There has been a Student ministry in Southampton for over 40 years! Below is a brief history of the ministry written by the various individuals / couples who have been responsible for the group.
Ron Finlay, Ian & Vicky Munroe (1968 to 1971)
The ministry in Southampton began when I with Ian Munroe moved to Southampton in July of 1968. I came from Manchester and Ian from London. We lived in Shirley in a flat above Plaxtons in the home of John & Pamela Jackson of Above Bar Church (John died just over a year ago) Pamela is still at ABC. Ian and I slept in their lounge for around six months, – great generosity of the Jacksons. After the six months we moved into a flat in Alma Road where we were joined by Paul Allcock (also at ABC). The ministry began with door knocking when we met up with students who became involved in our ministry.
Several names – Vernon Blackmore, now an Anglican Clergyman, Trevor Barnett and Chris Appleby (now a Trustee of The Navigators). The ministry was fruitful and joined in with some women’s work in Soton led by Celia Goshawk (now Nicholson) and Jean Douglas (now a Trustee of The Navigators). Ian married and moved to USA in 1970 and I moved to London in 1971. There were around 30 students involved when Mike & Chris Treneer took over in 1971. All of the names above would have some interesting memories, comments and thoughts to fill out the detail and make further connections. Some other involved people are Bob Price, Greg Serpell & Jim Palmer.
Mike & Chris Treneer (1971 to 1975)
The ministry at Southampton was started by Ian and Vicky Munroe (in the late 60s) and Ron Finlay, who got the ministry started before Ian got seriously ill. Ron took over the work and led it for year or a little longer, about 1970-71. Chris and I moved to Southampton in July of 71, right after our honeymoon, to take up the leadership of the work from Ron. We had the privilege of seeing it develop into a large and flourishing ministry, 1971-75. For the last two years of our time there, we were joined by Issam and Abla Khoury from the Middle East. We handed over the ministry to Martin Cooper in 1975 as we prepared to move to Nigeria to launch the work there.
Martin & Marion Cooper (1975 to 1982)
Marion & I arrived to lead the Soton student ministry in the summer of 1975. We came from Cardiff, where we had begun a new student ministry two years earlier. The Soton group was well established, having been started around 1970 by the late Nav rep Ian Munro, together with Ron Finlay who moved here from previous involvement with The Navs in Manchester. Mike & Chris Treneer then took over leadership of the ministry in the early 70s & saw it develop into a thriving disciple-making work, before leaving to take over as pioneer leaders of The Nav work in Nigeria. When we arrived to succeed them, there were over 100 in Bible study, mostly University students, but also several non-students, especially young women, among whom the ministry was led by our fellow team member, Nav rep Paddy Paddon-Row.
Over the next 7 years, during which time we had the privilege of leading the ministry, God did an amazing work of grace. Scores of young people committed their lives to Christ, most of them University students. We consistently had over 100 in Bible study with us, some of whom met in our home, with others elsewhere in the city. There were focused evangelistic & discipling ministries in most Halls of Residence, each with its own team of leaders, and we held regular times of corporate worship, teaching & celebration. From 1975 – 1979 these were weekly events, held on Sun nights (after church) in our home, and from 1979 – 1982 they took place elsewhere in the city.
As well as these grass-root ministries, there were significant opportunities for training & equipping, as young disciples matured into disciple-makers. Several remained in Soton after graduation and became labourers in the ongoing ministry. Around 1980, an overseas student ministry was also begun, with two teams reaching out to African & Chinese students respectively.
Today, many of those touched by God while here in the late 70s are serving him in various contexts. Most are seeking to do so through their spheres of employment & local church involvement. Several are in full-time Christian service, either as overseas missionaries or church leaders in the UK. And a few are now serving him together as married couples!
In 1982 Marion & I handed the ministry over to Nav reps Rob & Maggie Wilson, enabling us to pioneer a new national church-related ministry for The Navs, in which one of our greatest thrills was to re-connect with some of those who had earlier graduated from SotonUniversity and were eager to continue as disciples and disciple makers for Christ.
“The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest one a small nation. I am the Lord. In its time I will do this swiftly.” Isaiah 60 v 22
Rob & Maggie Wilson (1982 to 1984)
The ministry was at the start of this time still over 100 but the days of easy evangelism were numbered. From this time the ministry began to shrink. There were a number of complications, not least ill health.
During this time Mags … joined the team to take over the women’s side of the ministry and to help out with Chinese students.
The Wilsons left Southampton to move to the Midlands.
Steve & Cathie Davie (1984 – 1991)
Mags … left to go to the ‘far east’ as a missionary, and she still serves in this role.
In Steve’s later years he changed the ministry style quite a bit. It started off with a focus on one ministry with ministry nights and Bible Study. The first change was to split off the Chinese ministry. This had existed as a separate identity from the main ministry. He then supported the Chinese leadership. Those in this ministry eventually became key to the starting of the Chinese church in Southampton.
The second key change was to focus on a few key men and let them take the lead in ministry. He thus developed a style of many satellite groups serviced by a central group of leaders. Those in the satellite group didn’t know much about the Navigators.
The third major change was to introduce the idea of bringing recent graduates into the Navs for a year. This idea has now been adopted by the Navigators, first as the Student Worker Program, later as Connect. The first of these were Gez Perry and Andy Coombe.
Derek & Eva Leaf (1990 – 1996)
In 1990 we moved from working in London to Southampton to join Steve and Cathie Davie. Steve led the ministry until going off to become an Anglican Vicar in 1991, when we took over the ministry.
From the beginning we had great support from interns (Connectors). Gez Perry and Andy Coombe had been with Steve the year before, Graham Beynon and John Smuts (both now pastors) were there the year we arrived. This continued with Luke Webster and James White.
The ministry at that point was split into many different groups each with its own identity and a great training ground for the respective leaders. We changed things around to make our home the centre. One student commented that he was persuaded to come along in order to do Bible study, but what impacted him the most was seeing a healthy family in action.
These were years where the declining level of Christianity in the country really began to show. The group declined slightly, but the numbers of people clearly becoming Christians shrank considerably. Many who came were helped to engage with the Word and went on to serve in their contexts. The initial thrust of the ministry was one of training labourers for the harvest. There were a number who went out into ministry, and it has been a pleasure to see the way God has carried on working through them over the years.
In the last years I, Derek, went through a bit of a crisis with a realization that in terms of ministry, I had been trying to pressurize people into obedience to Christ, and that the Lord was far from pleased with this. In the last year we shifted emphasis to focus on Jesus for His own sake, looking at Jesus the man and how he expressed faith. Vicky who had gone to New Zealand as an intern on returning expressed how when she left Navs was all about training people, but a year later it had become about worshipping God.
Around this time it became evident that Gez Perry needed his own ministry to run, and that the best place for him was Southampton. We began to explore where we could move to and Portugal came up on the Radar, so in the beginning of 1996 we handed the ministry, over to him and moved to Portugal in the May.
Gez & Alison Perry (1997 to 2004)
From 1997-2004 we led the student group in Southampon following on from Derek & Eva Leaf who left to go to Portugal as Navigator missionaries. Gez had been a student at Southampton (1985-89) and Alison had just finished her studies in Sheffield and we were helped by a series of student workers including, Alison & David Cave, Justin Kirby, Suzanne & Pieter van Leeuwen, Sarah Dodd, David Reynaga, Ugbana & Claire Oyet, Mike Spencer, Steve & Debs McClure, Jim Grady, Kelly Smith, Heather Dearing, Dave Watkins & Dave Callaghan.
What we really enjoyed about the ministry were the friendships that grew out of meeting students one-to-one and small group Bible studies.
We’d learned a lot from Steve & Cathy Davie and Derek & Eva Leaf about the way God uses the seed of His Word to change hearts & lives and to produce ongoing fruitfulness. It was very encouraging to see God at work through a growing network of small groups and to have the opportunity to help support and train leaders for the CU.
We also experienced first-hand the benefit of using courses like Alpha & Christianity Explored with students and there were a handful of people who became Christians and others who grew in their faith through these groups. Organising weekends away and summer conferences was another feature of student ministry which gave opportunities for serving and training a new generation of leaders.
The lessons we learned and the help we received during our years in Southampton have been a huge blessing to us. In Philippians chapter 3 Paul encourages his friends to follow his example and to take note of those who live according to the pattern he gave them. Following the example of others and passing on what we have found helpful ourselves has been an important part of ministry for us. We are very grateful to God for those who have invested their time and energy in helping us to know and follow Christ. We are also thankful to God for his faithfulness in continuing to raise up and send workers into his harvest field, which is a great encouragement and a helpful reminder of what is important to God. Gez & Alison moved to Strasbourg, France in the summer of 2006.
Steve & Debs McClure (2004 to present)
Our progression to leading the student ministry in Southampton was very gradual. Steve was involved in some Bible study groups led by Dave Morrish and Gez Perry in his final year of University (1999-2000) and towards the end of that year Gez asked him if he would consider doing the Connect programme the following year. Suffice to say that Steve did Connect year and during that year re-launched a lunchtime discussion group called Transition (formerly Interface) with a PhD friend called Stuart Macdonald. This group grew into a Monday evening food and discussion group and included the likes of Dave Callaghan, Jim Grady (joined by Kelly Smith from USA) and later Dave Watkins who all went on to do Connect.
Also during that year Steve met Debs who was studying in Cardiff and in 2002-2003 she also moved to Southampton to do Connect along with Heather Barbier (formerly Dearing). After Connect Steve started commuting to Salisbury to work for a Financial Services company while Debs started studying Occupational Therapy alongside a part-time role with the Navigators. In 2004-2005 we started a Christianity Explored group which was run in the home of Paul & Jen Lambert and then later in the home of some of the students. From this group came the Thursday evening ministry that has been the norm from that time onwards. About the same time Pieter & Suzanne vanLeewuen returned from some time working abroad in the Netherlands and started an evangelistic Bible study group which they continued until 2011-2012 when Pieter Joined James Pritchard in the IGNITE ministry.
Gez & Alison Perry remained in Southampton (and despite the dates above continued as official ministry leader) until the summer of 2006 when they moved to Strasbourg to restart the French student ministry. During that time Tim Peters served on the connect programme and was followed the following year by Steve Price while we continued to meet at Gez & Alison’s home in Grosvenor Gardens. The following year we did not have anybody on the Connect programme for the first time for many years and it was a year of much upheaval with Steve & Debs moving to Harefield Road at the start of the autumn term. Also during that year Debs started working as an Occupational Therapist and Steve quit his job in Salisbury in order to be full-time with the student ministry.
Over the next few years the student ministry developed and the likes of Stacey Hartwell (formerly Houston) and Steph Lees served on the Connect programme. In 2009-2010 we were joined by three Connect workers, Patrick Noonan, Kate Collett (formerly Marshall) and Kashimana Tsumba. It was that year that saw the birth of the IGNITE ministry which sought to reach out to those who do not know Jesus but who were willing to discuss questions of faith, life and love (so the strap line went anyhow). Also that year we started what has become the Southampton LIFEnet group with the help of Dave Watkins. We held a graduate BBQ and that led to a monthly or bi-monthly group of graduates which have been meeting ever since under the leadership of Dave Watkins, Lydia Clarke and Steve & Holly Price.
Back in the student ministry we were joined by more Connect workers, Adam Collett (10-11), Stephen Merritt-Harrison (10-12) and Luke O’Dowd and Elizabeth Busari (12-13). We also took on a couple of trainee Reps, Tim Peters (10-14) and Dave Callaghan (11-14). Tim moved on to work with the Navigators Lifenet ministry (working with 20’s and 30’s) while Dave moved on from the Navigators to develop his passion for the environment and sustainability (Dave’s blog). At the same time Steve & Debbie stepped out of the leadership of the ministry for a year (health related) and in their absence the ministry was ably led by the interim team of Lydia Clarke, Adam & Kate Collett and another recent graduate, Tom Feather served on the Connect Programme during the year 2014-2015. Adam & Kate left the student work at the end of that year and are now serving in Latvia. Lydia served for one more year before moving on to a new role within a woman’s ministry at her church, Netley Christian Fellowship.
After that year out Steve and Debbie returned to lead the student ministry again from Sept 2015 until the present. It was a period of much transition as a number of the student team moved onto other opportunities. There were times (particularly the Autumn terms of 2015 & 2016) when it looked like the ministry was in danger of closing but God had other ideas. Over the past two years (Spring 2016 to Spring 2018) we have seen a steady influx of new people and there currently exists a huge amount of excitement about what God is doing at this time. We continue to be so grateful to God for the opportunity to be involved in the lives of so many at such a significant time of growth and development. We remain excited about how God will use this ministry in the years to come.