CHURCH PROFILE: LifeWay Baptist Devonport

LifeWay Baptist church
Advance July-August 2021, LifeWay Baptist

our church:

ADVANCE | step by step features a series of church profiles. This issue it’s all about LifeWay Baptist in Devonport. Plus the new work – in Cygnet.

From the LifeWay Baptist Senior Pastor:

Nicholas Alexander

LifeWay Baptist is an amazing church . . .

It began in the 1880s when a group of Christians got together in the local billiard room to worship and seek God. 141 years later, we are still getting together.

As the current lead pastor, I feel incredibly privileged to be a part of this chapter. We are building on a beautiful legacy and God willing laying the foundations for an exciting Kingdom-focused future.

To give you a taste of what our church is like, I asked our two Associate Pastors to write about the church from their perspectives. Penny Clark has been a part of our church for a few months, and Denise Stephenson was practically born on the pews.

Hopefully, their accounts will give you a good idea of what LifeWay is like, but also remind you that God is always active and is right now building his kingdom throughout all our churches.

Nicholas Alexander
Pastor Nicholas Alexander

Nicholas Alexander, Senior Pastor

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Penny Clark

Hello!

The pastoral team at LifeWay Baptist are Nicholas, Denise, and myself – Penny. We are part of the tribe leading and serving in Lifeway Baptist in Devonport and Cygnet. Between us all, we have a bunch of almost identical blonde children. Some patient and amazing pastor-partners. And a fantastic community of members who are striving to love and serve Jesus more and more.

Penny and Adam Clark
Penny Clark, Associate Pastor (Emerging Generations) with Adam

As a team, we like to have long staff meetings, brainstorm big ideas and have cake together whenever possible. Collectively we work well together. Amazingly, we cancel out one another’s weaknesses with mutual shared love of the vulnerable, the downcast and the forgotten.

Just Like Any Other Church

LifeWay Baptist Passions

LifeWay Baptist is a church not dissimilar to any others. We gather, we sing songs (sometimes not so well), we pray with our hearts imperfectly. Kids are so important and we absolutely love them (and their prayer too) and their precious innocence and view of God. We have a long history of laughing, making jokes and capturing joy. So we are not a polished or modern church. We just try super hard to be real, authentic and full of Jesus and his Spirit. We’ve had moments of great joy and sorrow together, which has made our love for our church stronger and deeper. At LifeWay we thank one another for all others are doing. We try to encourage with words and deeds, and we seek to be helpful and supportive.

At LifeWay we have a huge list of volunteers and ministry leaders who keep things ticking over. This includes ministry areas such as Young Adults, Kids ministry, visiting of the elderly, social justice awareness and advocacy, and Missionary support. It also includes grocery shopping and casual connections over coffee. It is our belief that with the right alignment to Jesus and his radical and transformative love, all things flow. One of the things LifeWay cherishes is vulnerability. We are working towards being the kind of church who will pray for one another after a service,. Who will invite one another’s personal struggles into a small group (pulse group). And who will invite neighbours, friends and strangers into the family at LifeWay – with or without a Sunday service.

More About LifeWay

We are not fancy, or flashy, or particularly special. Our building is getting a slight re-vamp, but the members unanimously decided to keep costs low so we could use funds to support mission and the poor. At LifeWay we try hard to see those who are unseen, and look for opportunities that God has placed, right in front of our noses, for mission that flows easily and without struggle. So we are like a passionate barista, serving weekly by making a coffee; a fitness enthusiast starting a boxing group; or an art teacher sitting with teenagers to create.

We partner with Devonport Chaplaincy to provide a need with the facilities we have been blessed with such as TAFE training, using our commercial kitchen, providing space for community groups to hire, and connect and facilitation play spaces. We didn’t think of these things ourselves – they found us!

In lots of ways, LifeWay is just an extension of a bunch of families getting together, with the title “church” wrapped around it. We hold Jesus at the centre, and with our collective giftings and talents, we are excited about what he might plant or uproot in the coming years.

Ultimately we acknowledge and trust that this is his church, and we are really enjoying being in partnership with him.

Denise Stephenson

I’ve been a part of the Devonport Baptist Church (now LifeWay Baptist) since before I was born, almost 60 years ago. My parents, Ted and Dawn Nibbs were active members, so my family attended the little West Devonport Sunday School; my sisters and I sang in the Junior Choir; attended Girl’s Brigade and the Youth Group. Dad was Church Secretary (and later, a pastor), and Mum was Superintendent of the Sunday School, amongst many other things.

Denise Stephenson
Denise Stephenson
LifeWay Baptist History

Every Sunday at 11am we filed into church for the Sunday service, where men wore suits and ties, and ladies wore Sunday “best”, including hat. For all the formality which was part of going to church in that era, it was a welcoming, engaged community of Jesus followers

Growing up at Devonport Baptist I had no sense that any aspect of church life was off-limits to me. It was a long time before I realised that not all churches had women in leadership. Or even allowed women to preach. In every other place in my life I was very shy, but at Church I was encouraged to be part of things. Youth Group was a great place to find my feet as a follower of Jesus, hang out with others. It was there I tried out speaking in public, leading worship, and having a voice.

The 1970s was a period of great change as church became a less important aspect of people’s lives, and many of my friends from Sunday School and youth group stopped going to church. Even in Devonport, times were changing and this naturally affected church life. In the 1980s, young people were leaving to study and not returning, and families leaving to pursue work opportunities interstate. I was one of them.

The Next Era

When I returned to Devonport in the mid-1990s, church was very different. There were now two morning services: a family-focused, contemporary service at 9.30am; and a traditional, hymn-based service at 11am. I accepted a role on the Leadership Team in the late 90s. Then I worked in the office for 10 years before taking on a pastoral position three years ago. I’ve been part of taking our congregation through some challenging times as we’ve navigated changing social expectations and behaviour.

We’ve experimented with worship structure, ministry focus, and changed our name to LifeWay. At times, I’ve felt frustrated by the slow rate of change. But looking back now, I can see that DBC/LifeWay has actually changed significantly! Sometimes you need to take a step back to see how far you’ve come.

In December 2020 my husband Mark and I moved way down south, to Lymington (near Cygnet), to explore a new way of being a community of faith here in the Huon Valley and Channel area. We have the image of a Long Table where everyone is welcome. And our plan is to keep our eyes open to what God is doing. But we haven’t gone alone. The lovely community at LifeWay have chosen to “send” us south, supporting us through prayer and encouragement.

It’s great the faith family who walked with me my entire life chooses to accompany us on this new adventure.

LifeWay Baptist Montage


Read more in the July/August 2021 ADVANCE | step by step

Keeping it Real – #nofilter Church

Keeping it Real, #nofilter church
Advance Header

food for thought:

By Denise Stephenson
Heartlands News
Denise Stephenson

Denise Stephenson is a trained Spiritual Director and, until December 2020, was Spiritual Formation Pastor at LifeWay Baptist Church Devonport. What is #nofilter church? Read on to find out!


I love Instagram!

All those squares filled with beautiful pictures of magical places, designer interiors, and adorable children dressed in linen!

Most of us (on our good days) recognise that Instagram is the home of “This Filtered Life”. Isn’t it tempting to apply a “filter” to life so it looks good on the outside?

Whilst none of us really expects social media to be an honest reflection of life, most of us hope our communities of faith would be the one place we feel safe enough to be our “unfiltered” self. But if I am honest, church is often a place, as much as any other, where I have felt pressure to look, act or feel a particular kind of way.

We say, “Come as you are”, but really we mean come if you feel upbeat, on top of things, happy and well – and if you’re not, at least try act as if you are. Apply the “worship” filter where it’s smiling, happy people holding hands. “We’re here to worship God!!” Amen?!

We try and “stay together”

What would our community of faith look like if it was #nofilter? Denise Stephenson

What would our community of faith, and our worship, look like if it was #nofilter? In the weeks following my husband Mark’s cancer diagnosis, I really didn’t feel like going to church. But, being one of the pastors, I turned up to church each week, determined to keep it all ‘together’. I had my “filter” firmly in place.

As soon as the songs started, every word would punch into my gut, and I would start crying… which was the LAST thing I wanted to do. Welcome to #nofilter! It was awful but it was real. Without me noticing, people would come to stand with me, and after the service, friends would slip into the chair beside me and pray for me.

I would go home, still in pain, still afraid, a blotchy, red-faced teary mess but having what I needed to keep going.

Embrace what God does for you

It takes guts to show our vulnerabilities, our weaknesses, and our messiness – to be real. But that’s exactly what God wants from us. God isn’t fooled by the filter, and wants to see the real person made in his image. I find that such a relief. I love The Message translation of Romans 12:1-2 which says:

Here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. 

Romans 12:1-2 MSG

Let’s start #nofilter Sunday, and see what happens when we give God our real self. I think it could change church.

For good!

Denise Stephenson

Denise, and her husband Mark, recently moved to Lymington (south of Cygnet) where they are exploring new ways of being a community of faith in their new neighbourhood. Even so, Denise still works in Cygnet as an offshoot of LifeWay Devonport. Denise and Mark sail, garden, chop wood (it’s cold down here!) and hang out in cafes, getting to know their new neighbourhood, and keeping a lookout for what God is doing down in the deep south.

All About Penny Clark, LifeWay Devonport

Penny Clark Interview
Advance Dec-20, Penny Clark

New Appointment

interview:

Penny Clark, with husband Adam at LifeWay Baptist church
Penny Clark, Associate Pastor (Emerging Generations) with Adam

Penny Clark was recently appointed to the ministry team at LifeWay Baptist in Devonport as Emerging Generations Pastor.

Who is she and where does she come from? Read on!

Where were you born and what was it like growing up there?

I grew up in St. Marys which is in between Fingal and St. Helens on the East Coast. Growing up there was very open-ended. I was quite sheltered from mainstream culture and my parents are both artists, so they made a world for us, which involved lots of nature, free play and traditions. It was quite isolating, but we definitely felt like we belonged in a tight-knit community.
It taught me to view the world differently. My parents were both quite poor, but it never bothered me. I feel like this has taught me to be generous where we can as a family, and hold possessions loosely.

When and why did you move to the northwest?

My husband Adam and I moved to Ulverstone in 2001 when we both applied for teaching positions. We met in Launceston but knew we wanted a quieter lifestyle. We were blessed to be working at the same Christian school, me as an art teacher and Adam as a 5/6 teacher. I have been incredibly blessed.

What do you enjoy most about living in Ulverstone?

The beach and bush. We are constantly in awe of this incredible landscape, and for me the sea is my equilibrium. I love raising our kids by the ocean, and that their memories will be tied into the beach. I also love our community. Ulverstone is such a welcoming place, and it has everything we need without crowds.

How did you become a Christian?

I grew up in a Christian home that encouraged debate and questioning. As a young child, I always felt drawn to know God, and felt a strong sense of awe and wonder in my Catholic parish.
I made a commitment as a 12-year-old at a Youth Alive camp, and again at 21 when Adam and I were baptised. I have always analysed church (we have been to a few in our marriage), and I love that my perspectives are listened to and considered.

Growing up in a small Catholic church we had a priest for a long time, but by the time I was 10 or 11 we had a Sister run our parish for many years. This has definitely impacted my view of women in the church and I am indebted to her. I also attended Spiritual Direction since I was 16, which I can see now is pretty unique!

What is the best piece of advice you have received?
Best piece of advice: make your own boundaries and stick to them--because no one else will do it for you. Penny Clark

I pick up so much advice and store it all away for different seasons! This week I was so impacted by a friend’s advice of “make your own boundaries and stick to them–because no one else will do it for you”.
This idea had never actually occurred to me, I always sort assumed people would only ask me certain things without stretching me, but experience has taught me that everyone has different boundaries and ideas of ‘what is OK’. With young kids, I especially need to be careful of my commitments.

When people ask you how you spend your time, what do you say?

Ha ha! So many things! I’m a mama to Archie and Laila so I spend a portion of my time cooking, cleaning, packing lunches (which is the worst!) Adam helps me a lot with this too.
I also spend time exercising, reading and being with people. I love being around others, especially talking about deeper issues and listening to suffering.
Archie joined our family as a biological child, and Laila through foster care. Fostering our Lai has been one of the most rewarding and impactful things I’ve ever done. It has also been, and continues to be, the most stretching and difficult. I am incredibly passionate about the burden and blessing of fostering. I also work for a not-for-profit organisation in community outreach and mentoring.

What is your role in the Baptist Church?

I’m still in awe about my role, and I’m blessed beyond words. I am “Penny Clark, Emerging Generations Associate Pastor”. When I am at work I get to play with kids, relate to them, pray with and for them, and walk alongside them. Personally, I had a few very key people in my faith journey, and they all dropped-in during my childhood. I am so honoured that I get to be that person for some precious children. Hopefully, I will also reach out to Mamas as they carry such a heavy load. I carry it too, and I think I have picked up some ideas and experience that might help others.

What excites you most about what you do?

I think in a nutshell, bringing God’s peace and healing to others and helping to make our church an inclusive and exciting space for children. I am hoping to start a small ‘art group’ for younger girls, as well some retreat-style days for older teens. As well as facilitate the LifeWay Kids Ministry with my awesome volunteers.

What challenges do you have as you do this work?

At this stage, it’s organisation and juggling. I am a creative at heart, and I find it really hard to stay disciplined and organised. My wonderful husband Adam has taught and coached me a LOT with this and I know there’s no way I could juggle all I am doing without his unwavering support. I plan to set some structure around my time so I can work efficiently.

So Penny Clark, How can we pray for you and your work?

Pray for balance, connections and opportunities to rest at the end of the year. 2020 has been a huge year for so many, and our family has had a big year of transition and change.

Short and Sweet – Penny Clark

I am looking forward to … 2021 and meeting new families, as well as investing in the beautiful ones in front of me

I am worried about … Gosh, nothing really! Having too much fun at work?

I am confident that … God has placed me on this path for a reason, despite the pain I might have been through to get here.

I am joyful about … At the moment, it’s our pending summer. When it finally arrives!

I would like to change … society’s view of children. There would be so many less-wounded adults.

I am at my best when … I am with people, doing something creative.

Penny Clark with children at an Advent Art Workshop
Penny at the Advent Art workshops held by LifeWay, Devonport in December 2020

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