To do this, they create spaces in the community where people who aren’t interested in Sunday morning church can come to experience the love of Jesus and become disciples who, in turn, make disciples.
A big vision, perhaps, but husband and wife ministers Leigh and Rebecca Coates, along with the rest of the team, have seen Hope Whitby grow from just five people in 2010 to 19 “missional communities” today that reach around 150 people face-to-face each month. Many more are in regular contact through social media.
These missional communities are located in pubs, coffee shops, restaurants, community centres, old people’s homes – wherever the Gospel is welcomed. In addition to popular events for families, there is a missional community specifically for older people, which is going from strength to strength, as well as groups meeting in private homes. Recent Alpha courses have led to baptisms as well as challenging people on the fringes to think more deeply about God, faith and what that means for their individual lives.
“It is such a welcoming community,” said Rebecca Pearson, Mayor of Whitby and active member of the missional community in Eastside. “Seeing so many children having so much fun is wonderful to see.”
“Hope Whitby is a wonderful community to be a part of, whether you are looking for a church to be involved in or simply new friendships, they have something for everyone,” added another regular participant, Ceri Holloway. “They are such a supportive, welcoming and tight knit family that really make you feel like you belong.”
All the members of the Hope team (except Leigh) are bi-vocational by choice as well as necessity, believing that their secular employment allows them to be firmly rooted in the local community that they are serving. However, a BIC grant of £15,000 in 2017 has helped to build on the support Hope Whitby had already received from the YBA and several local churches. “Ever since Hope Whitby was born, we have had to run on a bit of a shoestring,” explained Rebecca Coates. “Whilst God has always provided for our needs, it is now amazing to have this money from BIC which, we feel, gives the work here some longevity.”
Wanting to remain light on their feet in order to respond quickly to the needs of local communities, the team are nevertheless conscious of their own need for accountability and have strong links with Ebenezer Baptist Church in Scarborough, as well as having personal mentors. Each member of the team has a specific role to give them a sense of identity and purpose, with monthly meetings to review their work, plan ahead and pray for one another. As a result, Leigh Coates has been able to use some of his time to help plant missional communities down the coast in Filey, as well as extend the work of Hope Whitby to some of the surrounding rural villages.