Keeping It Local - 'A sense of greater responsibility comes with recognition'

We spoke to Ann Petty, new Local Missional Leader for The Oaks, Skelmersdale

Ann (pictured centre) is married to Duncan, the Minister-in-Charge of Oaks Church in Skelmersdale. She has been involved in leadership alongside him in an unofficial voluntary capacity since Oaks was planted over 10 ½ years ago. Duncan would describe Ann as a pioneer within a pioneer setting with a huge enthusiasm for starting new things, but a lot less for seeing them completed!

Oaks, mostly ministering on the Tanhouse Estate, continues to seek how to bring the good news of Jesus to a community that is largely unchurched. It is an area of high depravation across many categories with all the expected problems associated with poverty.

Ann didn’t come to faith until she was 29 (closely followed by Duncan), in Hedge End, Southampton. Those pre-Christian years have helped shape her ministry. Says Ann:
“The previous 15 years before I came to faith definitely shaped my ministry now as a Local Missional Leader (LML). In those days I was not very positive towards the church as I felt it held no relevance to me or those I knew. It wasn’t until I got involved with a new church plant called St Luke’s, which impacted all of my life and not just Sunday, that I began to see the light.”

From the early beginnings of St Luke’s, which initially met in a Community Centre, Ann was fully involved and that pioneering gifting began to flourish. Following 2 years at Oak Hill College in North London, where Duncan trained for ordination, and 5 years at St John’s, Burscough for his curacy, Ann was more than ready to be involved in another church plant in Skelmersdale. The past 10 or so years have been a challenging, frustrating, exciting and blessed time. Ann has been fully involved supporting Duncan and trying to discern with him how best to allow God to transform their community. They have tried many things; some successful and some ending in apparent failure. Throughout  Oaks journey Ann has, among other things, lead worship and small groups, been very involved in community cohesion, been a member of Skelmersdale Street Pastors and led and helped with youth and children’s work.

At times Oaks journey has been a steep learning curve and they admit they got pressured into being too ‘churchy’ too soon. Ann continues: “Fortunately I’ve never forgotten my pre-faith days and I hope that has helped me to communicate with people to make Jesus more relevant to them. When I was approached to consider becoming a LML, I didn’t see it would significantly change my role, but it has made it easier to have an ‘official’ title when being introduced to secular service providers. Since being commissioned at the end of November in the Tanner Pub on Tanhouse, I have noticed a sense of greater responsibility that comes with recognition. I mean this in a positive way. I’m looking far more at the sustainability of new initiatives I start and am now always looking for the next leader. This in turn has led to more of a call to mentoring which is all good.

At present I am running a whole life discipleship group for women (and their children!) called Mums on Monday. Duncan and I are about to lead a Daniel plan course (from Saddleback Church, California) with friends from St Paul’s Church in Skelmersdale. The vision for this is to make it more ‘British’ and accessible to our immediate community.

Finally, over the past few years, God has been growing in me a compassion and desire to help addicts and offenders/ex-offenders. Although the need is great in our community, few doors seem to be opening at present to significantly tackle this destructive lifestyle. We continue to pray.

I would like to finish by thanking Liverpool Diocese and especially Linda Jones for their support and encouragement. It is so appreciated”.