Jon Taylor is an integral part of Beacon – he manages Foodbank and CAP in Brixton and works in the church office one day a week. He’s joined here by his wonderful new wife Petra and together they serve on the Welcome Team on Sundays.
Q. What is your most bizarre talent?
Jon: Probably croquet! I’ve been playing croquet since the age of three! You know how you get people like Tiger Woods – their Dad gets them really early on and trains them to a professional standard? Well I’m not quite a pro but from the age of about three I had a croquet stick in my hand and I’m actually really, really good! I played at the age of eleven in an adult tournament and was runner up. I had a really easy shot and I missed it but I’d say croquet is definitely my most bizarre talent! We should have a Beacon croquet tournament!
Petra: You’ve never taken me to play croquet, I’ve never heard that before. I question it, I’ll ask your parents. I think you were just trying to come up with a good answer!
Jon: You ask my Dad!
Petra: I can’t really think of anything. I can play the Alpine Horn, although I can’t play it professionally but I managed to play my uncle’s one. So that would be my Swiss side. And I was just reminded of an episode a couple of weeks back when Jon blocked one of our cupboards and we couldn’t open it any more. I think I’m a bit of a MacGyver (I keep saying that to him!) I can literally do anything with a safety pin or a pen or a bit of wire and I’ve recently discovered that I can break into things! So if anyone is without house keys I can come and help! But maybe that’s just being a woman…
Jon: But if anyone gets their house broken into while they’re at church on Sunday…
Petra: What then - it could be me?! [laughter]
Q. What did you love most about the place you grew up in?
Jon: I love the fact that we have the most amazing, incredible football team on the planet where I’m from which is Reading for those of you that didn’t know. So that’s one place but the other place I grew up in was a little village called Loose in Maidstone, Kent and if anyone was at the wedding they may have seen the beautiful stream and nice little country pub.
Petra: Well I really wanted to say that I just loved growing up in the countryside next to the forest. I loved going into the forest, having campfires… I was probably a bit of a boy growing up and spent a lot of time in the woods. And thinking of the stereotypical aspects of growing up in Switzerland, it was great having unlimited access to chocolate and cheese.
Jon: And you had all that nice fresh bread in the village, didn’t you?
Petra: Yeah, good bread…
Q. What’s your favourite game?
Jon: My favourite game growing up was Risk. I loved the idea of world domination and I would spend hours strategizing. More lately it has to be Rummikub. Towards the end of our honeymoon there was absolutely torrential rain and we spent two or three afternoons drinking beer and playing Rummikub and I’m just about to take the series title.
Petra: [outraged] not yet! You have refused to play more games because I’m still in the lead.
Jon: It’s 9-8 to Petra but I’m on a roll and I’m sure I’ll swing the victory soon.
Petra: To be honest give me a board game, any board game and I’m happy. I’m such a cheap date really - if you wanted to please me, just give me a board game! Generally, I don’t like strategic ones because I could lose – my expertise could fail me but I like the ones where risk is involved with the dice. I’m too competitive.
Jon: That’s the definition of Risk! You want dice and risk, that’s what Risk is!
Petra: Ok, let’s do it then!
Jon: You were just about to give it away; it’s by the front door!
Petra: I know! [laughter]
Petra: But in Switzerland, our national game is a card game called Jassen and every family grows up with it, every child plays it. You play it at school and children learn to do their additions in Maths through playing it. My parents were addicted to playing it! We’d meet up with other families and you do it as tournaments and it comes on TV and everything so we’re card game fanatics as well. I’ve tried to teach Jon but the cards are different here.
Q. Jon, you’ve been managing Foodbank for four years and Petra, it was your first session last month, what motivates you to do what you do?
Jon: Foodbank is a funny one; it feels like it’s in my DNA. When I was growing up my parents would always invite people round who were marginalised and a bit on the edge of society so I was exposed to that environment from quite an early age. I remember chatting to homeless people when I was at University, I’d give them a jumper and chat to them. There’s definitely a God-given passion - to want to help people who are in need. So the opportunity to manage Foodbank was just incredible; I’d just been made redundant from my job in the media when this opportunity came up. We fed 8,000 people last year! People are outraged that so many are in need, but I love Foodbank because it’s the vehicle for the church to reach the lost and actually we should be thankful that it exists. The local church is the hope of the world and if we can be that hope for people at Foodbank then that’s all that matters. The Bible says that the poor will always be with us, which is why aiming to get rid of Foodbanks is not going to be achievable. We should try and offer them something better than food.
Petra: My involvement with Foodbank has been born out of our decision to come to Beacon as a couple. We chose to come here because this is where Jon’s ministry is and I am coming alongside him to help and support him. One of the things that I love doing is serving, just rolling up my sleeves and getting involved. So that’s a massive motivation in itself. We’re going to see how we can make this whole machine run smoother and work faster. I’ve spent some time out the back sorting out the food but I’d like to meet some of the clients and maybe have people over for lunch and get that connection going and build relationships.
Jon: It’s great, already Petra’s got ideas for how it can be better organised. I’m good with people but I’m not super organised and she’s got that skillset.
Jon: Can I just make a cheeky plug – we still need volunteers on Saturdays so if anyone’s free and could help out that would be amazing!
Q. Jon, you also manage CAP for Brixton and the surrounding areas, how did you get involved with that?
Jon: I was already running the Foodbank and there was a discussion about running money courses at Beacon. I think it was clear from Foodbank that there were a lot of people coming who had issues with money and debt and although we offer additional help, there was still a big need there. It also came from the passion that CAP and the church has to reach the lost. When I found out that the CAP centre manager didn’t need to be someone with a head for figures and money but rather someone who is good with people and has a heart for the lost I knew straight away that it would be a good fit.
Q. Is there a Bible character you’d like to know more about?
Jon: I would love to meet Saul and see his transformation on the road to Damascus and when he became Paul. To see Saul before and the character transformation of Paul after. When someone meets Jesus later in life you do often see that incredible passion and his is such an amazing transformation.
Petra: Ah, that’s a really good example! There’s no one I want to know more about but I’d love to hang out with David! I would just love to experience that life of celebration and worship for God. There’s so much joy and craziness and I would love to know how to do it that way. He just radiates joy and love.