about

Nick & Carol Pollard have served together in ministry all their married lives (they married in 1977, aged 21 and 19, but actually attended the same junior school).

Initially, whilst Carol was a Chemistry teacher and Nick was researching for a PhD in Psychology, their ministry focused on young people in the church they attended in Southampton. They worked intensively with about 30 young people, many of whom are now in full-time Christian ministry across the world. They also started an outreach youth club to serve a particularly deprived part of the city and built it to a membership of 300. “Though, thankfully, no more than 100 turned up on any night” recalls Nick “and we had a wonderful team working with us.”

Then, in 1983, plans for Mission England were announced by Bishop Gavin Reid and Nick & Carol immediately volunteered to help. This subsequently led to an invitation from the Billy Graham Association for Nick and Carol to join their international team to run a major outreach in Canada. “It was marvellous to work with some lovely people in the churches there,” says Carol “but we did become rather uncomfortable with that model of big-stage, big-event, outreach.” On returning to the UK in 1985, Nick & Carol worked for Mission Solent, organising a rather different style of outreach for the churches in Hampshire, led by Canon John Chapman (affectionately known as Chappo). “That experience was transformational for us in so many ways” recounts Nick “at the heart of it were dialogue sessions, where guests were invited to ask questions – and anyone who came to any event was given a copy of Luke’s Gospel which Chappo worked through in his talks day-by-day.”

In 1986, Nick & Carol took those experiences into their next phase of ministry when they were commissioned by the churches of Hampshire to serve as chaplains to the fifteen Sixth Form Colleges in the county and began to run what they called QuestionMark weeks. They chose the name QuestionMark because questioning and dialogue was at the heart of the week’s activities; and a copy of Mark’s Gospel was offered to every student who came to any event. “It was wonderful to see so many young people keen to engage and think about the life and teaching of Jesus” recalls Carol “these were voluntary events in the college, but about 10% of the students would attend each session.” Nick & Carol ran a QuestionMark Week in each college in Hampshire every two years and so, through that time, almost every sixth former in the county had the opportunity to take part; and it was transformational for very many of them.

Through this ministry Nick & Carol also sought to give the students a well rounded vision for the world and so they founded Project Senegal, an initiative whereby sixth-formers went to reach and serve people in West Africa – and inevitably came back changed for the better by their experience. In later years Nick & Carol continued to express their passion for global justice when, as part of Make Poverty History, they founded the Global Student Forum which was then picked up by The Department for International Development who made a substantial grant to enable them to develop a team to expand the project (which went on to reach over 250,000 school pupils per year across the UK).

In the early 90’s Nick & Carol finally agreed to respond positively to the many invitations they received to speak and lead dialogues/debates in other Sixth Forms – and now also Universities – across the country. By then they had two young children (Luke and Lizzie), and so Nick & Carol had to change their way of working. No longer going out to speak together, Carol stayed back to lead the management of the rapidly growing organisation and staff, whilst Nick now travelled across the country speaking at Universities and Sixth Form Conferences. And the content developed too. Whilst retaining the emphasis on challenging the students to think rigorously, through the dialogue and debate; and retaining the focus on encouraging students to read a Gospel for themselves; Nick and Carol added a new dimension… “The fact was that we needed something to stimulate the students to want to think about, and talk about, big questions” Nick recounts “and that was why we started using films – because they raise questions and encourage discussion.”

In 1996, Nick & Carol received an invitation that opened a whole new chapter in their life and ministry. Canon Ann Holt (then Director of Care for Education) organised a special national consultation of key leaders of all youth and schools organisations for Nick to speak about the form of ministry he and Carol had developed. Carol recalls “That was the first time we formulated clearly what had become the three-fold framework of our ministry: cultural engagement (to stimulate people to think and question), critical thinking (through dialogue and serious engagement with issues) and Biblical literacy (encouraging people to read the Bible for themselves).” Nick & Carol expected this to be a once-off speaking engagement, before they went back to their direct ministry with young people. However, such was the demand from these national organisations that Nick & Carol agreed to set up a small, short-term, project to provide training and resources to help others to develop and apply this three-fold framework in their own ministries. And so The Damaris Project was born – intended to be a small sideline to their ongoing outreach ministry in schools and churches. “We honestly didn’t expect it to take off like it did” says Nick “but churches and organisations across the country ate up our resources and training – and were hungry for more.”

Therefore, in 2000, Nick & Carol formed The Damaris Trust and folded all of their work and ministry into it, including Nick’s rapidly growing writing ministry. Over the next 15 years Damaris grew to become a major national organisation, working in partnership with the film industry to create outreach resources to reach people of all ages through a wide range of community groups. Then, in 2015, paradoxically due to its successful missional growth, the Trustees took a decision that led to Nick and Carol losing everything they had created and developed through their years of ministry as Damaris was taken over by a for-profit company in a process that Nick and Carol neither welcomed nor approved.

Nick & Carol felt devastated by what happened. They had to rethink their final stage of working life. “I was almost 60” says Nick “this is not an easy time to start all over again.” But, with the support and encouragement of key leaders of other national and international organisations, and with encouragement from their church, Nick & Carol recognised that their personal ministry and calling had not changed, even though the underlying organisation which they had built had been taken over.

And so, they immediately set about continuing their ministry, under the new name Ethos. They were delighted that the most experienced former Damaris team members stayed faithful to them, which has enabled them to:

  • Launch EthosEducation.org which provides free resources for schools that start from questions raised by the latest films and, as appropriate, help people to explore the Bible’s teaching about such issues.
  • Launch the EthosFilmBlog.org which provides articles for teachers, students, and the general reader; exploring spiritual, moral, social and cultural issues raised by the latest films.

This is very much a faith ministry as they look to God to meet their needs, and they appreciate everyone who joins with them on this next stage of their journey.

2 Comments

  1. Peter says:

    Dear Nick,
    I knew nothing of recent events regarding Damaris. Your new venture looks full of promise. Was nice to see you today as I shredded past on my Surly Krampus bike. On reflection, I had been thinking of you so should’ve stopped for a chat. You both look well.
    Best,
    Peter (McCarthy)

    Like

  2. Catherine Francis says:

    I’m so shocked and saddened to learn what you’ve been through. It’s hard to imagine that an organisation you’ve built up over decades can just be taken from you like this. It must be absolutely devastating.
    I hope and pray this proves to be a gateway to bigger, better things for both of you, professionally and personally.
    Thinking of you.
    Catherine (Francis)

    Like

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