An Open Table where Love knows no borders

Who’s who and what do they do?

Scroll down to find information on the following:

  • The Ministers of the Church
  • The Pastors
  • Visiting Pastoral Overseers
  • The Host Group
  • The Baptist Union of Victoria
  • The Baptist World Alliance
  • Whitley College

The Ministers of the Church

Everyone! We believe that ministry is the work of the whole church in their whole lives. Although the pastors do more of the visible up-front ministry in the church, every Christian is called by God to develop and utilise their gifts and abilities in furthering God’s work of healing and renewing the world. We are involved in ministry in our homes, in our workplaces and in our social activities, not just in the work we do at church. We are God’s people all the time, and we are constantly in a position to act for love, mercy, justice and hospitality in the places we live and move. That’s ministry!

The Pastors

Pastors are people whom the church believes to have been called and gifted by the Lord of the Church to exercise a ministry of spiritual leadership and pastoral oversight of the congregation and its life, prayer and ministry. They exercise this ministry in consultation and cooperation with one another, and each place themselves in relationships of professional supervision and voluntary accountability outside the congregation. They carry the primary responsibility for the preaching and teaching ministries of the church, for the ordering of its worship and prayer, and for the provision of pastoral care and counsel to people who are regular participants in the life of the church or who contact the church in search of care and counsel. They aim to see that people are being nurtured and equipped to live out the Christian vision in the world.

Our Pastors are Nathan Nettleton and Alison Sampson. You can find out more about who they are here.

Visiting Pastoral Overseers

The church recognises that its pastors are entrusted with the primary responsibility for the spiritual leadership and pastoral oversight, but that there are many situations in which the wisdom and experience of people from outside the congregation may prove invaluable. For this reason we have appointed some people from outside our church who are recognised for their pastoral wisdom and experience, to serve among us as Visiting Pastoral Overseers. This role has two parts. Firstly: to provide a point of contact for the congregation with regard to matters they feel uncomfortable raising with either the Pastor or a member of the Host Group. Secondly: to provide a point of reference, advice and guidance for the Pastor should the need arise.

Through them we link ourselves more strongly with the wider church and submit ourselves to the scrutiny and wisdom of others.

The Visiting Pastoral Overseers aim to come and share in worship and a meal with us several times a year. They are available to all regular congregational participants to talk about issues or concerns to do with the life and direction of the church (particularly in situations where someone feels that they can’t talk with a pastor or the Host Group about their concerns).

We also keep them up to date with what is being discussed at church meetings and any important questions we are wrestling with and invite them to give us whatever advice, comments or suggestions they consider appropriate.

Our Visiting Pastoral Overseers are Roslyn Wright and Chris Barnden, and their contact details are available in the Church Contact Directory. If you don’t have a copy, just ask.

The Host Group

Most of the day-to-day governance of our church is handled by the Host Group. As is normal in Baptist churches, the highest authority in the congregation is a meeting of all the members gathered to prayerfully discern the leading of God. However, we want a model of membership that is open, welcoming and inclusive, and that means that the governance structures and processes cannot be dependent on securing the active engagement of most members. So the congregational meeting has delegated much of the normal governance to a smaller group.

Although the Host Group has similar responsibilities to the Church Councils or Diaconates of other churches, it differs in a number of ways. Rather than electing people to a set number of positions, our model invites all those who are ready and willing, to step up, identify themselves, and share in the responsibilities of hosting this church. The model is based on the idea that a congregation consists of three main groups of people and, while people can and do move freely from one group to another, it is of value to both the individuals and the congregation to be able to identify who is who. The three main groups can be understood by comparing them to the three groups at a large feast. There are those who host the event, who prepare the menu and the space, who send out the invitations, who put care and effort and responsibility to making it all happen. A feast won’t happen without them! Then there are the helpers, or the Bring-A-Plate crew, the ones who come regularly and help according to their gifts and the needs of the time. They receive a lot from the invitation, and they contribute a lot by their presence, but if it was up to them to make the feast happen, it probably wouldn’t! And then there are the guests who don’t have the same sense of familiarity and ownership, but who are a priority to welcome. Think of all the stories in the gospels of people Jesus said we should invite over to our meals. He was talking about this group, the ones who we may assume have nothing to offer. And yet Christ comes to us in the stranger.

Based on that idea, this model seeks to empower the people who are ready to take on the host role to step up, identify themselves, and take on the responsibilities of hosting this church with the affirmation and confidence of the congregation. It is thus possible for anyone in the church to join the Host Group at any time so long as they are willing and able to pull their weight cooperatively with the others, as described in the Host Group covenant.

Currently, the Host Group usually meets on the first Wednesday of each month. In order to ensure accountability to the whole congregation and allow participation by all, their meetings are open to visitors and they publish their decisions on the church email list within a few days of their meetings. Unless there is an unavoidable reason for urgency, they allow a “cooling off period” to give other members of the congregation the opportunity to raise any questions or concerns before the decisions are acted upon.

The Baptist Union of Victoria

This Church is a constituent member church of the Baptist Union of Victoria (BUV) and has been ever since its establishment.

The Union exists to promote the unity of the churches in faith, fellowship and worship, and to carry out those functions that require a wider resource base than is usually afforded by a single congregation. Member churches of the Baptist Union do not surrender their autonomy to the Union.  The Union may offer advise and support to Member churches, but it does not seek, or have the power, to dictate or control the mission and community life of the churches. The Gathering of the Union meets twice a year and its meetings are open to anyone from the churches.

Historical records indicate that this church holds the honour of having, in 1856, initiated the movement which eventually resulted in the formation of the present Baptist Union of Victoria.

Baptist World Alliance

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) is the international association of Baptist churches and unions. Similar to the Baptist Union of Victoria, it does no exert power over its member bodies, but exists as a voluntary association for the mutual benefit of all. The BWA holds a huge international gathering known as a Congress every five years. It was held in Melbourne in 2000. The most recent one was held in Durban, South Africa, in July 2015. The BWA also has a number of study commissions which meet every year in different parts of the world. Our pastor, Nathan Nettleton, is a serving member of the BWA Study Commission on Worship and Spirituality.

The most senior leaders of the BWA are the President, Ngwedla Paul Msiza of South Africa, and the General Secretary, Elijah Brown of the USA. The previous General Secretary, Neville Callam, visited our church in October 2012, and the sermon he preached on that occasion can be found here. You can also read what he wrote about his visit on his blog here.

Whitley College

Whitley College is the Baptist theological teaching college of Victoria. It exists to equip men and women for leadership and service in Church and Society.

Whitley’s theological teaching college is able to offer degree, diploma and postgraduate studies designed to equip people for a career of Christian service or to prepare them for lay ministry in various situations.

Courses are offered in theology, biblical studies, church history, pastoral care, mission and evangelism and are taught by a team of quality teachers.

The College is located near Melbourne University and can be reached by public transport in about 30 minutes from South Yarra. Students are able to select courses for their convenience during the day or evenings or on Saturday mornings. They can study part-time or full-time or just take occasional subjects.