|Clint & Jamie Ussher|
Clint Ussher was recruited as an agent whilst at college in the USA and was then parachuted in behind enemy lines in Christchurch in January 2012.
OK, here’s what really happened!
The Wesleyan Methodist Church had wanted for more than a decade to plant a new work in the South Island that would in turn plant others. As so often happens, someone knew someone who knew someone who knew Clint; and he was recruited to start a new church in Christchurch while still in seminary completing his M.Div degree.
Clint and his wife Jamie took the time to clarify and confirm the Lord’s leading in this, and then got to work prepping for their mission and raising funds so they could land with the work fully supported financially.
They landed in Sydenham, Christchurch as a ‘parachute drop church plant’ – so-called because they began ‘cold’ with no existing relationships in the area they had come to serve. They spent the first year just establishing themselves as a family and forming a core team, only launching weekly worship gatherings and other ministries in February 2013. And so their church ‘The Well’ was born.
‘Food is how we started”, laughs Clint. “When we assembled a core group we were attending churches all over the city. We met at 4pm on Sunday afternoons and had potluck dinner together. We would gather around the piano in the living room, sing a few songs and then dive into the Word. That is what we did for a year.”
Clint has a clear vision of what he and his team are after. “There are different models of church, but we knew that a worship gathering (service) was going to be important for us. However, while corporate worship and preaching are true to Wesleyan distinctives, they are not an end in themselves. We want this to be a true community – a place of encouragement, support, inspiration, equipping and then sending out to live on mission the rest of the week. We want people to be developing relationships of depth and trust.”
|Backlit panels help create sacred |
space in a school hall
He enthusiastically tells me that the ideal of doing life together in community and supporting each other in mission has led to a collective of five families moving house to be closer to each other geographically. “We now have a group of folk living within a couple of blocks of each other, so rarely a day goes by when we don’t see each other or share a meal together. We want to be intentionally doing life together that is formative for us and our kids.”
The Well has attracted a lot of young families and young adults who find it harder to be part of a regular mid-week Life Group meeting. Inspired by Neil Cole’s book ‘Search & Rescue’ they have started Life Transformation Groups – small groups of two or three that meet regularly at any convenient time and place for 45-60 minutes to read, pray and be accountability partners for each other. Clint’s own group meets at 6:15am every Wednesday at McDonalds. “In accountability we don’t just focus on matters of personal integrity and character, but also on witness – ‘tell me how in the past week you have been a witness to Jesus Christ by word or deed’.” There are now more involved in Life Transformation Groups than in regular Life Groups.
What has the church done to increase their engagement with their community?
Their default is relational evangelism, and they have found Doug Pollock’s book ‘God Space’ most helpful in equipping the church for spiritual conversations.
They meet at a school and have forged great relationships with the staff and leadership there. Clint joined the Sydenham Business Association and is on the committee – a great way to meet the business leaders and make them aware of the church and their heart for the community.
They have done a lot of fun community stuff, like a series of family movies through winter which they advertised through a letterbox drop and a Mother’s Day brunch; and they have run support groups for those who have lost a loved one to suicide, and also for single mums suffering from mental illness.
But the most evangelistic fruit has been from Alpha. ‘Alpha has been so big for us!” says Clint, and tells me they are starting another Alpha course the very next day.
This church has grown from nothing to around 60 in three years. Clint is proud of the fact that there are a number of people on the journey with them who have a sense of belonging but who have not yet made a profession of faith. “We can be real, not hide our faith and still display the love of Jesus in a way that people find wonderfully attractive. In the meantime, we are letting the Holy Spirit do His work!”