Here is the view from St Paul’s Widnes Tower – a true northern town! Within this image there are hundreds of homes & families; businesses & leisure venues; people of all ages and outlooks; plus the expanse of the Mersey estuary on the horizon.
Widnes – a post-industrial masterpiece and a great twin to any Macedonian metropolis from Acts 16:9!
It’s a great town and yet it has one of the lowest levels of church engagement in the whole country. In 2017 only 10 young adults (aged 18-30) were connected into Anglican Churches in the town, out of a population of 70,000. As a church we are committed to pioneering ways of engaging with our post-industrial town and have started to see things change. We hope whatever we learn can better serve the church nationally as we seek to plant new churches and see lives transformed.
This is a Community I have grown to love over the last 6 years since becoming Vicar at St Paul’s and where I’m privileged to lead an amazing team. Widnes has an amazing community spirit where people look out for each other and where generosity is commonplace. However, we also suffer from being a low wage economy where poverty, addiction, poor mental health and low aspiration are rife.
After 6 years I am hungry and hopeful for more of what God desires for this Town, and truly believe that we have only just started to scratch the surface. In confirmation of this view we are rebranding St Paul’s Widnes and neighbouring St John’s as one parish under the banner of “Transform Widnes” with a goal of growing over 700 people in our Connect groups over 5 years. And that is our heart and desire, to partner with God in Transforming lives, and leading people into the Transforming Love of Jesus.
Since launching Transform Widnes in late 2018 we have seen real change and growth in our church community; this included running Alpha for 80 people one summer term and launching multiple Connect groups across all ages. We were beginning to see concentrated growth just as lockdown hit however over the past year we have seen our children’s work grow from 15 to 30 children involved regularly. Have made new connections through our food projects, providing around 10,000 meals to our community. Built new connections with other local groups and taken part in joint projects such as the Halton Advent Calendar as well as seeing our Connect groups grow and multiply.
While we are overwhelmed at the generosity of God in all of this and are continuing to see break-throughs, we recognise that we can’t do this on our own. Given the scale of challenges and the depth of need in our neighbourhood, we are calling out for sister churches to partner with us. Could God be calling you to help us realise the next wave and engage the many people we hope will soon call Transform Widnes their home; their place of worship and their place of connection with new friends and family?
Is God calling you to stand with us – will you “Come over and help us”?
We are looking for partnership rather than aid. This can range from something as simple as mutual prayer but could also extend to visits, mission trips, shared learning and training. Like all good partnerships we want this to be worked out relationally through conversation and in a way that is appropriate to your setting.
If you feel excited about the impact you could have through investing in this project then find out more here.
We would really value your prayer, relational and financial support as we seek to see the Kingdom come in Widnes.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord (especially in Widnes)!
Rev. Greg Sharples
We are keen that any partnerships are of mutual benefit and want to build real friendships across UK churches. While each partnership will have its own flavour we anticipate connections in the following ways:
- Praying for each other
- Welcoming our partners and sharing what we are learning about mission and church planting in contexts like Widnes
- Sharing mutual stories of God at work
Exactly how these elements will look in practice will be worked out on a case by case basis to ensure everyone has the same expectations.
In this current season we are facing a few particular challenges as well as many opportunities. Coming out of lockdown we can see how hard hit our town has been. We were not a town with a vast amount of resources before the pandemic but these have been reduced further and comes with it increased challenges around poverty, mental health and resilience.
Our biggest opportunity is around one of our 2 church buildings – St Paul’s. This church began a redevelopment project in March 2020 and when finished will offer a wonderful space for the community that can become home for many events and groups. Our challenge is raising the final 12% of the funding! You can read more about this project here.
We would love to start a conversation! To get in touch please email firstname.lastname@example.org and Greg, our vicar, will get back to you. Together we will work out what partnership looks like that is mutually beneficial.
Thank you so much for being willing to partner with us, we look forward to all that God is going to get up to in Widnes through your generosity.