Janet Sutton Webb is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacraments, working for the United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom. Since 2009 she has been a pioneer minister. In 2010 she moved to Devon, England, and set out on an adventure, exploring what it means to follow Jesus and minister alongside those who would not normally be interested in going to church.
Ever since I can remember I have known that I am loved. Although they were not particularly demonstrative, my parents brought me up to understand that they loved me. They also taught me that Jesus loves me and is always alongside me.
It may sound trite, but that knowledge was one of the most precious gifts they ever could have given; because wherever I am, whatever befalls me, and however isolated I feel, I know that I am never alone.
It is now nearly 35 years since, at the age of twelve, I first sang the words of the Isaac Watts hymn ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’. The last verse moved me beyond belief:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
Those words changed my life. It was the point at which I realised that being loved unconditionally by the God who created me requires a response.
So began a seventeen year journey which culminated in my ordination as a Minister of Word and Sacraments in the United Reformed Church. On the day of my ordination I promised to love God, live a holy life and serve the Church. In the fifteen years since I have attempted to live out those vows faithfully, in a world which seems increasingly hostile to anything to do with religion, Christian or otherwise.
For the past eight years I have been living and working in a small rural market town in Devon. My job title is Emerging Church Pioneer, although I don’t expect many people to understand that terminology. It is a strange job, as it doesn’t seem like traditional church ministry. My remit is to work with people who would not normally be interested in going to church, and to find out what following Jesus might look like if undertaken alongside them.
This site is a record of what I have learned. Short blog-style entries will be posted regularly, as I reflect on a number of the themes and issues I have encountered as a Christian ministering outside the bounds of traditional church. For those interested in going deeper there will be longer articles on each theme. The website is intended to be helpful for clergy wishing to reflect on their ministry and mission, for church members wondering how they might refresh their churches and for those who want to follow Jesus but feel as though traditional church patterns just aren’t cutting it.