Posted on 06 January 2016
After a period of inactivity the Ferndale website is back! And, first, we wish to offer a retrospect of the past year.

Community Involvement

The church has continued to be active in the local community. In the early months of the year, a team of local volunteers used the hall as part of the joint Love Southend and Southend Borough Council initiative to supply bed / breakfast and evening meals for the homeless during the winter months. Seven different locations were used throughout the town so that from November to March accommodation was available on a daily basis. This programme has now resumed and has being running every Friday night from the end of November.

The long-projected Charity Shop opened in the autumn in Cluny Square. The old entrance to Cluny House, bricked up for forty years, has been refurbished to render the Square more attractive and provide a much-needed facility in an area of economic and social deprivation. The shop is run by local volunteers and church members and, currently, opens four days \a week.

The ill-health of Rose Ariss, the manageress, meant that the Cafe was closed for several months in the summer. However, this enabled a thorough refurbishment and the cafe is now brighter… and warmer (following the addition of heaters). The cafe continues to be the location for monthly quizes (where Stephen is usually the quiz master) and curry nights. It also forms a natural setting for police, councillors and other to gather and be consulted.

Prior to the opening of the Shop, a new charity was established, the St Luke’s Ward Community Association (of which Stephen is the chair), to adminster both projects and undertake other initiatives. Another Advent Fayre was orgainsed and well-supported by the local community. An Act of Remembrance took place in the Square on Armistice Day and an Easter Egg Treasure Hunt is presently being planned. It is hoped, too, that a healthy eating project will take place in the Cafe… along with other initiatives. We have been pleased, recently, to be able to offer support to SEETEC in providing opportunity to work for long-term unemployed.

Several years ago we were one of five churches in Southchurch to set up a Foodbank. This has recently been established as an independent charity and become town-wide with six distribution centres. Well over 5000 boxes of food for three meals for three days have been provided to those in need. Ferndale was the second distribution centre to be established, opens one day a week for two hours and often helps five or more individuals and families each week. A devoted team ensures it is open every week of the year!

We are also delighted that the Church Office is regularly used for surgeries by the ward councillors and is a venue for local police and community liason.

In these, and other ways, Ferndale seeks to be at the heart of community life and, to reflect this, a Community Carols by Candlelight took place a few weeks ago with good representation from individuals and community representatives.

The ‘Blessing’ Box

A new initiative this year was to encourage the congregation to come on Sundays and share their weekly ‘blessings’ by putting a small donation in a box. Answers to prayer, celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and even excitement at favourite football teams winning have prompted small gifts. This has enabled donations to be made to local organisations such as the RNLI, Little Havens Hospice and the Air Ambulance.

Overseas Involvement

Joseph Paul from the El Shadai Children’ Home in Chennai was a visitor during the summer. This updated the church on the situation there and the Church continues to give generously to the work and sponsor several of the children. Recent floods in the city (and the home) are being currently monitored and plans in hand to help where we can.

The Church was also able to use its ‘Blessing’ Box funds to respond to the Kathmandu earthquake and send funds to a former student of Stephen’s who lives in the city. A toddler was able to be given hospital care and a number of widows supported.

Stephen also visited Georgia two times during the year (for approximately three weeks) to support the work of the IFES team in the Caucasus and teach, lecture and encourage within the Georgian Evangelical Baptist Church. The Church was able to support him as he sought funds for the refurbishment of Gori No. 2 Baptist Church – the birthplace of Josef Stalin! Stephen also now is asked to offer an annual training seminar to Orthodox clergy, monks, nuns and believers in France on the interpretation of the Bible.

Stephen remains a trustee of Focus Media and his podcasts for them have received a quarter of a million hits… about 75% from Muslim lands!

On a weekly basis different countries around the world are the focus of intercession. This week it was Estonia. Periodically, too, we receive news from Rudi and Doreen Drews and their family in Wesel, Germany where Rudi, our former intern, is pastor.

A New Blog

Those who used the opportunity to listen to Stephen’s ministry on the website can now access this, and other material, on http://www.stephendray.co.uk.

Former Interns and Others

We are delighted that another of our former interns, Gareth Leaney, is now heading up the international students’ ministry in Bournemouth. Elsewhere, Sarah Dawkins is also working among international students as a full-time worker for Friends International. Peter Dray continues to head up the student ministry for the UCCF of the north east of England and is increasingly in demand as an evangelist. He has recently been approached to lead the Cambridge University Mission in 2017. Dad has offered to carry his bags! Jon Delves, after a period of ill-health, is now well and he and his wife Emily occasionally visit: when Jon leads and Emily plays the piano for us. Life in the fellowship is not always easy but we feel we ‘punch above our weight’ and are grateful we are able to do so.

Southend Brethren in Christ and SDA congregations

The church premises continue to be used by the Brethren in Christ Church and the local Seventh Day Adventist group. Warm fraternal relationship exist and occasional cooperative ventures. We are grateful for this way of being able, praqctically, to demonstrate our ‘ecumenical’ credentials and value, especially, the encouragement of Bonnet Moyo and Colin Gordon- the leaders of the two congregations.

The premises are also regularly used by other community agencies.

An Independent Baptist Church

Finally, from about 2008 the relationship between the Church and both the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the Eastern Baptist Association deteriorated. Despite many attempts at resolution and reconciliation by the church and its officers, the reluctance of the Union and Association to take Gospel-honouring steps toward unity meant that, despite the current General Secretary, Lynn Green’s efforts, the BUGB recognised that no meaningful relationship remains. As a result, Ferndale is no longer part of the BUGB or the EBA. Consequently, the Church has established itself as a Charitable Company and is currently involved in drafting a new property deed to recognise the current situation.

We remain a small church and cherish your prayers as we seek to fulfil our calling as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ in our community…. and beyond!

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