Since 2017, Sue and Arnie Hensby have been rebirthing an old Baptist Church in the heart of a Fenland village. Initially, their leadership role at Sutton St James BC was non-stipendiary, and they were solely reliant on their pensions as income. This changed in 2019 when a Baptist Insurance grant provided funds so their evangelist work could continue.
“The grant from Baptist Insurance enabled us to focus on loving the church and community,” Sue Hensby, Pastor of SSJBC, says. “It also helped us secure more grants for reroofing and other works. It gave us time to build and do the work that God called us to do.”
Adopting a ‘missional listening’ approach, Sue and Arnie took time to build relationships in the village and discover how they could rebirth the Baptist Church into a welcoming social space for the community, as well as it being a place to find peace, prayer and healing.
Over four years, Sunday congregation has grown from just three people to 30 adults and 24 children
In 2017, the Sunday congregation totalled three, the wider church community was 35 and the church doors were usually closed. At the start of lockdown in March 2020, 30 adults attended Sunday services (many of them previously unchurched) while 24 children enjoy Sunday Godly Play. The wider church community included 220 regular participants in activities such as men’s breakfasts and community lunches, weekly coffee mornings, Godly Play and School-Run Cuppa-Stops.
Special events include flower festivals, afternoon teas, pancake drop-ins and a Summer Church Club, which bring the village together. A new roof, incorporating dedicated tiles sponsored by villagers, was completed over lockdown, and ‘Renew SSJ’ wellbeing sessions are run every weekday, leading to SSJBC becoming a supplier to the NHS.
Sue Hensby is matter of fact about the enormous impact the couple have had on this small village and church community, “It’s not rocket science - God told us to open our hearts and doors and love people. It’s very simple and people need love now and to live now.”
Anne Bishop, Chair of the BIC Grants Committee, added: “We are always delighted to see people responding to God’s call to share His love with their local community,” said Anne Bishop Chair of the BIC Grants Committee. “And to see how our grant has enabled a church like SSJ to grow in both numbers and impact is very special.”