March 2018

Introducing Grace Church Sydenham

My name is Tim Iles. I’ve been married to Emma for nearly 23 years now. Our eldest daughter Imogen is studying at Greenwich University and our youngest Molly is doing A-levels. Emma and I met in Southampton where I’d just begun working as a maths teacher. After 9 years teaching I switched to graphic design. And it was at that time that I was first really gripped by the Bible – even after over 20 years as a Christian! On my cycle to work every day I was enthralled listening to Dick Lucas sermons. I began to believe that faithful Bible teaching really was powerful to change lives. At our church I was leading a small group and preaching a few times a year, but I soon felt compelled to pursue full-time ministry.

So in 2006 we jetted off to Sydney where I attended Moore College for 4 years. After that my first job was as an Assistant Minister at an Anglican church in the outskirts of the city. I was ordained in the Sydney Diocese, first as a deacon and eventually a presbyter. After 7½ years we came back to the UK to take up the role of Assistant Minister at Grace Church Dulwich with a view to planting in Sydenham.

This May Grace Church Sydenham will celebrate its 3-year anniversary. We’ve been meeting in an almost brand-new council youth centre, located in one of the largest council estate groupings in South London, comprising over 1000 council as well as privately owned housing. The area is mainly working class with a typical South London racial mix including some Eastern European.

Most Sundays we have 30-40 attending. We’ve experienced losses as well as gains over the 3 years but numbers largely remain the same. We get the occasional local person popping in but we’d love to see more. We run one evangelistic event a term – pub quizzes, food tastings etc, followed by a gospel talk and questions. We leaflet the local area and Sydenham train station regularly throughout the year.

Christ Church Sydenham

We do hope, God-willing, to employ a second worker in the near future – not because we already have the capacity, but because we want to grow the capacity.

Our decision to join was precipitated by a number of reasons. As a church we’re now independent from Grace Church Dulwich, though both churches still continue in close partnership along with our sister church plant, Grace Church Brockley. We therefore feel freer to strike off in our own direction. We always knew we wanted to be part of a larger network, for oversight, support and making ourselves accountable, so it was actually a couple of years ago that we first talked with Andy Lines about joining . We’d also been offered a Bishop’s Mission Order by the Diocese of Southwark – along with Grace Church Dulwich – so we decided to pursue that instead. But a long time waiting while the Church of England dragged its heels over the BMO gave me and the other elders time to reconsider. The decisions being made at higher levels in the Church of England were disconcerting for us all, and I personally was encouraged to reconsider due to the general enthusiasm of its members that I talked to.

In fact the greatest draw for me personally to join has been the sense of collegiacy I’ve already experienced among other ministers. The ordination conference in December very much reminded me of my post-college training in Sydney: everyone on the same page - gospel driven, Bible dependent, and everyone a Christian – how encouraging! And with that ever-present draw to become isolated and inward looking, I recognise my own need to have likeminded, gospel-driven, Christian encouragement, and to benefit from shared wisdom and good practice, and prayer support across the network. I’m very much looking forward to getting to know the other leaders better in the coming years.

We as a church will also benefit from being part of a wider network – a worldwide one through GAFCON – but also here in the UK, as we partner in the work of the gospel through our prayers for other churches. I’m excited by the prospect of taking my elders to leadership conferences, and perhaps in the future network conferences for the whole congregation.

I was particularly impressed with the stand taken by over the ordinations in December, and I’m excited generally by 's priority on church planting by creative and courageous means in order to advance the gospel in England with more urgency, less encumbrance, and greater effect.

“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9.22-23