Manchester Anabaptist Study Group

What kind of a community are you and where are you based?

We are a small group of about 15 members, who live in and around south Manchester. We come from at least five different congregations. We meet monthly on an evening at the Friends Meeting House in Cheadle Hulme, south of Manchester. Within the membership can be found congregational leaders, students, those who work in education or medicine, and four
who are retired from their daily work. The group membership comprises both men and women, married and single, parents and grandparents. Our church connections include traditional denominational congregations, new community churches, Fresh Expressions.

How and why did you begin?

We began in 2006 when Jenny and Brian Haymes left London and came to live on the edge of Manchester. With the help of a list of people gathered by Stuart Murray Williams they wrote to about thirty people in the area to see if there was any interest in forming a study group. About a dozen responded and so we began to meet. From the first there was a geographical spread, one member coming in from Liverpool! What we had in common was an interest in radical discipleship. Some of us had attended Workshop courses, or single conferences, often taught by Alan and Eleanor Kreider while they were in Manchester in the 1990s. The response was sufficient for us to form a local group. The membership has changed through the years with an average monthly attendance of twelve people. A common longing remains a sense that within the Anabaptist traditions are ways to help us engage in the more faithful following of Jesus which we desire.

What are your main values, activities and priorities?

Our main activity is our monthly meeting. This has become an important event for sharing news in ways by which we become mutually supportive. We pray together. We have a programme of shared reading, discussing a book together. Among the volumes read in this way are The Upside Down Kingdom, Worship and Mission after Christendom, and A Culture
of Peace. This year we are setting ourselves to work on John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus. There is an openness in the group that all find helpful as we share personally and seek to discern the will of Christ for the church today.Supporting one another in discipleship is one of our goals.

In what ways do you draw on the Anabaptist tradition?

That we seek to draw on that tradition is obvious in the books we have chosen to read and discuss together. We have also used the series of video presentations prepared some years ago. Twice we have worked through the core convictions of the Anabaptist Network. We try to be honest about the themes the tradition presents to us, with special respect to the various congregations in which we serve. We have been helped by having in the group some who have read widely in Anabaptist matters and the presence of two Mennonite members we count as a real gift. In our discussions we try to practise Anabaptist ways of mutual listening, which is important because we have differences of opinion and practice among us. We are planning to eat together!

What are your hopes for the Anabaptist Network of Communities?

We have not thought much about our future hopes but we are grateful that the network is in being. We have tried to send representatives to meetings to draw on the wisdom and fellowship given within the network. Two of us attend the Theological Forum. We are grateful for the newsletter and sometimes mourn the passing of Anabaptism Today whose treasury of articles we have been known to raid. We are grateful for the web-pages and hope that such connections
between communities can be maintained in a common search for renewal. We are grateful for the sense of connectedness with others. We send our greetings to brothers and sisters in other groups and communities.