Norwich celebration held for retiring Regional Minister
The Eastern Baptist Association met for their Annual Assembly in Norwich on Saturday where they celebrated the life and ministry of retiring Regional Minister Team Leader, Rev Richard Lewis before he passed on a ceremonial staff to his successor Rev Beth Powney and the Regional Ministry team. Jenny Seal reports.
On Saturday, July 22 a celebration of the ministry of Rev Richard Lewis, who is retiring from his role as Regional Minister Team Leader for the Eastern Baptist Association (EBA), took place at the Annual Assembly of the Northern Sector of the EBA.
The gathering at Norwich Central Baptist Church opened with a Bible study led by President of the Baptist Union Dianne Tidball, followed by the formal AGM for the EBA and a report on the Baptist Missionary Society.
At 3.15pm the Assembly led by Rev Linda Turner, Moderator of the EBA, turned its attention to Rev Richard Lewis presenting him with a good humoured ‘This is Your Life’ (and Ministry) type biography complete with photographs displayed from throughout his life.
Linda began: “So for the last 15 years Richard has taken part in our Association life. In January 2002 he became the Acting Moderator of the Executive Council and since then he hasn’t been able to escape!” In 2007 the Association appointed him Regional Minister for the Northern Sector and in 2015 Richard became the Regional Minister Team Leader.
The Assembly heard that Richard Lewis, aged 64, was born on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales. He left school at age 16 and worked in the TSB where he met Jean, who he married in 1977. They soon had four children and in 1980 Richard became President of Christian Endeavour and went to work in their head office in Leamington Spa.
While working for Christian Endeavour Richard felt the call for ministry and in 1985 became a Student Minister in Earby, Lancashire. In 1988 he was called to Shipley Baptist Church where he ministered until 1994. Church members from Shipley sent message and delegates to the occasion, one remembering: “that the church grew so much in his time that they had to have the building extended”.
Richard and his family moved to Penarth in 1994 to be the Missioner / Secretary for what is now the South Wales Baptist Association. Finally in 1999 Richard arrived in the East called to be Minister at Earls Hall Baptist Church in Westcliffe on Sea in Essex, before moving to Bedford in 2007 to be inducted as Regional Minister for the EBA.
Richard’s wife Jean was presented with a bouquet of flowers and thanked “for her contribution to Baptist Union life and for her willingness to share Richard and for her support behind the scenes”. Richard, playing on his dislike of ‘gushiness’ was presented with a joke ‘No Frills Retirement Gift’ coffee mug plus a cheque and a garden bench on behalf of the churches of the EBA.
Following prayer Richard was invited to pass on some reflections from his years in ministry. He said: “My reflection is that I soon had to realise that the ministry which I have enjoyed, for most of the time, has been God’s gift.”…“We are called to be ministers together as a gift of God for the communities in which we find ourselves. I want you to go away from this understanding that whoever He calls to serve and to work with you, you together are ministers of the Gospel because God has called you. It is God’s gift to you and you are God’s gift to each other and to our communities”.
Richard then instructed the gathering to: “Dream big dreams for God and then hold your dream lightly.”
He said: “I think as a Baptist family, as Baptists together, as our Union, as the EBA, we need to dream the big dream but we need to hold it lightly. I’m not saying dismiss it, but be able to allow the dream to flex and change as we listen to each other. And we need to listen to each other. Because God, by the power of his spirit, will take that dream and he will shape it into what he believes to be the plans and purposes he has.”
He continued: “Those of you who are ministers hear this: the success of your ministry is not necessarily what you do when you are there, the success of your ministry is when you walk out of the door for the last time. Can this church continue effective ministry and mission without you?
“I believe that if you were to look back on my 25 - 30 years of Baptist ministry, I more or less got that bit, if nothing else, right. I have allowed churches to become effective, not because of me, but without me. And that is a key principle for any of us within ministry.”
Coming to the conclusion of his reflections Richard said: “Significant church life and growth happens when we think outside the box. My plea to you as an Association, which you are pretty good at doing actually, is think outside the box. Be bold, be strong, because God is with you.”
Following worship, Richard then presented a ceremonial staff that had been passed to him by his predecessor Rev Paul Hills to the Regional Ministry team of Rev Nick Lear, Rev Simon Goddard and his successor Rev Beth Powney as a symbol of their authority amongst the churches of the EBA before praying a blessing on them and the gathering.
Richard officially retires on August 31 and Rev Beth Powney, minister of Sandy Baptist Church in Bedfordshire, will take up her appointment as the Team Leader and Regional Minister for the Northern Sector of the EBA on September 1.
Main Photo: Rev Richard Lewis and Rev Beth Powney
Inset Photograph (L-R): Rev Linda Turner, Rev Beth Powney, Rev Lynn Green (General Secretary of the Baptist Union), Rev Dianne Tidball and Rev Richard Lewis