Jane’s call to a new ministry

Published: Monday January 30, 2023

Jane Penny in front of a display of leaf artJane’s creative approach to following her calling has transformed children’s and families’ provision in Lydney.

In 2021, Jane Penny was employed as a lay Children and Families Minister in Tidenham parish. Children’s church there was thriving and she had a secure job, but Jane felt an overwhelming sense that it was time to move on to something new.

“One day, I was in an online prayer meeting, hearing about a new scheme to provide South West Youth Ministries placements in Coleford.  I thought it was a shame they didn’t want anyone already qualified. In conversation, a few people had said to me that Lydney was struggling to provide outreach and discipling for children and families, but there was no job to go to. I started wondering whether Lydney might be right, but at the back of my mind I was wondering, ‘Am I crazy?’ ‘Is this completely off the wall?’

“I decided to meet with representatives from different worshipping communities in Lydney – the King’s Arms Community Church, Churches Together in Lydney, the Methodist Church …. I met with as many people as I could and I told them, ‘I think God is calling me to children’s work in Lydney’.”

All the worshipping communities agreed that they felt there was a need for Jane’s ministry and pledged to support her.

Churches Together in Lydney is unable to employ anyone directly, so the King’s Arms Community Church offered to employ Jane with the understanding that other churches and individuals would support her both prayerfully and financially. She has an Oversight Team with representatives from the different churches, and Jane reports back to them regularly on her work. She has a small prayer group where she finds support and prayer personally, as well as having six or seven different church leaders she can go to for support with particular issues specific to their church.

Funding and support come from a mixture of sources – Sylvanus Lysons made a contribution, Lydney Town Council has provided funding and churches and individuals locally also support Jane. There is ongoing grant funding. In the first two years, there has been approximately a £2,000 deficit at the end of the year, but the King’s Arms has generously made up this amount.

“I don’t really worry about money,” says Jane. “I know that God will provide what I need.”

Jane sends out regular prayer letters asking people to pray for things that come up and once a month a small group prayer walks the local area.

The worshipping community at Thrive made a prayer wall made with boxes decorated to represent people's gifts and talents with prayers stuck onto itWhen she began her ministry there was one popular church-run toddler group in Lydney called Pebbles. Now, there are two more toddler groups, as well as Nature Tots in Bathurst Park in Lydney, Messy Church in St Mary’s in Lydney (as it’s the only building big enough to hold all the worshippers), and occasional outdoor worship. Lydney Town Council is open to Bathurst Park being used for church events. Jane leads collective worship at Primrose Hill Primary CofE Academy and, eighteen months in, a new all-age service that meets in St Mary’s, called Thrive, is living up to its name.

Jane said, “There’s always a level of discernment about what God wants me to do. I don’t get involved with everything that comes up, I really try to take a step back and pray and reflect on what to join in with. My approach has been all about seeing what’s happening in the community and joining in and reaching out from there.

“I’m grateful to all the volunteers from all our churches who are running activities. One of the things that really excites me is that the people getting involved now are from all churches and none. The average person on the street doesn’t understand the difference between all the denominations of churches and just wants to feel that they and their children are welcomed and comfortable.”

Since Jane followed this call to Lydney, she says her faith has strengthened. “I feel real freedom to be the Jane that God is calling me to be. I have had to rely so much more on God that it has increased my trust in him.”

Jane on spirituality in toddler groups:

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