Ron Finlay and Ian Munro (1968 to 1971)

Ron Finlay

The student ministry in Southampton began when I, with Ian Munro, moved to Southampton in July 1968. I came from Manchester and Ian from London. We lived in Shirley in a flat above Plaxtons in the home of John and Pamela Jackson of Above Bar Church. John died just over a year ago, but Pamela is still at ABC. Ian and I slept in their lounge for around six months. After this we moved into a flat in Alma Road where we were joined by Paul Allcock (also at ABC). We began with door knocking and meeting up with students who became involved in our ministry.

Ian Munro

Several names come to mind – Vernon Blackmore, Trevor Barnett and Chris Appleton (who has served as the chair of the UK Navigator trustees). Other people who were involved were Bob Price, Greg Serpell and Jim Palmer. The ministry was fruitful and joined with the women’s work in Southampton led by Celia Goshawk (now Nicholson) and Jean Douglas (who subsequently also served as a trustee). Ian married and moved to the USA in 1970 and I moved to London in 1971. There were around 30 students involved when Mike and Chris Treneer took over in 1971.

Mike & Chris Treneer (1971 to 1975)


…and Then

Ron had taken over the leadership of the Southampton ministry in 1970 when Ian got seriously ill, and had led it on his own for a year or a little longer. Chris and I then moved to Southampton in July of 1971, right after our honeymoon, to take up the leadership of the work. We had the privilege of seeing it develop into a large and flourishing ministry during 1971 to 1975. Pat Spivey joined us in September 1972 from the ministry in London and made a huge contribution through her ministry to women and the energy she brought to the team. Sadly, she was killed in a car accident on the way to her first staff conference in May 1973. Her death deeply impacted many of us involved in the ministry at that time. For the last two years of our time in Southampton we were joined by Issam and Abla Khoury from the Middle East. We handed over the ministry to Martin and Marion Cooper in 1975 as we prepared to move to Nigeria to launch the work there.


Martin & Marion Cooper

and Paddy Padden-Row (1975 to 1982)


Back then…

Marion and I arrived to lead the Southampton student ministry in the summer of 1975. We came from Cardiff, where we had begun a new student ministry two years earlier. The Southampton ministry was well established, having been started by the late Ian Munro and Ron Finlay and had then developed into a thriving disciple-making work under the leadership of Mike and Chris Treneer. When we arrived to succeed them, there were over 100 in Bible study, mostly university students, but also several non-students, especially young women, among whom the ministry was led by our fellow team member, Paddy Paddon-Row.

Paddy Paddon-Row

Over the 7 years that we had the privilege of leading the ministry, God did an amazing work of grace. Scores of young people committed their lives to Christ, most of them university students. We consistently had over 100 in Bible study with us, some of whom met in our home and others elsewhere in the city. There were focused evangelistic and discipling ministries in most Halls of Residence, each with its own team of leaders, and we held regular times of corporate worship, teaching and celebration. There were weekly meetings on Sunday nights after church, first in our home and then later elsewhere in the city.

As well as these grass-root ministries, there were significant opportunities for training and equipping, as young disciples matured into disciple-makers. Several remained in Southampton after graduation and became labourers in the ongoing ministry. Around 1980, an overseas student ministry was also begun, with two teams reaching out to African and Chinese students, respectively.

Today, many of those touched by God while here in the late 1970s are serving him in various contexts. Most are seeking to do so in their spheres of employment and local church involvement. Several are in full-time Christian work, either as overseas missionaries or church leaders in the UK. And a few are now serving him together as married couples!

In 1982 Marion and I handed the ministry over to Rob and Maggie Wilson, enabling us to pioneer a new national church-related ministry for The Navigators. One of the greatest thrills in this new ministry was to re-connect with some of those who had earlier graduated from Southampton University and were eager to continue as disciples and disciple-makers for Christ.

“The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest one a small nation. I am the Lord. In its time I will do this swiftly.”  Isaiah 60 v 22


Rob & Maggie Wilson (1982 to 1984)

with Mags Duggan (1983 to 1986)

Rob & Maggie Wilson

Mags Duggan

At the start of this period the ministry was made up of over 100, but when Rob and Maggie Wilson arrived together for the start of the new academic year in 1982 it quickly became clear that the days of ‘easy evangelism’ were on the wane and, whilst the Chinese ministry continued to grow, led by Mags Duggan, the British ministry began to shrink in numbers.

There were a number of contributing factors to this development,  one of which was Rob and Maggie’s worsening  health problems during that first year.  After soldiering on bravely for another year, during which they drew together an effective student leadership team,  Rob and Maggie left Southampton and moved to the Midlands.


Steve & Cathy Davie (1984 to 1991)

Steve & Cathy Davie

Cathy and I arrived in the summer of 1984 from Scotland with two small children to find a strong group of Hong Kong students, a good group of English women and a few English men, all led by Mags Duggan. She had just returned from an extended trip to Hong Kong to see friends in their family setting. Her overriding impression from her trip was of ‘bananas’, white on the inside but yellow on the outside. Many students were educated overseas in English but were unable to communicate in spiritual language with their families. This highlighted for us the differences between the students in Southampton and those in Edinburgh.

We set about ministering to students within their own cultures. We taught in English to Chinese students who then discussed in Cantonese on one evening and then on another we met with English students. We tried to discern ways that recognised their own ideas and approaches to living but allowed the gospel to transform thinking and behaviour. This was becoming known as ‘relational’ rather than productive ministry. This developed into a ministry to leaders who then reached their own friendship groups. When Mags left to serve in the Far East in 1987 we missed a friend, invaluable teammate and colabourer, but God was obviously leading her and us forward. Our way of coping was to develop teams, centred on our home.

When Gez Perry and Andy Coombe graduated they were both team leaders and we prayed about them staying on and raising some money for their support. We had also developed several friends in the CU who were on the edge of our ministry but whom I had begun to help. By the next year Graham Beynon and Jon Smuts both had groups of new Christians and again they raised support to stay on. They are now both church ministers, Graham in Cambridge and Oak Hill College, Jon in Australia. This revived the idea of interns that had been tried in the Navigators previously and which developed into today’s Connect programme.

The mainly Hong Kong student culture also changed during this period from the hard-working, committed attitude of students studying abroad to Western-influenced, fun-loving, free-from-parents young people. This presented traditional leaders with problems, but we were somewhat equipped to help with our approaches to both culture and team work. Many of these students were consciously preparing themselves for the transfer of Hong Kong back to China in 1997 and planned to return home as worshipping, ministering Christians. Only God knows the impact of those students worldwide.

During this time our view of a disciple-making ministry developed through significant partnerships with churches. We were on a church-planting team in which we involved students, and graduates from other Navigator ministries settled in Southampton churches to seek their own futures. These experiences were used to lead us towards a vison of growing disciplers in a church setting, which is still our passion.


Derek & Eva Leaf (1990 to 1996)

Derek & Eva Leaf

In 1990 we moved from working in London to Southampton to join Steve and Cathie Davie. Steve led the ministry until leaving to become an Anglican vicar in 1991, when we took over. From the beginning we had great support from graduate interns. Gez Perry and Andy Coombe had been with Steve the year before; Graham Beynon and John Smuts (both now pastors) were there the year we arrived. They were followed by Luke Webster and James White.

The ministry at that point was split into many different groups, each with its own identity and a great training ground for the respective leaders. We changed things around to make our home the centre. One student commented that he was persuaded to come along to do Bible study, but what impacted him the most was seeing a healthy family in action.

These were years where the declining level of Christianity in the country really began to show. The size of group declined slightly, but the numbers of people clearly becoming Christians shrank considerably. Many who came were helped to engage with the Word and went on to serve in various contexts. The initial thrust of the ministry was one of training labourers for the harvest. There were a number who went out into full-time ministry, and it has been a pleasure to see the way God has carried on working through them over the years.

In the latter years I, Derek, went through a bit of a crisis, with a realization that in terms of ministry I had been trying to pressurize people into obedience to Christ, and that the Lord was far from pleased with this. In our last year in Southampton we shifted the emphasis to focus on Jesus for his own sake, looking at Jesus the man and how he expressed faith. Vicky, who had gone to New Zealand as an intern, expressed on her return how when she left the Navigators was all about training people, but a year later it had become about worshipping God

Around this time it became evident that Gez Perry needed his own ministry to run, and that the best place for him was Southampton. We began to explore where we could move to and Portugal came up on the radar, so at the beginning of 1996 we handed the ministry over to Gez and moved to Portugal in May.


Gez & Alison Perry (1997 to 2005)

Gez & Alison Perry

From 1996 to 2005 we led the student ministry following on from Derek and Eva Leaf who left to go to Portugal as missionaries. Gez had been a student at Southampton (1985-1989) and Alison had just finished her studies in Sheffield. We were helped by a series of student workers including Alison and David Cave, Justin Kirby, Suzanne and Pieter van Leeuwen, Sarah Dodd, David Reynaga, Ugbana and Claire Oyet, Mike Spencer, Steve and Debs McClure, Jim Grady, Kelly Smith, Heather Dearing, Dave Watkins and Dave Callaghan. What we really enjoyed about the ministry were the friendships that grew out of meeting students one-to-one and small group Bible studies.

We had learned a lot from the Davies and the Leafs about the way God uses the seed of his Word to change hearts and lives and to produce ongoing fruitfulness. It was very encouraging to see God at work through a growing network of small groups and to have the opportunity to help support and train leaders for the CU.

We also experienced first-hand the benefit of using courses like Alpha and Christianity Explored with students and there were a handful of people who became Christians and others who grew in their faith through these groups. Organising weekends away and summer conferences was another feature of the student ministry, which gave opportunities for serving and training a new generation of leaders.

The lessons we learned and the help we received during our years in Southampton have been a huge blessing to us. In Philippians chapter 3, Paul encourages his friends to follow his example and to take note of those who live according to the pattern he gave them. Following the example of others and passing on what we have found helpful ourselves has been an important part of ministry for us. We are very grateful to God for those who have invested their time and energy in helping us to know and follow Christ. We are also thankful to God for his faithfulness in continuing to raise up and send workers into his harvest field, which is a great encouragement and a helpful reminder of what is important to God.


Steve & Debs McClure (2005 to Present)

Steve & Debs McClure with Benjamin, Naomi, Samuel, Jacob & Aaron.

Our progression to leading the student ministry in Southampton was very gradual. Steve was involved in some Bible study groups led by Dave Morrish and Gez Perry during his final year of university (1999-2000) and towards the end of that year Gez asked him if he would consider doing the Connect programme the following year. Suffice it to say that Steve did Connect that year and during his time he re-launched a lunch-time discussion group called Transition with a PhD friend called Stuart Macdonald. This group grew into a Monday evening food and discussion group, featuring the likes of Dave Callaghan, Jim Grady (joined by Kelly Smith from USA) and later Dave Watkins, who all went on to do Connect.

Also, during that year Steve met Debs who was studying in Cardiff, and in 2002 she also moved to Southampton to do Connect along with Heather Barbier (formerly Dearing). After Connect, Steve started commuting to Salisbury to work for a financial services company while Debs started studying occupational therapy alongside a part-time role with the Navigators. In 2004 we started a Christianity Explored group held in the home of Paul and Jen Lambert, and then later in the home of some of the students. From this group came the Thursday evening ministry that has been the norm from that time onwards.

Pieter & Suzanne van Leeuwen

Around the same time Pieter and Suzanne van Leeuwen returned from some time working abroad in the Netherlands and started an evangelistic Bible study group, pioneering ministry with students from un-churched backgrounds. For some years this group existed concurrently with the established ministry until 2011-2012. Following that time Suzanne stepped out of the ministry while Pieter worked alongside others in the IGNITE ministry until Summer 2017.

Gez and Alison Perry remained in Southampton until the summer of 2006 when they moved to Strasbourg to restart the French student ministry. During that time, we had both Tim Peters (2005-2006) and Steve Price (2006-2007) as Connect workers, and we continued to meet at Gez and Alison’s home in Grosvenor Gardens. The following year we did not have anybody on the Connect programme for the first time for many years and it was a year of much upheaval with Steve and Debs moving to Harefield Road at the start of the autumn term. Also during that year Debs started working as an occupational therapist and Steve quit his job in Salisbury in order to be full-time with the student ministry.

Over the next few years the student ministry developed and Stacey Hartwell (formerly Houston) Steph Lees, Patrick Noonan, Kate Collett (formerly Marshall) and Kashimana Tsumba served on the Connect programme. In 2009 the IGNITE ministry began, which sought to reach out to those who do not know Jesus but who, according to the strap line,  were willing to discuss questions of faith, life and love.

Back in the student ministry we were joined by more Connect workers: Adam Collett (2010-2011); Stephen Merritt-Harrison (2010-2012); Luke O’Dowd and Elizabeth Busari (2012-2013) and Stephen Hartwell (2013-2014). We also took on a couple of trainee Reps – Tim Peters (2010-2014) and Dave Callaghan (2011-2014). During 2014-2015, Steve and Debs stepped out of the leadership of the ministry (health-related) and in their absence the ministry was ably led by the interim team of Lydia Clarke and Adam and Kate Collett, with Tom Feather doing Connect. Adam and Kate left the student work at the end of that year, and are now serving in Latvia. Lydia continued for another year before moving on to a new role within a woman’s ministry at her church, Netley Christian Fellowship.

After that year out Steve and Debs returned to lead the student ministry again from September 2015 until the present. It has been a period of much transition as a number of the student team have moved on to other opportunities. There were times (particularly the Autumn terms of 2015 and 2016) when it looked like the ministry was in danger of closing but God had other ideas. Over the past two years (Spring 2016 to Spring 2018) we have seen a steady influx of new people and there currently exists a huge amount of excitement about what God is doing at this time. We continue to be so grateful to God for the opportunity to be involved in the lives of so many at such a significant time of growth and development. We remain excited about how God will use this ministry in the years to come…


Turner House, 54 The Avenue, Southampton, SO17 1XQ

023 8055 8800



Turner House,
54 The Avenue,
SO17 1XQ

023 8055 8800


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