Community Could Lose Church
An FIEC church serving four social housing estates in the North-East of England could be forced to relocate unless money can be raised to buy the building it has been renting. Rachel Dalby reports.
New Life Church, Middlesbrough, has been meeting in Ormesby Methodist Church Hall since 2014 but the owners no longer need the site and are putting it up for sale.
New Life’s pastor, Ian Williamson, said: “Apart from the local library, the hall is the last remaining public building in the area. All the others have been sold and replaced with housing.
“Although our church is quite small, with around 25 regulars on Sundays, we have contact with almost 100 people each week through our outreach activities. We use the local library for some of our work but the majority takes place in the hall.”
If forced to vacate, New Life’s leaders would have no alternative but to pull the church away from its existing community.
Ian said: “Local schools aren’t keen to have us, and there are too many of us to meet at someone’s house. The Methodists have been great landlords, helping us tremendously, and we completely understand that they need to sell the site. Our prayer is that we’ll somehow be able to buy it.”
Having grown up in the area, Ian understands the needs of the local community, which has pockets of deep deprivation. When he was younger, he struggled with debt and drug addiction, and even contemplated suicide.
He said: “I attended a church youth club as a boy, but there was a very noticeable divide between the ‘estate kids’ and the ‘church kids’ – most of whom lived outside of the housing estate I lived on.
“The church wasn’t equipped for working with marriage break-ups and lone parents, so we felt like outsiders. I soon became dissatisfied and started knocking around with friends from school rather than the kids from the church.”
Ian and his team, which includes four trainee ministry workers (some of whom are supported financially by FIEC), run a variety of outreach projects including all-aged football, parent and toddler groups, and a pensioners’ luncheon club.
They also run a ministry called SixtyEightfive, which aims to provide positive activities for people so they can spend time building relationships and hearing the gospel. The ministry specifically helps children with absent fathers.
Ian said: “It’s vital that we go on serving this community, so we’ve launched an appeal on the give.net website to raise the money we’ll need to buy the church hall.
“It’s situated on a sizeable plot which is likely to attract housing developers, so we imagine we’ll need to raise over £200,000. So far, we’ve been blessed with around £9,000 in pledges.”
New Life’s leaders have been invited to meet the site’s trustees later this month to discuss whether or not the church may continue to use the hall until the site is sold.
Ian said: “We would really appreciate your prayers about this whole situation. This is a testing time, so pray for the right outcome for the vast and needy community we serve.”