3 September

Churches are frequently finding their wait between ministers stretches far longer than they’d expected. The fortunate ones benefit from a caretaker minister, often newly retired. Findon Valley Free Church (Baptist), one of this paper’s supportive churches, was an example. Temporarily overseen by Rev Graham Jefferson who had retired from Worthing’s New Life Church, as of this autumn they have a dynamic new minister who had been living just ten miles away and had already served in two other Sussex Baptist churches. Rev Andy Gilbert explains how it happened.

God’s calling on my life for Christian ministry goes back over 30 years. During a career in leadership development, I also served my local church, Upper Beeding Baptist, in various lay leadership roles.

Nine years ago I joined a Christian agency that supported mission groups, churches and Christian leaders. When the CEO died I was left asking, “What next, Lord?”

His answer came through loud and clear: “Now is the time for local church ministry.”

So began a three year training period with a placement at Victoria Baptist Church, Eastbourne. As training came to an end, God made it very clear that Findon Valley Free Church (Baptist), also known as FVFC, was to be my first place of pastoral ministry. After my ordination in July, my induction took place on 3 September. Though my wife and I had lived in Steyning for 19 years, Findon Valley was unfamiliar to us, but now we’re happily settling into the manse next to the church.

My vision for the church? This flows from my years seeking to develop healthy organisations and individuals and an understanding of servant leadership:

A church with a focus on building community within and outside the walls of the church and for fostering healthy relationships between members of the community.

A church which shares leadership, that seeks to enable people to explore, understand and utilise their gifts and which takes servant leadership as its model.

A church with a clear and commonly understood sense of what God is calling US to be and to do, not seeking to imitate other churches.

A church that engages in the world around us and resists the tendency to focus upon ourselves. We are called to GO!

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