I’m delighted to be in the new role of County Ecumenical Officer.
My name is Chris Ruddle and I am a Baptist minister, currently serving in Folkestone Baptist Church half time and half time in this new role. I’ve been happily married to Katy now for nearly 20 years. She is the co-minister as we work together in the church. We have a beautiful thirteen year old daughter who is the light of my life. This will excite some of you but cause others to groan – but my hobbies really begin and end with Science Fiction. I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to sci-fi books, be it Asimov or Aldiss, Chris Bunch or Iain (M) Banks. I’m partial to a bit of Star Trek too.
I can remember my first foray into ecumenism as a teenager, when, alongside the Church Army chaplain and folk from the Catholic and Pentecostal churches, I was involved in putting on a youth event in a church hall. The neighbours thought it a little on the loud side, but it was my first insight into the value and strength of working together in informal partnerships built on relationship.
For me, my passion is mission. We live in a county that needs to become reacquainted with the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the hope for those without enough food who go for help to the food banks run by many of our local Churches Together groups. He is the answer for the young people who need help as they stagger out of pubs late at night and are assisted by Christians equipped through the work of Street Pastors.
In many different ways, I’ve seen that when churches work together two things happen. Firstly, there is a strength to what we do – internally. Spiritually and relationally, it feels right. (And that’s not a surprise because Jesus said we already are one body). In that unity there is a galvanizing of the Spirit’s work as we pursue our common purpose. Secondly, there is a strength externally. Jesus’ words were that we would be united so that the world would believe in him. As the people of Kent see the church out on the streets, together, they sit up and take notice. “Who is this Jesus?” they will say, “who can bring together a disparate, rag-tag bunch of people, from all walks of life, from all racial and social backgrounds?” It is this that excites me: that our unity is a driver for mission.
I’m still in the process of finding out about the various ways of working together across the county of Kent and look forward to encouraging mission together in the months to come.
Chris Ruddle – County Ecumenical Officer