Brandon Baptist Church Redcar Street, SE5 0NA
Brandon is a Baptist church on a large mixed housing estate in the northern part of Camberwell, south-east London. The membership and congregation of the church is very diverse, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status, with a high proportion of those involved living within a mile of the church building. The church’s membership (both full and associate) at the beginning of the year was 59 with two people added to the role during the year, including one newly baptized young person. However, we also lost five members during the year through various circumstances.
The leadership of the church reflects the diversity of its membership, with leaders from Britain, Africa and the Caribbean. The church pastor is Revd Steve Calder, who came to the church with his family in April 2007, and the Secretary and Treasurer are David Watkins and David Cleverly respectively, who have both been in their roles long-term. There is also a group of leaders who meet on a monthly basis to give pastoral oversight and spiritual direction to the church. This group also makes recommendations on important issues to the bi-monthly church members’ meeting, which has final authority on issues within the life and witness of the church.
As with many churches, the Sunday morning service is a showcase on the life of the fellowship, with between 80-90 people attending. The usual format of this is 45 minutes of broadly all-age worship followed by 30-40 minutes of age appropriate teaching groups for those who are under 18 years old. Meanwhile, the adults remain in the large room to look at the Bible together and reflect on its implications for how we live in a complex world. The service is followed by refreshments, during which one of the often-stated qualities of Brandon is much in evidence: a genuine warmth of fellowship and a commitment to long-term community within our inner-city environment.
Brandon does not have a heavy weekday programme, but rather seeks to support people in being distinctively Christian in their everyday lives: and indeed a number of people within the church are involved with various community groups and charities, both Christian and secular. Having said this, there is some weekday activity: a prayer group meets on Tuesday evenings, and a monthly Young Adults group meets for food, fun and faith discussions. Various people also meet for a coffee morning once a month for pastoral support, encouragement and prayer, in a church member’s home.
The church’s youth work which is called “Mayhem” continues to develop, with up to 18 young people engaging in the varied programme of social, sport-related and spiritually-focussed events. The church does not have a paid youth worker but has four committed volunteers who plan the programme together and are well supported by the rest of the church. The highlight of Mayhem’s year was their trip to Devon in late July, during which they went body-boarding in the sea, played football against a local village team and helped to lead the service in the grounds of Castle Hill, a stately home in north Devon. Kyle Henderson-Begg, a youth worker from Youth With A Mission helped the young people to reflect on how God can help them overcome the obstacles in their lives.
Earlier in July, as a fundraiser for their trip, Mayhem organised a ticketed event: a Hollywood Night for which people had to dress as their favourite movie stars. The young people then cooked a sumptuous meal, waited upon their guests and performed various musical acts.
As part of the church’s commitment to social action, in June the church renewed its membership of London Citizens, a grassroots alliance of faith groups, schools, trade unions and other community groups which works together to put pressure on those with power in order to achieve goals “for the common good” around various aspects of social justice. This year, Steve was the co-chair of Southwark Citizens, and this helped the church to get more involved, particularly in the Living Wage campaign and City Safe, the campaign for safer streets and communities. With the ongoing economic crisis, the church has also continued to support the Peckham Foodbank, which provides an emergency supply of food to people in need.
As well as our customary annual programme, the church enjoyed a number of special events during the year. One of the highlights of the year was the Church Weekend Away in mid-June, which happened to be one of the wettest weekends of the summer! Despite this, over 50 people from the church enjoyed an excellent three days of good food, fun and fellowship at a new venue, the Dalesdown Centre in East Sussex. Revd Kumar Rajagopalan, (the Regional Minister for Racial Justice at the London Baptist Association) helped those present to think through what it means to be a truly multicultural church. This year, the church outing in July visited Hastings, and once again a large coach-load made the trip and enjoyed the day, despite the coach being heavily delayed on the way home. Christmas this year was celebrated with a Social Evening, another memorable All-Age Carol service and an evening Carols by Candlelight service. The year was concluded with over 30 children and parents enjoying a ten-pin bowling afternoon. During the year we also celebrated the dedication of three babies of families within the church. So, for these and many other reasons, 2011 has been another noteworthy year in the life of this church.
This has been a challenging year financially, as the two long-term users of our building have had to cease their occupancy during this year, due to their own financial constraints. This has also meant that the building is not being used as a local community resource in the way that the church would like, an issue which church leaders are seeking to address. Notwithstanding all of this, we give praise to God for all that has been achieved during this year, and commit ourselves to cooperating with him in the future to see more good things happen in our church, our local community and within society more broadly.