Ann Petty reflects on five exciting and challenging years as a Local Missional Leader

“I have come to realise that it’s important to use your gifts and personality in a way that suits you”

I have to say it came as a bit of a shock that my five-year license as a Local Missional Leader (LML) was coming to an end in November this year. Where on earth did those five years go? What have I learned? What have I passed on? These and many other questions come to mind as I reflect on five exciting and challenging years.

As I started out on my LML journey five years ago, I had quite a firm idea of where I was heading and what I was hoping to achieve. I think God had other ideas and his leading began to steer me on a slightly different path. I think I heard him correctly as to the general objectives he wanted to achieve through me, but he gently steered me on his journey to achieve these objectives.

I re-read an article I did for the Diocese about five years ago and noticed I was talking a lot about whole-life discipleship and how I was hoping to see fruit from this as an LML. I, and Oaks Church, in general, were beginning to look at how courses were often unhelpful in our setting in Tanhouse and one to one, frequent contact seemed to deliver better results. Sometimes, along the way, this has been a difficult lesson to learn, but now we are beginning to see fruit.

Five years ago I started a whole life discipleship group with half a dozen women and their children and we looked at all aspects of health; physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual. We learned together that all these aspects are essential and one weak element can pull the rest down. We cooked and ate together and discussed different topics that affected our health and we all began to be helped by the group. Sadly life often got in the way of Monday evenings and we eventually had to abandon the more formal setting and disbanded the group. This was really discouraging for me as I felt somewhat of a failure. This was my main project as an LML and in less than three years it had stopped. However, another two years on and I can now see the direction Oaks has taken in living by a rule of life and functioning in the seven sacred spaces was helped by those early days with Mums on Monday.

I love taking ‘Church’ to the people and trying to bring Jesus to a secular setting in a relevant way, so I was delighted to get involved with the Well Skelmersdale movement which is trying to address the health inequalities faced in Skelmersdale in a new and innovative way. It fitted in so well with some of what Oaks was trying to do. It’s been a slow and often frustrating process but at last, as I finish my time as an LML, we are seeing progress. Oaks is very involved with a new Tanhouse Together project that is seeking to encourage those already working in our community to join up the dots and work together. This will include our hard-pressed Primary Health Care providers working more closely with the community and the community, including the church, to bring some of what we offer into the health setting. It’s all in it’s infancy at the moment, but we all believe it will make a real difference.

What advice can I give to someone considering becoming an LML? Always seek God first. Prayer is so important to open and close doors to ministries we seek to explore. I have come to realise that it’s important to use your gifts and personality in a way that suits you and not try to copy how others have done things. I don’t think God minds too much if we give things a try and they don’t work out quite how we hoped. He’s certainly allowed me to lay experiences to one side and then reminded me of that knowledge to use at a later date, perhaps in a slightly different way. 

Duncan (my husband and Minister-in-Charge of Oaks) and I plan to retire (or re-focus as we prefer to say) in about 16 months’ time. It will be very sad to say goodbye to the many friends we have made here through Oaks but we have a rich experience of ministry here in Tanhouse that will hopefully have prepared us for our next calling.

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