Me with David Pytches and Barry Kissell at St Andrews Chorleywood
for the Ichthyans reunion in 2016
It was a great pleasure for me to attend a recent reunion of Ichthyans, the youth ministry at St Andrew’s Chorleywood. This was the church where I first met with Jesus and where my early faith and my first steps in ministry were nurtured.
I first heard of St Andrew’s Chorleywood through a small group of high school friends who explained the Gospel to me, patiently, over two and a half years of lunchtime debates at high school.When I gave my life to ChristSt Andrew’s t became my spiritual home too. I owe this community of faith a great debt of gratitude. So on my recent trip to the UK, it was a happy coincidence to be there for the reunion and a great privilege to thank the leaders publically for what they gave my generation and to share some reflections on just a few of the gifts of this special church:
St Andrews has given some great gifts to the world, some names you will know, others you won’t. If I just mention the New Wine festivals, Soul Survivor, Mike Pilavachi, Tim Hughes, Matt Redman; they are just the tip of the iceberg of a generation’s worth of “giving away” built into the DNA of St Andrew’s. This kingdom mindset – rather than one of parochial empire-building – has been a great model for many.
David Pytches and Barry Kissell worked closely together through two decades as they contributed not only this community but to renewal nationally and internationally. As a young believer I hung on their every word. So I was quite taken by surprise one day when I learned that David and Barry differed on what I felt was a rather important theological point (David says it could have been one of many(!) – I think it was to do with whether or not to baptise infants.
This encounter taught me early on that every believer must always remain a thinker, and always be willing to be sent back to Scripture with fresh questions. It taught me not to turn our pastors into gurus, oracles or “leaders” in the sense that Jesus proscribes. It also showed me, rather wonderfully, how two men who were not the same and did not always think the same could work together so beautifully and fruitfully. The good humoured banter, the dramatised friction, making jokes at each others’ expense but with always ,great affection was a constant and deliberate display for us of the grace involved in any shared journey or ministry. It modelled the ability to let first things come first and secondary things come second. David and Barry’s partnership showed the way for generations to come in the vital art of working in team.
Bishop David Pytches
David Pytches showed enormous courage and exhibited a wonderful ability to appear calm and reasoned in the most baffling of environments. Never moreso than following John Wimber’s first visit to Chorleywood in 1981.
The gift that John WImber and Vineyard gave to us included intimacy in worship, intentional engagement of the Holy Spirit during an intense season of healings, deliverances and conversions, a theological thoughtfulness, a gentleness of approach and a respectful heart towards people and churches. It took tremendous courage to take hold of that gift, understand it and then share it with the world.
In those days we never knew how a worship service would conclude, the Holy Spirit was so powerful and varied in his “showing up”. David has a wonderful way of reassuring us. “This is perfectly normal,” he might say as something we had never seen before started up in one part of the church. “Sometimes it’s difficult to stay standing up, or to sit still when the Holy Spirit touches you.” Or over peals of laughter or howls from a person being set free from something, “This is quite normal, when the Holy Spirit comes upon a person sometimes he sets us free from things…”
His capacity to make us feel safe in the midst of the unpredictability was amazing. But he did and so he carried us through those early and extraordinary days of renewal.
Margaret Knight headed up the healing ministry at the church. I am perpetually grateful to Margaret for her generous welcome of me onto that team when I was still a teenager. Margaret showed me a great firmness and gentleness awesomely combined in her work of promoting, developing and defending this ministry. She demonstrated that discipleship is not all about syllabus and method but about participation with a humbling and learning spirit in community with others. Margaret demonstrated that leadership is often about inclusion, experiment and reflection, service and love – and never about self-promotion.
At theological college I discovered an amazing Russian Mystic from the C18th-C19th who, in non revival times, carried an Acts of the Apostles ministry, bringing new birth, prophetic ministry and healing to many. St Seraphim of Sarov enjoyed an amazing intimacy with the Holy Spirit. I was curious that when I read Seraphim’s C19th words I was hearing them in my head in Barry’s voice! A couple of years later I asked Barry if he had ever heard of this obscure Russian saint. Barry smiled and said “That is the person who introduced me to the things of the Spirit.”
In an instant Barry showed me how the testimony of Scripture or of a brother or sister from the great Cloud of Witnesses can not only grip us but transform our own lives and potential. My sense of expectation for how God might might use our generation was instantly lifted. Barry was a walking case study!
In our regular after-service “ministry at the rail” and our faith-sharing travels Margaret Knight and Barry Kissell showed how a “word” from God never needs to be trumpeted or pressed upon the recipient in a way that forces them to accept it as if something had been spoken infallibly. I particularly recall how Barry would always share so humbly. “Now I don’t know if this is from the Lord but is there something about X…” BOOM! The word would hit home, not because it had been pumped up or fanfared. Just because Barry had the word and shared it. It was a great lesson and I saw Barry model this time and again.
St Andrew’s blessed me personally in more ways that I can list. The church’s engagement not only with the world of renewal nationally and around the world provided a great starting point to many in their journeys in faith and ministry. Local engagement with disengaged and challenging youth in the suburb and suburbs around us as well as with the children of Chorleywood through the annual field mission were great places for young Christian workers to cut their teeth in the ministry of the Gospel.
All in all St Andrews gave me and a countless number food for a (God-willing) long and fruitful journey. A saying in the air from my season with that church: “Of those to whom much has been given, much will be expected!”
I am one of a generation that interpreted that as a call to carry the blend of Anglican and Vineyard values that we imbibed at St Andrew’s into the wider church and the wider world. In the years since – thirty years or so – our contributions have been met with, shall I say, various degrees of welcome. The only way we have endured the push and pull of that amazing journey with all its joys and sorrows has been the grounding given us in the ministry of the church that so loved and nurtured us on our way. Enduringly, thank you St Andrew’s Chorleywood.