225 miles to the North West, All Saints Church, a growing evangelical Anglican church in Marple, also acts as a community hub, but in a very different type of neighbourhood. Church Warden Neville Phillips takes up the story.
“Marple is a small commuter town mainly serving Manchester. We at All Saints Church, Marple were contacted by Church Growth Trust in 2015 to see if we would like to take over the former Marple Independent Evangelical Church building on a two year lease. We re-opened the building in May 2016 and renamed ourselves Connect.”
All Saints Marple is up on the hill whereas Connect is located centrally. “As a church, we’d been praying for several years about having a presence in the centre of Marple, so Church Growth Trust’s offer was very timely.”
Chris McComiskey is a member of the staff team at All Saints and has had a strong vision for Connect from the start. Unlike Horizon, Connect is not in an urban priority area, but as Chris explains, there is just as much of a need for church in the community.
“Although Marple is a place with high levels of community involvement, there are still people who do not have many social contacts or good networks around them. We’ve taken a completely different approach to building relationships in the community. We try to make Connect a place where we want to come ourselves. It’s a bit like a communal lounge. We might do some of what you would do at home – having fun, chatting, sharing, laughing, praying, sometimes supporting, sometimes receiving support, a place to see what’s going on and spending some relaxed time together. Some people prefer to just relax, others like to be busy together – such as art, doing homework, looking at a CV, baking a cake or doing any jobs needed around the building.
“We don’t advertise, as it’s about relationship and word of mouth. Numbers have grown quickly and once people do come, they usually bring others or come up to the Connect centre. Our two key values are that everything is open to everyone and it’s free.”
Connect is a place filled with the presence of God where we can just “be” without an agenda or programme. Whenever people walk into the building they say things like “this has a really nice feel” and “this place is really peaceful”. We feel that we are God’s guests. We prayed into it for six months before signing the lease and that’s what God showed us He wanted us to do.”
While Connect staff spend a lot of time waiting on God and resting in his presence, they do also have a social action agenda, as Chris explains. “We have a foodbank, a prayer healing ministry, after school and homework club and a playgroup. We also continue to welcome groups who used the building before we came.”
Connect opened its doors in May 2016. When Chris counted how many people came through them to the new sessions in November 2016, she made it 134 in one week. Offering a loving, peaceful and welcoming space in the bustle of a busy community, Connect is certainly acting as a spiritual hub.