The search for William Reynolds – we’re getting tantalizingly close…

William Reynolds was my 4x great grandfather; he was born about 1811 and died in Lutterworth, Leicestershire, in 1844. He married Jane Smalley in 1835 and they had three children together: Charles (1836-1904), Mary Ann (1838-1850), and Elizabeth (1842-?). Charles was my 3x great-grandfather.

Two years after William Reynolds died, Jane married Thomas Arnold (1821-1907), and together they had six children.

The Reynolds line was the first line I started to work on when I began to do family tree research two years ago. However, for a long time I have been unable to get any further back than William and Jane. I could not find baptismal records for them in the perish register of Lutterworth, and I only had the online version of their marriage record, which did not give any information about parentage.

Recently, however, I began to follow up the idea that Jane and William might have had nonconformist baptisms (I knew that their son Charles was baptized in an Independent – i.e. non-Church of England – church in 1836 so this seemed a reasonable assumption). Census records give Jane’s date of birth as 1816 in Lutterworth, but this seems inaccurate on both counts. I discovered the family of Job Smalley and Mary Smalley (née Brown) a week or two ago. Job was born in Misterton (not far from Lutterworth) in 1791 and he and Mary were married in Kimcote. Their first two children, Sarah (b. 1812) and Jane (b. 1814) were born in Hinkley, Leicestershire, but after that they moved to Lutterworth where they had Ann (b. 1818), Hannah (b. 1821), and Henry (b. 1823). These records are all available on FamilySearch.org here.

A good friend in Leicester visited the record office for me this week and found marriage records for both Jane Smalley’s marriages, to William Reynolds and to Thomas Arnold. The second certificate, to Thomas Arnold, lists parents’ names, and I can now confirm that Jane’s father was Job Smalley. Since every census from 1851 to 1881 lists her as having been born in Lutterworth, I can only conclude that she never knew she had been born in Hinckley and moved to Lutterworth when she was about two. The difference in birth date is not unusual for those days when many people had very little idea how old they were (and we know from both of Jane’s marriage records that she was unable to sign her own name).

Here is Jane and William’s marriage record:

And here is the record of Jane and Thomas’ marriage:

 So – I’m reasonably certain of the identity of Jane Smalley, her parents and siblings. Now – what about William Reynolds?

William does not appear in any baptismal records available on either Ancestry or FamilySearch. However, there are definitely Reynolds families in Lutterworth at the time, and they are pretty well all Nonconformists (i.e. non-Church of England). There are three main families in the time in question:

Charles and Ann Reynolds and their children:
Ann – b. Sept. 1786
John – b. Nov 1788
Joseph – b. Dec. 1790
Mary – b. Oct. 1795
Charles – b. Mar 1798
Richard – b. Feb. 1800
Ann – b. Oct 1801
William – b. May 1802
Sarah – b. Sept. 1804
Thomas – b. July 1806
Elizabeth – b. Dec. 1808

Richard and Elizabeth Reynolds and their children:
Henry – b. June 1798
Mary – b. Nov. 1799
Elizabeth – b. Feb. 1802
Thomas – b. Jan 1804

Joseph and Mary Reynolds and their children:
John – b. Sept. 1816
Joseph – b. Sept. 1818, d. Dec. 1818

Jane’s marriage certificate with Thomas Arnold lists one of the witnesses as William Wright. Charles Reynolds (b. 1798) is listed as staying with William and Mary Wright in Lutterworth, in 1851, here (his name is mistranscribed as Charles Heywood). In 1841 the same family is living on Beast Market (and my Leicester friend discovered earlier this week that Charles and Ann Reynolds and their family were living on Beast Market, a yard, in the very early 1800s). We know from FamilySearch that William’s Wright’s wife Mary was born a Reynolds – they were married in 1819 (see here) – so it seems likely that it is the Mary Reynolds from Charles and Ann’s family – born 1795 – who William married. This same William is a witness to Jane Smalley Reynolds’ marriage to Thomas Arnold, so it seems as if Jane’s connection was to this Reynolds family.

William Killpack, the other person mentioned as a witness on Jane and Thomas’ marriage certificate, married a Hannah Smalley in 1823 – the family tree is private on Ancestry but you can see the basics on the third record down here.

As far as the earlier marriage certificate goes, I have not successfully tracked down William Cockerill yet but it’s safe to assume he is connect with the Smalleys, I think, as the other witness is Elizabeth Reynolds. This seems likely to be the Elizabeth born into Charles and Ann’s family in 1808, as the other connections are all with this family. If our William was born into this family in 1811 he would be the youngest one.

I think it’s safe to assume, from thee connections, that William Reynolds was a younger son of the family of Charles and Ann Reynolds. This would also mean that he gave his father’s name to his oldest son, my 3x great-grandfather Charles. However, I still can’t track down his actual birth or baptismal record, which is a little frustrating! But we’re getting tantalizingly close…!!!

Forming Christian Character Today

‘When I was a young Christian all the emphasis was on personal disciplines, particularly of daily prayer and Bible study. Personal disciplines remain important, but I do not believe they are sufficient to form Christian character today

‘In those early years of faith the Christian story was better known in Britain, and ‘Christian’ values taken as norms, even if they were not adhered to. Culture reinforced discipleship much more than today.

‘Today culture is more likely to be corrosive of discipleship as supportive. It is corporate disciplines and support which are needed. A Christian way of life – the daily practice of obedience to Jesus – needs a proactive supportive community. The term ‘one another’ appears frequently in the New Testament and it is persistent, intentional ‘one anothering’ which will enable lives of discipleship. I do not know how discipleship can be sustained without some regular, face-to-face small group for mutual support and challenge.’

(Graham Cray in the latest e-xpressions newsletter, subscribe here)

h/t David Keen.

Hope at the Grassroots

I have been so blessed over the past ten days by people I have met who are engaged in grassroots evangelism in their local communities. For the most part these are not clergy, but lay people, many of whom are licensed evangelists working on behalf of their parishes on the margins of church life.

I think of Margaret, an elderly woman I met who  likes to walk around the town, sit down on park benches and wait to see who will come up to her. She is very good at striking up conversations with total strangers, and often asks people if she can pray with them. Sometimes she will take bus journeys to other towns and ask the Lord to guide her to the people who need her. She also takes part in an annual mission with a national organization in which a team will visit a certain part of the country and do intentional evangelism. Margaret is especially fond of door-knocking! I suspect that the fact that she looks like everyone’s favourite grandmother is a help to her here! Her whole face lights up with joy when she talks about her ministry, and she has wonderful stories to tell of the way God has led her to just the right person at the right time when the right word needed to be spoken into that person’s life-situation.

I think of a group of Christians who are running an outreach project called ‘Church of the Car Boot Sale‘. Every Sunday in a field in their area there is a ‘car boot sale’ (North American readers: we’re talking about car trunks here!); cars come from miles around and from 7.30 a.m. to noon people sell their unwanted treasures from their car boots. A group of local Christians have set up a stall where they provide really good coffee and tea and an opportunity for a friendly conversation. Relationship are built, and from time to time the gospel is shared and prayer is offered. This is an inter-church project too, with Christians from several different denominations working together.

I met several people who were running Messy Church programs for families with small children for whom ordinary church is difficult, but I also met a couple of folks who are running ‘Messy Church for Senior Citizens’ – and I thought ‘Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?!’ After all, Messy Church often begins with crafts or other activities, and then leads naturally into singing, Bible stories and prayer, followed by a meal. Why not try it with seniors too?

I visited one local church which has recently established ‘Sunday morning rolling worship’. In a listening process involving the local community they had discovered that one thing that was keeping some people away from Sunday morning worship was that ‘you have to get there at a certain time and then stay ’til the end’, which some (especially parents with small kids) found a bit problematic. So now they have ‘rolling worship‘ from 9.30 to noon on Sundays; it is divided into half hour segments (eg. a short Prayer Book communion, a sermon, a family service), with a fifteen minute coffee break in between each segment; people arrive when they want to and leave when they want to. It was been very well received and average attendance on Sunday has gone up from about 100 to about 120 since it was introduced.

I met a young woman from an Anglo-Catholic parish who lost a child a couple of years ago. She has begun to train as an evangelist and is assisting in the moms and tots and family outreach ministries of her church. She is sure that her way of doing outreach and evangelism will involve doing ministry with families on the fringes of the life of the church, showing by her words and her life that the Christian faith has something relevant to say to people who are struggling with the daily issues of family life.

I met people who live in small rural villages who are intentional about ‘gossiping the gospel’, looking for opportunities to speak a word for Christ in their daily conversations with friend and neighbours. In small villages everybody knows everybody else, and if people decide to respond to the gospel and commit their lives to Christ there are lots of opportunities to mentor them as they take their first steps in Christian discipleship. Often this can be better done by a lay person, with whom a new Christian can more easily relate, than an ordained priest whose daily life bears so little resemblance to the norm.

I met several people who are either already running ‘café churches’ in local coffee shops or are thinking of it in the near future (for more information about café churches, look here). In fact, I heard that the head of the Costa coffee chain is very keen on this and wants to encourage all his coffee shops to have café churches in them at some point over the weekend. What a wonderful opportunity to go outside the doors of the church and worship God in a place where so many people congregate!

I am so thankful for the opportunity to have met these amazing Christian people who love Christ and want to share him with others. Over and over again they have reminded me that Christianity is not about church politics, it’s not about who is or is not validly ordained, it is not dependent on sophisticated structures and programs. It is about ordinary people who have been captivated by the Spirit of Christ and want to find ways to share the joy they have discovered with other people. This is the kind of thing that gives me hope for the future of the Church – not necessarily the Anglican Church or any other denomination, but the worldwide community of followers of Jesus.

‘That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria… Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word’ (Acts 8:1, 4). These scattered Christians were not professionals; they were ordinary men and women who had been transformed by the Spirit into followers of Jesus. The people I met in the last ten days are following their example of going from place to place proclaiming the word. Thanks be to God!

Read the Whole Thing

Note to those who wish to comment on the Church of England’s official response to the British Government’s ‘Equal Civil Marriage’ consultation: please read the whole thing before firing several rounds of outrage from the hip. At least then you’ll be outraged at what the document actually says, not at what you’ve heard it says (e.g. that gay marriage is the worst threat in 500 years).

P.S. Bishop Nick has read the whole thing. So has Doug Chaplin.

Update on my England visit

For the last week I’ve been traveling around England researching the work of licensed parish evangelists. A number of dioceses in the Church of England have licensed evangelists (the title varies from diocese to diocese); they are volunteer lay ministers who work on the edges of the church community, trying to spread the gospel and share the joy of faith in Christ with others. There is an enormous variety of ways in which they do this: Alpha and other Christian Basics courses, baptism and marriage preparation and follow-up, youth and children’s work, Messy Church and (in one case I discovered) Messy Church for Seniors, street pastors, door to door work, drop-ins for youth and seniors and everyone in between, and good old-fashioned relational evangelism. This is just scratching the surface of what is going on.

I have visited the dioceses of Rochester (in Kent) and Chelmsford (in Essex and East London), as well as Peterborough Diocese where my Mum and Dad currently live. I have been very impressed with the thoroughness of the training given to all lay ministers. In our Diocese of Edmonton geography is very much against us (distances being so huge), but everyone I have met has been very surprised to hear that a person can become a lay reader in our diocese on the strength of five Saturday workshops. In most dioceses in England, Readers (as they call them) take a three-year course requiring them to commit at least one evening a week and several weekends a year. Evangelists usually go through a two year program; some of the course work is general and is done in common with other lay ministers in training, while other modules are more specifically directed toward the evangelists in training.

One of the pitfalls, of course, is that a parish with a licensed evangelist can say, “Well, we’ve got someone to do the job now, so we don’t need to share our faith with others – we can just leave it to Julie, who’s been trained!” Chelmsford diocese is about to change the designation to ‘evangelism enabler’ in order to underline the point that a licensed evangelist is not supposed to be a lone ranger, but a leader and equipper in the mission efforts of the parish as a whole.

I love the idea of licensed evangelists and I’m very much impressed with the quality of the training programs I’ve seen. My job now is to go back to our diocese and have some conversations with people (including, of course, our own bishop) about whether this would be a beneficial thing for us to think about as part of our intentional efforts to be more missional and evangelistic.

On Monday and Tuesday I spent a couple of days with my Aunt and Uncle in Leicester. While I was staying with them we went down to Lutterworth and nearby Bitteswell, which is where my Reynolds ancestors lived from the early 1830s to about the turn of the century. I saw the churches where they were baptized and married and the churchyards they were buried in (although I didn’t find any gravestones, which did not surprise me as they would probably not have been wealthy enough to afford them). In the 1841 census my 4x great-grandparents William and Jane Reynolds were living on a street called Woodmarket in Lutterworth; I walked down that street and saw many buildings they would have seen a hundred and seventy years ago when they lived there. Facebook friends of mine can see the photos on my Facebook page.

I’m nearly done my visit to England now. My Mum and Dad and I have a couple more days together, and then I will be travelling down to Maidenhead Sunday afternoon to spend a few hours with an old school friend before catching a plane Monday at about 4.15 p.m. to fly back to Canada.

Mission and evangelism

My friend Harold Percy used to talk about the ‘everything we do is evangelism’ argument that you often hear in churchland. You know how that one works, don’t you? It goes like this:

1. Evangelism means ‘spreading good news’.
2. Lots of things about our church are good news.
3. Let’s make a list of everything we do that is good news.
4. Wow, we’re doing lots of evangelism!
5. We don’t need to do anything different from what we’re already doing (especially not talking to our friends about Jesus).

All totally logical, but it ends at a very different place than the New Testament emphasis on sharing ‘the mother of all Good News’ – the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, which brings us forgiveness and new life – with people who are not yet disciples of Jesus, in order that they may believe in him and follow him.

I had a similar feeling today when I read the communique from a recent meeting of North American and African bishops in Toronto. You can read the communique here. The paragraph that I found somewhat unsettling was this one:

We affirm that mission is a meeting-place with God and with others. Mission isn’t something we do to another, but a way of being together in the presence of God as God transforms and reconciles the world to himself. To be in mission is to assume a listening stance – listening for how God is at work in the world, for how others are responding to and participating in that work, and for how we might offer ourselves and our gifts into partnership in that work.

I think I know what the bishops are trying to say. I have often taught people that one of the most important evangelizing skills is listening, because before we can share the good news with our neighbour we need to find out which bit of it is most relevant to them. There has been far too much evangelism which did not include this sort of listening, and thus spent its time giving impeccable answers to questions no one was asking.

However, what I miss in the bishops’ words is the intimate New Testament connection between mission and proclamation. After all, the word ‘mission’ comes from the Latin word ‘to send’, and for us Christians, the one who sends us out is Jesus himself. And what does he send us to do?

‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:18-20).

‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved…’ (Mark 16:15-15) (Yes, I know that most modern scholars don’t believe Mark 16:9-20 was part of Mark’s original gospel, but at the very least it reflects what the early church remembered of Jesus’ teaching).

‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things’ (Luke 24:46-48).

‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you… receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’ (John 20:21-23).

‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8).

What these texts all set before us is that mission in the New Testament is inescapably connected to the proclamation of the good news of Jesus and what he has done, and the call to follow him. Mission which does not include that proclamation is a pale shadow of the ‘sending’ that we see in the New Testament.

‘But surely’, someone will object, ‘New Testament mission is about more than just evangelism, isn’t it? After all, we’re called to care for the poor and needy, aren’t we?’ (see Matthew 25:31-46). We’re called to transform the unjust structures of society and guard the integrity of God’s creation. Surely this is all part of our mission as Christians?’

The problem with this line of thinking, in my view, is that it confuses mission and discipleship. If everything that Jesus calls us to do is included in ‘mission’, then in the end we can simply define mission as ‘everything Jesus calls us to do’. But if this is the case, what is to prevent us from including ‘avoiding lust’ in ‘Christian mission’ (see Matthew 5:27-30)? Or living a simple life (Matthew 6:24-34)? Or loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbour as yourself (Mark 12:28-34)? All of these are vital aspects of Christian discipleship, and we neglect them at our peril. But should we include them under the heading of ‘mission’? Surely not.

It’s fashionable these days to quote the words of St. Francis: ‘Preach the Gospel; use words if necessary’. But we need to remember three things about the original context in which Francis spoke those words.

First, he spoke them to brothers who he was sending as missionaries to Muslim lands that had been on the receiving end of crusades. It was necessary for there to be a lot of rehabilitation of the word ‘Christian’ before the message could be convincingly proclaimed; it was necessary for the monks to demonstrate a Christlike lifestyle before people would listen to what they had to say about Christ. But was Francis proclaiming this as an eternal principle of evangelism? I think not.

The reason we know this, of course (and this is the second thing), is that Francis himself used a lot of words as he went from place to place evangelizing! It is often forgotten these days that he and his ‘brothers minor’ were primarily evangelists – preachers of the good news – who went from town to town proclaiming the gospel and calling people to follow Jesus. To understand Francis as recommending to all Christians throughout all time a wordless proclamation of the Gospel is to do violence to the rest of the story of Francis.

The third thing is that Francis, of course, lived in a Christendom world where he,and his monks could assume that most people knew the story of Jesus and what it meant. Can we assume such knowledge today? Surely not. Is such knowledge important? Surely it is!

‘Words without deeds lack credibility, but deeds without words lack clarity’ – so Harold Percy taught me. I’m sure he’s right. Yes, we must listen to people (and, more importantly, to God). Yes, we must live Christlike lives. Yes, we must care for the poor and needy, work for a more just world, and care for our environment. But if we do all those things and never get around to sharing the gospel story and calling people to become followers of Jesus, have we taken part in ‘mission’ in the full New Testament sense? I think not. So yes, let us live the gospel in faithful discipleship, but let us also remember what the call to discipleship was originally all about: “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” (Mark 1:17).