Churches Together in Winchester is led by Nigel Hemming, the leader of Winchester Vineyard Church and champion for church unity across the city. We caught up with Nigel to ask him what the vision for Churches Together looks like going forward.
Hi Nigel. How did you feel God call you to take on the role with Churches Together? Why is it important for the city?
As a local church leader, I served on the Churches Together exec team for 2 years before a change of personnel put me unexpectedly in the Chair! By then we had begun some significant conversations about the future of CTW and the more I prayed about it, the more I sensed a clear vision emerging. I was initially hesitant to lead as I felt I hadn’t been in the city very long, but after various conversations, and with the encouragement of local leaders, I sensed God giving me the go-ahead to jump in.
Church unity is important because (according to Psalm 133) God approves of and blesses it. As well as that, it’s vital that local christians are invested in the peace and prosperity of our communities and I firmly believe CTW has a vital role to play in helping this happen. CTW has the ability to connect, co-ordinate and communicate effectively among the many believers who are working for transformation across a wide range of vital areas of city life.
This feels like a massive job ! How do all of our different churches work effectively together? There are so many and they are all so different.
Fundamentally the bible calls everyone who follows Jesus to express their faith in such a way as make a difference in their community. With this in mind, there are plenty of things christians can do together as they pray for God’s Kingdom to come and work practically to bring it about wherever they are.
Winchester has an amazing history of church unity, expressed both through large scale presentations such as The Passion and Just10, but also through the establishing of incredible charities such the Nightshelter, Trinity Centre and Basics Bank. There is so much for us to agree in in the areas of mission, compassion, justice and peace, that we really have no need to focus on the areas where we might have differences of opinion. I’m a firm believer that investing in genuine relationship can build bridges across any gaps and establish trust between leaders and congregations.
You’ve been working recently on appointing Churches Together Champions. Can you explain what they are?
This is a really exciting development! There are believers across the city who are in different congregations but who work in or share a passion for a particular area of ministry (eg. debt relief, climate justice etc). In some cases they are already supporting one another and sharing vital information, but in many cases that hasn’t really been happening – which results in people feeling isolated and re-inventing the wheel unnecessarily. We set out to identify the areas in which there was already activity happening, and the key people who might champion each of them.
The champions are ordinary christians who are already engaged in and passionate about their area, and who are actively connecting with others who share that enthusiasm. They aim to facilitate communication and the sharing of resources among that group and each have a section of this website where they share news and stories as well as details of relevant events.
Less than a year into this new structure, we currently have champions in the areas of Prayer, Disadvantaged Families, Debt, Climate Justice, Business, Chaplaincy and Refugee Crisis Response. We’re planning to release a champion for Evangelism/Mission soon, and also working with a group in the area of Elderly care. As this structure becomes more established, I’m sure we will be releasing champions in a number of other areas too.
Looking forward, what are your hopes for the future of Churches Together in Winchester?
We’ve achieved a great deal over the last year or so and the new structure is beginning to facilitate some great connections, conversations and activity. I’m excited that the organisation is reflecting a wide range of grass roots issues which most people can identify with or respond to.
The next stage is to start identifying where there are new opportunities for churches to take initiative together as they respond to the needs of the city. I’m keen to keep enabling leaders to develop and grow in the different areas of ministry. I would also love to see more of the younger generation reflected through the communications and activity of CTW.
The AGM is coming up on & June. Can you tell us briefly what we can expect from Churches Together for the rest of this year?
Developing & launching this website has been a big step forward and will help many more people connect with the work of CTW, so we’re aiming to expand its reach over the next few months.
Our AGM is happening on 7 June at Christchurch and will take the form of a ‘Champions Fayre’ with food, refreshments & display stalls for each area. One year on from the decision to make these big changes, we have plenty of activity going on and this should allow people to chat with the champions and find out more.
Looking further ahead, we are in the planning stages of an exciting Christmas project, which will hopefully involve churches right across the city in reaching their own communities but under one banner and PR campaign. I can’t say much more about that now – but it’s very exciting so watch this space.
Thanks Nigel, its been good to talk 🙂
You can hear from Nigel about the future of Churches Together at our Champions Fayre and AGM on Tuesday 7 June 7.15pm at Christ Church Winchester. Download your flyer below.