It is now nearly five years since we moved to the St Crispin’s new housing development, along with our baby boy, our young cat, and our hopes to establish a worshipping community from the residents here. We knew no-one so we had to rely on God’s grace to see who He would bring us. Five years on, our baby boy is now a school boy, he has gained a little sister, (now aged three), and the cat, who is older but no more wise, has been joined by four chickens.
More crucially, God has been answering our prayers to bring people to him. After beginning by creating community activities through which we could build relationships, a small group of us started worshipping together on a Sunday afternoon in an informal cafe-style gathering in May 2012, initially once per month. Now we meet four times per month and when there is a fifth Sunday, we do something different together. We are still relatively small – if everyone was there at the same time we’d have about 35 regulars, including 15 children. Being honest, five years ago I might have hoped for the numbers to be higher by this point, but we rejoice that of our 20 adults, about half have either come to faith, or are on the journey, and others have grown in faith immensely since they joined us. Beyond the regulars, we have a large network of people from the community with whom we have good relationships, though our community activities for mums, dads, men, and children, as well as our through our seeker-friendly groups. We constantly pray that these relationships will bear fruit too.
You may remember that this project was started with five years of funding from the Diocese and the Church Commissioners. At the end of this time, a new plan would have to be developed. As it is, many of our regulars have started giving, which means we can cover many of our weekly costs ourselves. These include charges for room hire, the salary for a part time children’s worker, as well as for resources and expenses. It was always unlikely that a church plant from scratch would be entirely self-sufficient after only five years, able to pay it’s way in the Church of England as well as covering it’s own ministries. So over the last couple of years, I’ve been working with the diocese and others to work out how to bring Berrywood Church to its next phase of life.
St Crispin’s new-build is located within the geographical parish of Duston, with it’s two churches, St. Luke’s, the ancient village church, and St Francis, a 1960’s church plant with an ageing congregation. The parish as a whole is ripe for mission. Due to retirements, this gave us an opportunity to reimagine the Anglican setup in this part of Northampton.
From the end of April 2015, Berrywood has no longer been a pioneer project working separately from the parish, but under the leadership of a new Rector (overall team leader), we have joined with the existing churches. At the same time I became Team Vicar with responsibility for Berrywood Church. The Duston Team Ministry will now have three churches, two full-time ministers and one part-time (still to be appointed), and we will be able to think missionally about the whole area.
The new Rector has experience of leading a multi-church team, and has successfully overseen the development of fresh expressions in previous parishes. She also has a heart for helping people to engage in Bible study and she longs for people to come to faith. I am confident that we can work well together to impact the whole parish. The hope is that from Berrywood, we can release some missional thinking to the rest of the parish, and that we can all benefit from resourcing mission as one team, rather than three smallish churches.