Alex and I wanted to write to you to update you on some of our latest news and reflections as well as to ask you, as our faithful supporters, to join us in prayer as we seek God for direction.
On a personal level, our biggest piece of news is that we’re expecting a baby at the end of March. We are delighted about this! Unfortunately, pregnancy so far hasn’t been the most enjoyable, and has been a rather long slog of nausea, being sick and generally feeling unwell. I’m now trying a third type of anti-sickness medication and am cautiously optimistic that I am finally turning a corner, having been off work for a few weeks. I am hugely grateful to Alex who has been so patient during this time and has massively risen to the various domestic tasks that I haven’t felt up to including cooking on a regular basis!
Regarding ministry, we are taking some time to review and evaluate our work at 8SC, the community house for ex-offenders, having been up and running for almost a year. So far, this is taking the form of our own personal reflections and prayers for guidance, conversations with and wisdom from others, as well as a review meeting with some Yellow Ribbon charity colleagues next week. It goes without saying that none of this work would be possible without you, our prayer and financial supporters. And so, we would love to invite you to share with us any reflections, words or images that may arise as you join us in prayer at this time. Thank you.
There has been much to celebrate over the past year – the development of a small but solid community where people have found a sense of family and belonging; a safe place for people to grow in confidence and in their walks with God; milestones like clean and sober birthdays and personal achievements (such as one resident cycling over 50 miles to Birmingham for a charity event). The house has regularly been prayed and worshipped in; in fact, visitors will have a hard time leaving the property without being prayed for by one particular community member! Alex and I feel blessed to have begun to build a great support network here in Shrewsbury, both for ourselves and community members; in particular, a group of local supportive people who have accepted our invitation to become ‘8SC Companions’.
It will not come as a surprise that this year has not been without its challenges. There are a few things which have led us to this point of evaluating and taking stock. Notably, these include the departure in recent weeks of two of our residents due to major relapses in their addictions which led one of them to hospital and a long-term physical recovery ahead and the other to a return to prison. This currently leaves only one resident living at 8SC, who I am pleased to report is still going strong! Despite one or two potential new referrals in the pipeline, we (and the charity who are more at risk financially) are increasingly conscious that we have struggled to achieve a steady flow of referrals for suitable applicants, which has been somewhat disappointing. Additionally, there is a sense in which the project hasn’t quite been what we initially envisioned. Alex in particular was passionate that the community would reflect a New Monastic style and be a deeply praying and outward-looking missional community. While some of these goals have been met, the high demands for emotional and practical forms of support among residents have meant we haven’t been as outward-looking and missional as we would have hoped. A final factor in our current thinking and evaluation is that I will be needing to step back from many of my work responsibilities when I go on maternity leave in spring.
Of course, these reflections leave us with the question of ‘what if we discontinue 8SC?’. We still feel excited about the thought of continuing in a ministry capacity here in Shrewsbury – potentially freed up to explore developing a praying New Monastic community in a non-residential form with local people, inspiring contemplative action locally as well as possibly online, while engaging in other outreach work, for example, in local prisons (Alex would love to teach men in prison to pray contemplatively as it can be so grounding and transformative) and offering some discipleship groups and/or mentoring to Yellow Ribbon clients, all of whom have their own struggles with addictions and mental health etc. We would also continue to closely support our remaining resident, who may be moving into his own flat in Shrewsbury in the new year. These ideas are all very nascent and no decisions have yet been made.
It is currently a challenge to hold in tension the possibility of continuing with 8SC in its current format on one hand, whilst starting to envision what our other options could be on the other. However, we felt it appropriate to share this with you now and hope that you’ll be keen to continue journeying with us and help us hold the tension and discern what next.
- Thanks for the gift of new life! Prayers for the healthy development of our baby, for my sickness symptoms to continue to be kept at bay and for my energy levels to return.
- Prayers for the two 8SC residents who left us in recent weeks – for their continued recovery journeys and for a renewed faith in God
- For our remaining 8SC resident – for strength to continue his recovery and hope for the future
- Discernment for Alex and me in the coming weeks and months around 8SC’s future, where God most wants us to be and how we can best serve Him
Thank you so much everyone and we look forward to continuing to journey with you!
Blessings, Rachel and Alex