A Case study in Mission Partnerships 2011
This paper illustrates how one churches together group in the northern town of Horwich has formed partnerships with wider networks to help them in their local mission.
Local churches in mission 2011-2014: CGfE Paper No 2
A local case study in mission and partnership
This is a case study of how one local Churches Together group has made use of two very different partnerships with wider initiatives and networks to help them in their own local mission.
Horwich is a small Lancashire town of around 22 thousand people north of Manchester. It lies at the southern edge of the West Pennine Moors. The Reebok football stadium is a major landmark beside the M61 motorway. Horwich began to grow in the 1800’s with the textile and bleaching industry, but grew dramatically when the Horwich Loco Works was built in 1886 by the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company, at the height of the railway era – providing generations of local workers with employment – but which closed in the 1980’s. The Middlebrook Retail & Leisure Park, built in the 1990’s alongside established industries like British Aerospace, is a major recent development, providing employment and out-of-town shopping for the Bolton area.
Churches Together in Horwich and Rivington include all the Trinitarian churches i.e.
Ø Roman Catholic
Ø Anglican team 4 churches
Ø Methodist 2 churches
Ø URC chapel
Ø Horwich Evangelical church
Ø Horwich Christian Fellowship (Elim Pentecostal network)
Ø Life Ministries: a new church using a cinema in the retail park and Starbucks for office space
Ø Horwich Independent Methodist
The nearest Baptist congregation and Salvation Army corps are in Bolton.
In Rivington, a small village on the outskirts of Horwich, the Church of England and Unitarian Chapel work together for the village festival.
The Church of England Team Rector, Rev Stephen Fletcher, says, ‘This is the best churches together group I have ever been involved in. This is because of the broad interest, and because it rallies round and gets projects off the ground. It brings together all the churches in mission and service to the local community. It is good news.’
Cycle of Events
Weekly prayer meeting hosted by the Independent Methodists; bi-monthly ministers fraternal; a Civic Ecumenical Service, involvement in the Procession, and stalls in the annual Horwich Town Carnival; an ecumenically-led civic Remembrance Day ceremony at the town memorial gardens; a civic Christmas tree lighting ceremony; shared Lent services, including Pulpit Swaps; an annual Christian Unity service around Pentecost, etc, and ongoing support for a voluntary lay Chaplain, a CT church member, at the Horwich Campus of Bolton (6th Form) College).
Two particular partnerships
In addition to the annual cycle of events, there are two particular partnerships in which all the churches are engaged to help them in their own mission, evangelisation, and service to the community.
Eden Bus Project supplied by the Message Trust. The Churches Together group is in partnership as it rents the bus for outreach on a Tuesday night in the town centre. The Message Trust provides the vehicle, volunteer training, CRB checks, one of the drivers, etc. The Churches Together network then provides volunteers (20 active and 40 on books from all churches), links into schools, relationships with Police, Fire Service, Bolton Wanderers FC etc. The aim is ‘to build relationships’ and ‘provide positive example of faith’. This is seen as the ‘whole church’ as volunteers come from across generations and from all church traditions. Web links below give further information about the Eden Bus Project and the Tuesday night visits to Horwich.
Middlebrook Retail Park Chaplaincy in partnership with the Greater Manchester Industrial Mission. CT initiated this project, in which a local URC minister, with a background in the retail industry, spends a day each week as Retail Chaplain. 6 volunteer chaplains from different churches have been trained and forge links with several shops each, the Retail Park management (Emersons) provide office space and management support through their community officer, while the GM Industrial Mission provides a wider network and resources, including helping with insurance and project accounts. The partnership came together after a choir was provided for a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. The aim is to ‘offer help and support’, a ‘listening ear’, in a ’conversation ministry’. The Chaplain was ordained as an Ecumenical Chaplain to the Middlebrook Business and Retail Park and a year later the seven additional volunteer chaplains were formally commissioned at an ecumenical service where the Bishop of Bolton, the URC Moderator and the Methodist District Chair took part. Annual events include an Armistice Day Service and Lighting of Christmas tree held in the Shopping Mall.
Rev Fletcher says that both these initiatives are ‘open to anybody as we share Christian principles and expound Christian values’.
Headline reflections from CTE Secretary for Evangelisation
Both of these ‘partnerships’ could be described as a ‘franchise’ arrangements with external networks.
Both partnerships celebrate diversity and difference, with all traditions represented.
Mission opportunities are taken to serve the community rather than the individual congregations.
The phrase ‘Better together’ is illustrated in practice.
Working together is more important than theological or language differences.
Every partnership is unique, but the principle illustrated here is that churches together can draw on wider networks to help them in their local mission.
This case study is Number 2 in a series of papers helping churches together groups engage with the opportunities afforded by Biblefresh, More than Gold and Hope Together.