Trinity Grace Church Leadership Team

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(from left) Peter Johnston, Tony Flanders (seated), Tim Larlham, Maurice Blezard, Rob Stredder, Jeff Kinsley, Ibiwari Erekosima, Oliver Allmand-Smith (seated), Graham Westwell.

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Graham Westwell

I have lived in Ramsbottom all my life apart from a four year spell in Anglesey Wales. As I was growing up I was given clear examples both at church and at home that this God who was preached to me was real. I spent the early part of my life doing my best to ignore it; I hated going to church and remember saying to my sister “if this is what heaven is like I don’t want to go!”

As I looked about in creation I knew deep down that there had to be a God, since evolution was not a believable option. At home I saw so many evidences of a living relationship and also a faith that truly worked itself out in front of my eyes. I tried to turn my back on Him but the evidence was getting greater and greater.

In the end, two things dramatically changed the course of my life. Firstly, a brother in law that had previously laughed at and ridiculed the very faith I had been shown now dramatically broke down in tears and professed the same faith himself. Secondly I had always believed in God but the next challenge was this question: “Is there a Hell?” I knew that I was not only guilty in the depths of my heart but also that I had rejected the only one who could help me for many years.

Finally, in 1975 at the age of 14 I knelt down by my bed at 22 Tanners Street, Ramsbottom and in tears accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.

How much space would I need to tell of His forgiveness, love, mercy and compassion toward me throughout my life? He has helped and sustained me through cancer and through twenty seven years in the police service. In essence it’s what is written above the pulpit in our church building: it’s all to do with His grace towards me, which means His unmerited favour in not only saving me but keeping me all these years.

I currently serve as a deacon in the church which is both a pleasure and a privilege as I serve amongst my family, which is God’s family. I just want to help, care for, visit, encourage and draw alongside those I regard as my brothers and sisters in God’s house. My heart’s desire is to serve and encourage His people, striving to live a life that is effective for my Lord and Saviour.

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Oliver Allmand-Smith

I grew up as the youngest of six, and although we enjoyed many blessings as a family my childhood was rather troubled, especially after my 17-year-old brother was killed on a motorbike when I was only 10. I knew the message of the gospel, but I had no peace because my heart was not right with God. However, when I reached the age of 17 myself, God showed me mercy and gave me a new heart – I was re-born as a child of God knowing forgiveness of sins and peace with Him.

The following year I went to Cambridge University to read history, majoring in the Reformation period. In these years I learned how to study the Bible, how to exegete it faithfully and how to present the gospel message to others. I began preaching in the year of my conversion at summer camps and YP meetings, and the Lord continued to give me many opportunities to proclaim the gospel.

After University, I began working in industry as part of a family engineering company that has been continually trading in Macclesfield since 1810. In 1995 I married Alison, and after some years of preparation, we were called to the pastorate here in Ramsbottom in 1998. God has blessed us with six children, and we have made Ramsbottom our home, even though I continue to travel to Macclesfield to oversee the business. During our time of service here we have rejoiced to see the church grow in numbers, but also in the grace and knowledge of Christ and His word. God has established a Biblical leadership team here and the membership are united in our desire to reach out to our community and our world with the precious gospel of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. We were especially encouraged in 2011 when the church adopted the 1689 London Baptist Confession as our statement of faith. May the Lord give us grace and strength to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Judev3).

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Maurice Blezard

I was born in 1951 at Queens Park Hospital in Blackburn. I was the only child of John and Betty Blezard of Haslingden. We later moved to Accrington when I was 10 years old. I attended a Sunday school at Cannon Street Baptist Church in Accrington, but as I grew older I decided that church wasn’t a place that I wanted to go to. For most of my teenage years I played bass guitar in a music group called “The Soundcasters”, playing gigs throughout the Northwest until we split up in 1968 after a failed recording contract.

I left school with few qualifications, had a variety of jobs, and finally settled in the family lighting business. But my heart’s desire was to live for myself and experience as much pleasure and sinful living as I could.

In 1974 I met my future wife Louise at the Victoria Hotel in Accrington where she was working as a part-time barmaid. Amazingly the relationship blossomed and we married in 1975. Louise was originally from Ramsbottom and her parents were committed Christians and attended a church there. They used to share their faith with me, but I had no time for religion or God, and I remember becoming angry when Louise commented that one day she might return to church and the faith that she once followed.

BUT GOD IS GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL TO SINFUL MEN AND WOMEN.

A year after our marriage whilst driving in the car, a song on the radio caused me to ask Louise, “What do you think happens to us when we die? Do we all go to Heaven?” “No, I am afraid that you won’t” was the reply: “God is holy and he can’t accept you because you are a sinner.” What a bolt from the blue – it completely knocked me out!

Louise went on to speak of me needing a saviour – one who could set me free from the curse of my sin AND THAT PERSON WAS JESUS. But I would have to stop living for myself, turn from my sins and commit my life to Him. The cost seemed so high – I tried to resist, but God was dealing with me. After a week of struggle, being unable to eat or sleep properly, I was a broken man. Blessed relief came when I knelt down in my kitchen and gave my life to Jesus Christ, asking Him to be my Lord and Saviour. He came into my life by His Spirit and has never left me since that day.

Louise and I started to attend the church in Ramsbottom (then meeting in a member’s home). We have had the privilege of serving the Lord for many years, enjoying fellowship and receiving faithful biblical teaching which has established us in the faith. It has been a joy to see the church grow and become established in the centre of Ramsbottom.

The Lord has blessed us with four children and I can testify that I have experienced His love, care and faithfulness in all of life’s circumstances. One of my favourite verses is Deuteronomy 33:27, THE ETERNAL GOD IS YOUR REFUGE AND UNDERNEATH ARE THE EVERLASTING ARMS. I believe those arms will take me (an unworthy sinner) safe to heaven.

I have served on the church leadership team ever since I was appointed as a deacon in the late 1970s and then as an elder from the early 1980s. When I was younger I taught in the Sunday School and was involved in Young People’s ministry; I was also part of “Revelation”, a music group with an evangelistic ministry, especially in several local prisons. I am also a member of the Preachers Group ministering both at TGCR and other churches in the region. Since 2010 I have served as church treasurer. I am reminded daily that without Jesus I can do nothing!

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Peter Johnston

I grew up in Scotland, and was brought up in a loving Christian home, which I now count as a real blessing. I was very rebellious as an adolescent, which brought with it untold consequences, but God was very merciful to me and I came to a saving knowledge of Him in my early twenties.

I started my working life as an apprentice litho printer, completed a four years City & Guild course at Glasgow College of Printing, and then moved to Bury where I had applied for a new position.
I settled in to my new surroundings very quickly, despite not knowing anyone in the area.

I knew I had to find a good place to worship with God’s people, and was led to this church here in the heart of Ramsbottom, where I soon became a member under Pastor Ray Gregory, realising that God had directed me to be part of His work here.

In September 1981 I was married to Sue, who has been a great help and support to me over the years, and I thank God for her. We have two children (now adults), two grandchildren and another due later this year; we praise God for his many blessings.

The number of folks who attend Trinity Grace Church has continued to grow over the years through faithful gospel preaching, and there is a warmth and love for God’s people and His truth. I count it a real privilege to serve the Lord among His people here as a deacon, and it is a great joy to take the wonderful news of salvation out to the men and women of our town.

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Tony Flanders

I grew up in the South of England, and attended Church from the age of 8. Soon after turning 18, and the day before going to Loughborough University, I was converted through reading John Blanchard’s book, “Right with God”. After university I trained as an accountant for 3 years, leaving to train for ministry at the London Theological Seminary. Having married my wife Maggie in 1994, I served for 6 years as pastor of a small church in the beautiful village of Ribchester, Lancashire. This was a difficult work, with few resources and a deep rooted opposition in the village to the church. Our Son Matthew was born during this time.

After spending a couple of years working in a Christian bookshop, I returned to ministry in Machen, South wales. I served for 8 years in the Evangelical Baptist Church in the village. It was a blessing to see a number of folk baptised, and the church grow in my time there. Sadly, however, due to various difficulties, I had to move on from this work. Thus, I have been serving Trinity Grace Church as second full-time elder since 2010, and apart from preaching I have particular responsibility for school’s work and visiting the elderly. It is a blessing to be in a Church, where there is a solid biblical foundation in terms of doctrine and practice. Furthermore, it is an enormous blessing to serve in a biblical eldership, where we can support and encourage one another, as well as utilise our varying gifts.

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Jeff Kinsley

I have lived in Ramsbottom since I was eleven years old. My parents were religious and what they taught me I naturally believed until a close friend began to speak to me about the gospel. I attended a series of gospel meetings that were held in the church, they challenged my view of God, the bible and especially Jesus Christ. I had always believed that Jesus was just a good man living and dying to show us a better way to live, but actually He was God’s Son sent by God the Father to live and die as a ransom for my sins.

This is the message of the gospel that challenged me at those meetings, and after a time through the grace of God I started to understand and more importantly believe that Jesus Christ had died for me personally. The forgiveness I have now was a result of his sacrifice upon the cross.

I joined the church and straight away wanted to be involved in serving God in any way possible. I spent many hours helping with building work in the church, became involved with youth work, gospel ministry and some preaching.

In 1986 I married my wife Yvonne; God has blessed us with two grown up children and we continue to serve God in the church.

At present I am part of the eldership team. It is a blessing to belong to a church that has a solid biblical foundation, a concern for the community and a desire to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.

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Rob Stredder

Having been converted at the age of 18, knowing the joy of sins forgiven, the reality of the presence of one who promises never to leave me nor forsake me, and the assurance of an eternal home in heaven, has been, and remains to this day – the greatest joy, fulfilment and privilege of my life. For over thirty years it has been my privilege to serve the Lord, initially as deacon and now in these latter years as an elder as part of the eldership team.
I currently serve in the shared pastoral care of the church here in Ramsbottom and at Trinity Baptist Church in Charlesworth.

My dear wife Liz has been of tremendous support to me through some of life’s most difficult challenges, and we are grateful we can celebrate over thirty years of being happily married together. We have two grown children who we are so thankful for, and love them dearly.

We value family greatly and are thankful we can share many happy and meaningful times together.

Ibiwari Erekosima

I grew up in a family that were nominal Christians. This influenced my high school and university days and I attended church occasionally and was not consistent. I met Eno just before finishing my medical school training and at the time she was already a believer attending the First Baptist Church in Port Harcourt Nigeria. Through her influence I started accompanying her regularly to church but my heart was far from God. We eventually got married in 1995 in the First Baptist Church but I was still rebellious towards God and did not really understand the meaning of mercy and grace from the Lord.

Our daughter Soti was born in 1997 and in that year I began to feel the deep emptiness and sinfulness in my life despite the success in my medical career. On a particular Sunday in March 1997 I felt so much conviction in my heart whilst in the Sunday church service and in that moment I was overwhelmed by God’s mercy and grace, which lead to my salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. From that moment the transformation in my life began. I later got baptized and became a member of the First Baptist Church and the Lord gave me the opportunity to serve him in the church leadership.

In the year 2000 we immigrated to the UK as a result of my specialist training in renal medicine and lived in Sheffield. During our early years in the UK we really struggled to find a good church but in God’s providence a Christian couple that are retired missionaries introduced us to the Wycliffe Church Sheffield. We really enjoyed the fellowship there. Following completion of my training in 2008 I got a job in the Salford Royal Hospital Manchester as a renal physician and Soti also had finished her primary school and in the Lord’s providence we decided to move and live in Ramsbottom and started attending the Trinity Grace Church in 2008. We were blessed with Dami that same year. It has been a blessing to be in a church with good biblical foundation, sound doctrine and warm fellowship. This has helped us grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord.

It has been a great privilege to join the leadership last year to serve the Lord among his people as a deacon. I also had the privilege to organize and lead the men’s fellowship, which is growing to the glory of God. It is therefore been a blessing to be part of the church which supports one another living, working and growing together as the body of Christ.

Tim Larlham

I was brought up in a Christian family in Camberwell, South London and attended Church regularly. As a child I knew I was a sinner and that I had to repent for my sins to become a Christian but always felt that I wanted to enjoy my life first and would wait until I was much older before committing my life to Christ. This changed when I was in my teens and I begun to give serious thought to the uncertainty of life and where I would stand in front of God if I died. I realised that I was not in control of how long I lived and that it was only through the merciful love of God and the gracious gift of his son, who died for sinners like me, that I could face God’s judgment. I accepted Christ as my saviour and have seen his wonderful guiding hand on my life since.

In my mid twenties I met a local Christian lass from Bury who attended Trinity Grace Church in Ramsbottom. After a few years we got married and we lived in London for a bit before deciding that it wasn’t really that grim up North, quite the contrary, and we moved to Ramsbottom. We now have two daughters and attend Trinity Grace Church where I have been made a deacon and run some of the Children ministry.

Pastor Oliver-Allmand Smith’s induction Service

Oliver Allmand-Smith begins his pastoral ministry at Trinity Grace Church, formally known as Ramsbottom Evangelical Church in 1988. He took over from Pastor Raymond Gregory who began his ministry in Ramsbottom in 1955. God certainly knows how to keep His Church.

Note: For those of you on apple devices, you may have to view the video directly on our Trinity Grace Youtube channel.


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