Ford, Plymouth — home to the new Lee Abbey SMC

Susan Edmondson, Chair of Lee Abbey Small Missional Communities Board, outlines an exciting development

This article was published in the September to December 2020 issue of Rapport magazine.

Over a number of years, the Small Missional Communities (SMC) Board has had numerous enquiries about the possibility of starting new Lee Abbey SMCs. We have followed them up as far as we have been able, but often they have been unrealistic or the enquirers have not fully understood or wanted to follow the Lee Abbey Rule of Life.

More recently, of course, we supported the Acton Vale Community, by making a loan, along with the Diocese of London, to provide housing for Mark and Carrie Bishop, and by journeying with them as they explored forming a community without all being under one roof.

Also, Annie Naish, former Mission Chaplain at Lee Abbey Devon, and I spent many hours in Doncaster a few years ago, at the request of the Diocese of Sheffield, looking at starting a community in a redundant vicarage but, for various reasons, this did not develop, although our meetings were a catalyst to greater cooperation between the local churches.

However, now we have the exciting news that there will be a new Lee Abbey SMC in Ford, Plymouth.

This has been brokered over many meetings and discussions between Nick Haigh (Mission Chaplain) Lee Abbey Devon, Andy Wooding Jones (SMC Advocate) and representatives of the Diocese of Exeter. We feel we have in this new development something of a ‘blueprint’ that may work elsewhere. We are now much clearer what we are offering as partners in such a venture, embodied in our ‘hallmarks’, and we have discerned how a partnership with a diocese might work.

We will not own the community house as we do in Knowle West and Aston, but technically be tenants of the diocese, and we will be sharing in the recruitment for and support of the Community with representatives of the diocese, in particular the Archdeacon of Plymouth.

We are pleased to announce that Rev Claire McIlroy is a new member of our SMC Board. Her appointment was unrelated to our discussions with the diocese, but she lives in Plymouth and will be our local representative on the Ford SMC Local Support Group.

So as the Chair of the SMC Board, I want to say thank you – to all those who have worked so hard towards making this happen, for vision, for attention to detail, for persistence – and above all thanks to the Lord for being the creator and sustainer of all that we think are ‘our’ plans.

Susan Edmondson
Chair SMC Board 

First Ford SMC member

From September I’m going to be curate at St Mark’s and will be living in St Mark’s House. Joining the Small Missional Community is a chance to be at the heart of Ford and see where God is leading us. I’m excited for what could happen as we minister, pray, and hopefully build some amazing relationships with one another and the local community. Here’s a chance to jump on board and see another part of this awesome city come to know Jesus in ways that make a real difference!

Jon Devereux
SMC member and Curate, St Mark’s Church

Do you believe in coincidences?

I don’t – but I do think that the still small voice of the Holy Spirit presents us with an opportunity that it is hard not to trip over on occasions. The development of a Small Missional Community at St Mark’s House, with St Mark’s adjoining, is just such an opportunity. With a number of circumstances coming together at the same time, we would be fools to miss this God-given opportunity. Therefore, we move forward in faith, aware of the challenges, but excited by the opportunity to proclaim the kingdom.

Archdeacon of Plymouth, Nick Shutt

A great setup for imaginative mission

A large six-bedroom house no longer needed as a vicarage, alongside a modern church no longer used for worship – a great setup for imaginative mission in a rundown part of Plymouth. In an urban location, with Lidl and Co-op down the road, our hopes are for a joyful, prayerful Christian presence which speaks of God’s love in a way that transforms lives and gets talked about at the school gate.

Bishop of Plymouth, Nick McKinnel

Building a missional community

This new initiative in Plymouth is both exciting and challenging for those God calls to join the Small Missional Community. The Lee Abbey Rule of Life and the SMC Hallmarks will provide a framework for the new Community to discover together how God wants to lead them as they seek Him first.

There will be the challenge of forming Community together rooted and grounded in love, of establishing a new rhythm of life, and through sharing gifts and talents the new Community will discover the challenge of how to be missional. The adjacent church will offer a place to pray, to develop community activities and to gather with others to encounter God.

There is a sense both of the unexpected and of adventure as we wait to see who else will join the Community, and how God will lead them, and build a missional community and develop a church. Please join with us as we pray for others to join Jon Devereux in forming the new Community, and as they together seek God for His plans in sharing and revealing His love for Ford.

An invitation to pray

If you would like to receive regular prayer updates from Plymouth SMC or if you are in the Plymouth area and would like to be informed of prayer gatherings to support the Community, please contact Andy Wooding Jones.

Lee Abbey Friends – we value your prayer and support. Please keep praying for this exciting new opportunity.

New Community members

We are looking for about four more people to join the Community, including a Community leader. Normally SMC members undertake only part-time work in order to allow time for serving as part of the SMC. Please nudge anyone you know who might be interested – they might already be in Plymouth or could be living somewhere else.

Further information and an enquiry form

Archdeacon Andy Wooding Jones, SMC Advocate