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 56 with 2 people added to the role during the year and 4 losses 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: the genuine warmth of fellowship and 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 a group of committed volunteers who plan the programme together and are well supported by the rest of the church.
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 continued as co-chair of Southwark Citizens, and the church was particularly involved in setting up a CitySafe Zone at Camberwell Green, as part of 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. The church was also involved in setting up a multi-faith ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) course with the local Islamic Centre. The weekly course has been well attended and runs alternately at the church and the mosque.
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 Community Fun Day in late May, which was billed as a Community Oh-lympics (quite different to the international sporting event which is brand-protected) We had various races and competitions during the event, with a medal ceremony at the end of the afternoon. We also had a bouncy castle, face-painting, BBQ’d food and a number of stalls. The event was blessed with wonderful weather (a miracle in itself this year!) and hundreds of local people came to enjoy a fun afternoon. Once again, a large coach-load went on our Church Outing to Hastings in early July and despite rather inclement weather, the day was enjoyed by many. Christmas this year was celebrated with a “Winter Sunshine” 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, 2012 has been another noteworthy year in the life of this church.
Similarly to last year, 2012 has been a challenging year financially, and we continue to look for ways to use our building creatively as a local community resource. However, despite the challenges, we thank God for all that has been achieved during this year, and intend to continue working with him in the future to see more good things happen in our church, our local community and within society more broadly.