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Annual Report 2023

For Lottie and I, 2023 was a strange year. In January I was admitted to hospital with pancreatitis and ended up on a ward for 10 days and then it took several weeks to get back to full strength, much longer than I expected. We then had a lot of staff changes, which is always hard, having to say goodbye to some wonderful people and then welcome onto the team some equally wonderful people! 

Then in the autumn, just as the new staff members were settling in, we spent three months on sabbatical. Time to fully recover and rest, spend time with family and with Father God. It was a very special time and we created some wonderful memories, for which we are extremely grateful for. 

 

One of the things that inspired me most about Freedom Church in my absences, both unexpected and planned, was the quality of the people we have in our church family. The way people stepped up and took responsibility was awe-inspiring. Rather than being happy to drift along in neutral, we saw leadership emerge, new people join and a sense of steady and healthy growth. More people attending men’s breakfast than ever before, new Connect Groups forming, Christmas Hampers being given away through the Foodbank, Community Lunch continuing at the Freedom Centre, people helped out of debt through our CAP Debt Advice, another Newcomers lunch, All In Worship nights becoming a real engine room of the church, more people joining the various teams and volunteering in the church since before the pandemic. An incredible response. When we came back in December, all we could see was a beautiful and vibrant church family, loving one another and looking out for each other.  

 

You are incredible Freedom Church! 

  

A unique year, with a feeling that God is preparing a new way ahead. Often God creates seasons of rest before he asks something more of us… to breathe Him in deeply, so we are ready to breathe out for Him. We are expectant for what he might do amongst us as Freedom Church in the year ahead. 

  

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. 

Isaiah 40:31 KJV 

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Sundays

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We love Sundays! We love our church family and the opportunity for the oldest to the youngest, to gather for worship and learn about our incredible God.  

In our teaching we spent the year looking at how we share our faith and life with those around us before exploring Beautiful Resistance and how the church responds to the culture we are part of. Then we looked at a Disciple like Daniel as biblical example of how we should operate as Christians in a modern context.   

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Our Summer Sundays were focussed on worshipping God through the Psalms before ending the year looking at our Family Foundations and how we Grow as Disciples of Jesus. 

Thank you to those who served willingly on the various teams to make our Sundays happen. Whether you have helped with setting up of chairs, making coffee, leading our children, investing in young people, leading us in worship, making all the tech work or preparing and preaching the word of God, you contribution has been immense – thank you! 

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Connect Groups
& Pastoral Care 

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At the end of 2023 Freedom Church has 9 connect groups meeting across a spread of days and locations, including a thriving online connect group for those who have young children. Connect groups are the first port of call for pastoral care fellowship and growth. Each connect group has its own culture centred around the personalities and make-up of its members. They have been following various materials throughout the year, often mirroring and building upon what the wider church is learning on Sundays. Some groups are using other study guides, such as the “Practicing the Way” resource from John Mark Comer. A few of our groups are now slightly over-subscribed and, in the year, ahead we will be looking to create some more to allow for growth. 

2023 has also seen the re-introduction of wider-leadership meetings. Wider leadership meetings are a forum designed to support and communicate vision and heart with those holding leadership responsibilities across the Church family. Whether you’re on Big Team, Kid’s team, a Connect group Trustee or the leadership team. It has been special to gather to worship, learn together and pray for one another as we consider how we minister to the church and our town. 

At the end of 2023 we have taken some time to restructure how we provide pastoral care. We have sought to bring clarity as to how pastoral needs are logged and followed through on, as well as inviting some new members onto our pastoral care team to improve our surface areas and gift mix. If you have or do come across a pastoral need, or just want to spend some time with someone for prayer or a conversation – please just get in touch with me, or Becky in the office, and we can plan an appropriate response. 

Thanks for helping out this year, 

Ben 

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Prayer and Worship

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Prayer and worship is at the centre of all we do. We love that our relationship with 24/7 Prayer continues to grow and is helpful in providing resources, ideas and training.  

 

In 2023 our prayer and worship ministry included several activities and events including: our Sunday morning worship times, a ‘pop up’ prayer room over Easter weekend, the development of the prayer room programme at the Church Weekend away, a new ‘Lectio Hour’ group that meets monthly on a Monday daytime, and the continuation of ‘All In’, our monthly worship and prayer evenings.

Over the past year we’ve sensed a new depth and freedom in our worship times – aided by the space created at our monthly 'All In’ sessions – a significant ‘engine room’ of the church as we move forward.

 

In 2023 we said goodbye to Hannah Shepherd who oversaw our worship and prayer ministries as part of her paid role – we are grateful for all she invested in our community during the time she was with us and know she has moved onto exciting new adventures. As we no longer have a paid worship team leader on staff, we instead share this responsibility around the worship and tech leaders’ team, with some administrative support from the office.

 

We are really grateful for all the different people that continue to faithfully serve, as part of our worship and prayer ministries (including the wonderful tech team!) – and for their passion and energy in helping to ensure that prayer and worship remains an important part of the life of the church.

Kids

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2023 has been a year of change for Freedom Kids, we said farewell to the brilliant Phil Carter from the Staff Team, and the mighty Catherine Adomah stepped up to lead the kids' team for an interim season. We’re so grateful for their significant contributions to the discipleship of our kids and their team. 

In July, Joe Land-Jones started his role as Kids and Families pastor just in time for the church weekend away. He introduced himself to the Kids and team with a shaving foam pie to the face of our wonderful parent and team leader, Chris Honour. (much to the delight of all the kids, especially Chris’ eldest pictured left..) 

  

Freedom Kids then enjoyed the variety of the 6 weeks all-age Summer Sunday services which gave everyone a chance to be together as a whole church family.  

 

At the start of September our Freedom Kids Sunday curriculum kicked off for the year, delivered by our wonderful Kids Team volunteers under the leadership of Joe! The team serve our children through leading and facilitating a range of crafts, games, and other activities to enable them to meet with God, greet one another, grow in faith and go into the world telling those people they meet the Good News of Jesus. We are SO grateful for their continued support.  

   

Our highlights from last year were: 

 

• Wildfires Festival 

• The Church Weekend Away 

• Summer sports day  

• Our Light Party with Romsey Baptist Church 

• Family Fun Nativity 

• Learning more about who we are and God’s love for us.  

 

We are so excited for all that 2024 has in store for us as we set our sights on discovering and enhancing our relationship with God and those around us!  

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Youth

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At the beginning of 2023, Freedom Youth continued with their Tuesday evening connect group and Sunday morning sessions. In June, Zoe Phillips became Youth Pastor and has focussed on building relationships with the young people since then.

 

There has been a cohort shift this year, with three year 6s joining at Easter and two more young people joining in September. They are all settling in very well. Kirill Popov has continued to be a member of the Freedom Youth team and one of the new young people begun attending because of an invitation from him. Flo Dendy has been supporting the Freedom Youth team since September as part of her internship. We are grateful for their continued support.

  

Our highlights from last year were:

  • The Church Weekend Away

  • Wildfires Festival

  • Getting to make some new friends

  • Meeting up with Romsey Baptist Youth

  • Deepening relationships with each other

  • Learning more about God’s love

  • Pizza!

 

If you’re passionate about encouraging young people’s curiosity for Jesus and want to shape what being a part of Freedom Church feels like for them – you can do so by joining the Youth team or hosting on a Tuesday evening. Otherwise – please pray for our young people to develop deep friendships with one another and a continued desire to love and serve Jesus. 

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Events

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In June, some of Freedom Church made their way to Wildfires. It was brilliant to be connected in with those at Kerith Community Church and Revelation Church who we shared a communal space with. We had a wonderful time worshipping, learning and gathering with thousands of other Christians for the same reason.

 

We saw the return of the Church Weekend in July. The weekend was full of fun, eating together, and community. We loved having some Freedom Centre clients join us, and inviting our connected Ukrainians and hosts to eat with us too.

 

Thank you to those of you who have engaged with our BBQ Men’s Breakfast’s and Ladies Evenings – the men have continued to enjoy good food and fellowship this year and our Freedom ladies have had some wonderful creative opportunities thanks to Becky Corcoran Art, with a painting workshop in October and a wreath making Workshop in December. We look forward to continuning these events throughout this year.

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Finance

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Thank you for giving faithfully to the work of Freedom Church throughout the year. As you will see, we had an income of £403,702 through your generous giving, plus donations and grants to the Freedom Centre. 

 

We saw a loss of £16,167  for the year. This was an expected loss for the year mainly due to increases in our rent of the school each weekend. 

 

If you would like to receive a more detailed set of accounts, please do contact the Church Office on office@freedomchurch.uk 

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As part of our desire to be a generous church, we give grants through our Freedom Fund which was able to give away almost £16,500 in 2023 enabling us to help people locally and all around the world: 

 

£4700 was given overseas to various projects including a solar powered borehole in Zimbabwe . £1000 to the work of 24-7 Prayer . £2500 locally to provide equipment for the Baby Bank and Romsey Young Carers as well as improvements to the play area of Cupernham Infant School . £6000 to provide white goods, energy top ups and food vouchers for those facing hardship and £2000 to support Church Partners working in Papua New Guinea and Uganda as well as attending the Orchard Conference and Evergreen Worship Programme . ​ 

   

If you would like to start to give financially or amend your giving, then click on  www.freedomchurch.uk/giving 

or email finance@freedomchurch.uk 

 

you can give a regular monthly amount or simply make a one-off donation.  

Thank you. 

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Freedom Centre Programme

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On reflection it feels like the main goal of 2023 was to ‘Establish the Centre’ whilst managing several staffing and project changes. We have been working on establishing the Centre as a collection of intertwined projects, especially now the Centre provides a base for them all. We are shifting our language in line with this and felt it was appropriate to transition out of using ‘Freedom Matters’ to describe this collection of projects, and instead refer to them as ‘work of the Freedom Centre’ or the Freedom Centre Programme internally.

These are the 5 main projects that come under the Freedom Centre banner, and our wonderful project leads:

  1. CAP Debt Help and Money Coaching Project (previously included Life Skills) – Debs Niblett

  2. Employment Support Project (including the DWP jobcentre drop-in) - Ben Tanton

  3. Community Coaching Project – Jo Ibbott

  4. TLG Project – Marion Carter

  5. Romsey Foodbank Project – Eve Ibbot

Jo Ibbott moved on from her role as Community Leader in June 2023 – a big change for the Freedom Centre Programme. Beth took on management of the Freedom Centre Programme as a whole when Jo stepped down, and consequently asked Eve to step up back into the ‘Foodbank Manager’ role again. Debs Niblett also joined the team in Feb 2023 as the CAP Debt Centre Manager. Both Eve and Debs have settled into their roles very well and are a great contribution to the team. We feel the loss of Jo – who was so invested in the life and vision of the Centre but are grateful that she still very much supports the programme as part of her role on the leadership team, and through co-ordination of the community coaching project.

We’re also very grateful for our amazing volunteer team; around 60 individuals who support all our various projects – we couldn’t do what we do without them! We were sad to lose Amber Reed from this team, who felt it was time to step down from her volunteering role at the Centre in November 2023. We’re very grateful for all she invested in the work of the Centre over the years she was with us.

In 2023 the Centre Programme’s expenses increased significantly. However thankfully it’s income also increased significantly allowing us to meet these rising costs. We have been amazed at the generosity of both individuals and organisations in our community and are very grateful for their support – both in financial and food donations.

A highlight of the year is always our Christmas Hamper Events. We saw around 125 families and individuals through the doors over 3 sessions. This is a great opportunity to connect with people in the community and to make them aware of the Centre’s services. Volunteers from our Centre projects and the church family helped make these sessions happen - it’s a great opportunity to come together as an organisation to do something for the community at Christmas.

We’re grateful for the privilege and opportunity we get to serve our community in so many various ways. We know that the Freedom Centre is an important way in which the Freedom Church family – through it’s time, finances, and prayers – supports the wider community. We recognise that we have a unique opportunity to not only look out for the community’s physical and mental health, but also the community’s spiritual health, with Jesus as our role model in how he cared for the last and the least. 

To see the full Freedom Centre Annual Report click HERE

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Key statistics for 2023:
  • 5 children supported by TLG coaches across 3 schools

  • 753 food parcels given out by our Foodbank Project providing an estimated 6000 meals* for adults and children in our community

  • 3 longer term clients went debt free after working with our CAP team

  • 15 individuals a week seen by the DWP Job Coach

  • 2 individuals supported via the Community Coaching Programme

  • 4000kg of food was donated to the Foodbank from local schools, churches and community groups as part of their Harvest celebrations.

  • 130 families and individuals received a Christmas Hamper from us packed with goodies.

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