Today I attended church, my church – Providence Baptist. This is what we do most Sundays, ever since we began going there some four years ago when the church we were at, at the time, decided to close. This Sunday was a bit different though – it marked the end of an era. Our full time pastor, Roger Ninnis was stepping down from his full time role, having helped build up the work from a tiny congregation. As a church, we wanted to specially mark the occasion by inviting folk that had been associated with Roger and our church over the years to come and pay their tributes. It was a happy occasion – service followed by a meal and some presentations and speeches. My own tribute is included in this letter I sent him …
I wanted to add this as my tribute to you as you step down from being a full time elder at Providence.
When some three years ago, the church I have been associated with for most of my life decided to close, it was a hard decision where to go next. Given my controversial and belligerent nature, I feared what might happen if I was to join a number of churches in the town, partly because my assessment was that while there are some excellent ministers, too many are too full of themselves and we would fall out. It didn’t help that coming from the Plymouth Brethren and while realizing its faults have views on how church should be. I do not put you in that category and it is your self-effacing humility is what endears you to me. I liked it in those early days you were unphased when I told you I did not agree 100% with all the doctrines of the church and none of that would be a barrier to my becoming a member.
I was well aware of Spurgeon’s advice that if I were to find the perfect church I ought to leave it in case I would spoil it, but then no church in Southend is perfect and I sought what best met the needs of me and my family. In the end it was a choice between a happy clappy, community engaging, biblically wishy washy outfit and one that wasn’t. Providence fell into the latter category. I was also mindful that at the end of his time at Junior school the Bible club you led at Providence was the only extra-curricular activity that our son was willing to take part in without any objection, and that I believe was because he responded to the kindness shown. The fact both Matthew and Jolly quite liked it, we decided to join Providence. And for the record, I for one had no problem you spending the next two years in James.
It occurred to me that Providence is the sort of church that is a modern day equivalent to David’s Cave of Adullam, which drew in all the discontents. I think in our area there are those who want to be under sound doctrine and good order, which sadly they don’t sense elsewhere to the extent that is needed, and while Providence is weaker in some areas, it provides this, due to your leadership. I love its multi-cultural, all-age feel, a sense that there are good people who love the Lord and want to serve him and many are gifted in a variety of ways. I suspect there are weaknesses (I know there are) but given the flak I get putting my head above the parapet in the wider (including Christian) community, it has been nice to mainly keep out of controversy. I value Providence as a haven and a needed corrective. I like it that it manages to attract fundamentalist types and yet does not make any non-essential matter an issue. I also like the emphasis on old fashioned attention to faithful service and the pastoral care concerns for its members, especially the elderly and infirm. Much of this is down to you and Ann leading the way. Personally, I appreciated both your help at my night shelter and saw you as my sensible, reliable A-team.
You will both be in our affections and prayers in the days to come. One of the finest accolades in scripture is “well done good and faithful servant”. I believe your 31 years at Providence is the evidence.
Yours in Christ