Sarah and Steve Small
Head Of Eden Network
As 2021 draws to a close, we caught up with Steve and Sarah Small, Heads of the Eden Network UK, as they look back on the last year.
‘2021 has been another rollercoaster year. It all began with another tougher lockdown, cold temperatures, more interrupted school-based education and challenging working conditions. For us, it also began with the news that we were expecting a baby! Judah arrived at the end of August and our lives have been flipped upside down again. Sarah stepped back from her role as Head of Eden and husband Steve stepped up to cover her maternity leave for the near year leaving us reflecting how babies, despite being so tiny and helpless, change everything, bringing both joy and pain.
Often during this season of advent, we fail to reflect on the time it took between the annunciation of Mary’s pregnancy and the birth of Jesus in the Bethlehem stable, rushing straight from one to the next in our storytelling. There were stages that Mary underwent before the eventual birth of her baby, and many seasons that she weathered once he had arrived. Most of which we have no record of.
The nine months of pregnancy followed by the early months of a new baby are all necessary for the formation and establishment of a healthy baby and a growing family.
This can be true of our Eden teams as well – as we announce our intention to start a new team there’s excitement, celebration and anticipation. Then there’s a time of planning, praying and developing the team before the eventual birth.
At times, much as in nature, these births don’t always make it to full term – some come early and we feel like we needed more time to plan and prepare. Others seem to go late – everything is lined up and we’re keen for the new reality to start. Despite even the best-laid plans once a team has launched there can be difficult days of adjustment, getting to know each other and finding new ways of living and following Jesus.
We have such an expectancy for new teams but often like a baby the first year flies by and it feels like we’ve not achieved as much as we were hoping, we’re still finding our feet and hands! It’s often said you can achieve a lot less in one year than you think, and a lot more in five.
That’s why Eden is for the long term because as the years progress, the layers of community peel back and the yeast of our faith, obedience and prayers mix more through the dough and begin to rise. Our teams cement deep-rooted relationships and this impacts the communities we love and serve.
2021 has been a year in which we have brought many new Eden teams to birth, and despite the setbacks imposed by tough regulations, we have used technology and prayer to develop plans in a range of places. The teams that have started this year are:
Jan 2021 – Wythenshawe Park, Manchester
March 2021 – Redcar, North East
Aug 2021 – Parkfield and Oxbridge, Stockton on Tees
Aug 2021 – Blackpool Central Drive
Sept 2021 – Top Valley, Nottingham
Sept 2021 – Chemnitz, Germany
Plans are also in the final stages in Byker (Newcastle), Orford (Warrington), Kensington (Liverpool), Sharston (Manchester), Dumbarton (Glasgow). It has been a fruitful year both in terms of conception and delivery! But there is still much work to be done in and through our young teams, and we would value your prayers for them as they establish themselves in communities where they face daily challenges.
One of the main reasons that we launch Eden teams is to reach people who otherwise may not have the opportunity to hear about the hope of Jesus or to experience it in deep and tangible ways. Earlier in the year, we made a series of short films for Eden Sunday which beautifully remind us why we do what we do, straight from the mouths of those who have met Jesus through the work of Eden.
Like proud parents celebrating their children, we celebrate these incredible stories, and the many more yet to be told, those started and as yet unfinished on the streets of our communities.
We have also welcomed new leaders into some of our existing teams including Hexham in the North East and West Bowling in Bradford and there are other teams where we’re still seeking the right person to lead and more volunteers to come and join a team – if that’s you and God is calling you to Eden in 2022 then please get in touch. Please also continue to pray for us, for our teams and their leaders, for our partner churches and most of all for our precious communities – that the light of life would be demonstrated this Christmas and in the year ahead.