Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Couple who met at church return to run it 29 years later

Couple who met at church return to run it 29 years later

A COUPLE have returned to Henley after 29 years to run the d:two community centre and Henley Baptist Church. 

Jeremy and Jo Bray are the new church leaders and have replaced Roger and Diana Cole, who are on sabbatical.

They will continue to support the work of youth and community project Nomad, the Henley foodbank and the family centre, which provides play facilities for children.

Mr Bray said: “It’s a thriving church community and first of all we hope to get to know it very well and keep up the good work that has been going on there for many years.

“The church was built in 1878, so we are following a long line of positive work connecting the community. That is our main focus and providing a helpful resource for the Henley community.”

The couple live in the town with their 17-year-old daughter who attends The Henley College.

They have moved back to Henley from Warwick in June last year, where they set up the Openhouse church. 

They first met at Henley Baptist Church as members of the congregation in 1982 and began a relationship.

Mrs Bray worked as an area beat officer for Thames Valley Police while her husband was working as an auxiliary nurse at Townlands Memorial Hospital.

He later became an estate agent and press officer for the Water Research Centre in Medmenham.

They ran a youth club together for about 30 children on Friday evenings and also held a Sunday school.

The couple left in 1990 and went to a bible college in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, where they studied philosophy and learnt about counselling.  Following this they spent time in India looking after children before moving to Oxford, where Mr Bray worked for a medical communications agency and his wife worked in administration. 

At the time they supported university students at Oxford Community Church, which met at the cinema in George Street. 

They eventually returned to India to help establish the Powerhouse Church in Chennai.

Following this they returned to the UK to start the King’s Church in Didcot. 

In 2006 they moved to Warwick to work at churches there and carry out work as foster parents, which they had have done for much of their lives.

They will now hold a regular service at the d:two centre from 10.30am every Sunday and also want to arrange home visits in small groups for people to pray together and enjoy company.

Mr Bray said the couple were learning all about the work at d:two.  He said: “To start with there’s so much going on and we are just getting our heads around it. We are trying to ensure the activities we do can continue and thrive. As time goes by we will think of different things to do but, primarily, our aim is to have a positive role in the community, particularly through Nomad, which is a wonderful charity.”

Mr Bray also praised the family centre. “It’s a very well used resource and a place to meet in a relaxed environment,” he said. “Between 20 and 30 children and parents are there every morning on weekdays. On Saturdays we have sessions specifically for male carers and fathers to bring along their pre-school children. It’s a really great time.”

Mr Bray will have to balance his role at church with his other job and will spend about three days a week doing his freelance medical writing.

Mr Bray said: “Jo and myself have always been bi-vocational church workers. We have always felt it’s really important to keep your feet in normal, everyday life. Working for a church is a lifestyle. We are learning to fit our lives around the business of church.”

He became a Christian while a student at the University of Southampton. 

“I suppose at university we ask some big questions,” he said. “I then came, as a very new Christian, to Henley and was helped by the people in Henley Baptist Church.”

The couple said they were delighted to come back. 

Mrs Bray said: “Henley has felt like home to us and it’s lovely to be back with some of our old friends. It’s just great to work for the church that was so significant to us in our twenties.” 

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