Karen and Sandra write: Martin and Suzette plan to leave Lee Abbey Aston in August. We thought this was a good time to ask them to look back and reflect on their time here. People attending our Open Fellowship Evening in February suggested these questions:
You’ve been leaders at the Lee Abbey House in Aston for 10 years. How long have you lived in Aston in total, and what first called you here?
M & S: “We came to Birmingham from London back in 1985 ― 20 years ago ― to work with C.M.S. as Mission Partners in Aston Parish Church. We had been running a boys’ hostel in Lewisham/Blackheath, became redundant, and felt God was calling us to inner city life and work. We imagined that would be in London, until we saw an advert for a Church Worker in Aston, Birmingham! So blame God for us being here!”
In what ways do you feel your gifts have been used?
M & S: “In general, our gifts have been with people ― people with different faiths, of different ages, from different backgrounds and cultures ― so the need has been for flexibility and adaptability. Martin’s gifts have been used in the local comprehensive school just down the road, teaching and mentoring in a predominantly Pakistani and Bangladeshi population. Suzette’s gifts of listening and counselling have been used in the local fellowships and in one-to-one counselling in the house. From the house we have been able to extend hospitality, support local projects, organise Parish Holidays, and use the gift of encouragement to facilitate others to know their strengths and abilities to serve God.”
What have been the challenges and difficulties?
M & S: “Living in Community is, in itself, a constant challenge! Not living in one’s own home imposes limitations, and trying to live simply and not be wasteful is a challenge, particularly as supporters make sacrificial donations towards the work. We would like to change the word “difficulties” to “frustrations” please ― one of our frustrations is the insularity of believers who can’t see past their own denominational boundaries, and the many who choose to come in to the fellowship, but live miles away, so are unavailable for the day-to-day caring ministry among local people.”
What will you miss; what have you enjoyed most?
M & S: “People, and people! We have made many wonderful friends, so saying “goodbye” after 20 years will not be easy. We will miss the growing fellowship of the Aston Churches Together, particularly the level of sharing and trust amongst the church leaders. Suzette will miss the garden: an oasis of peace, a place of reflection, and balm after a difficult client! We have really enjoyed seeing the house being used for all sorts of people, groups, events, as a resource, and as a place of welcome, encouragement and prayer. Long may it continue! Our passion is the unity of God’s church, so we have enjoyed facilitating and encouraging that unity here in Aston.”
Karen and Sandra end by saying: “We, and lots of people, will miss you both very much. We will be praying for you as you set up home again in Clevedon.”
P.S. The last question from the group: Are you going to write a book?!