St Catherine’s Tranmere, St Peter’s Rock Ferry and St Mark’s New Ferry - 3 churches on the Wirral, Merseyside.
Life and Soul mission: These three churches are within a few miles of each other. They are all Anglican and Evangelical and are in Urban Priority Areas (UPA). Tranmere and Rock Ferry were areas dependent on ship building and New Ferry was dependent on factory work. Most of these industries have gone, leaving high unemployment and the various issues associated with it.
All three churches have relatively small congregations and limited resources. The churches are slightly different in age make up, one being well mixed, one made up of mostly retired people and one made up of mostly young adults and retired folk, with little in the middle.
For some time we have been doing joint training and this mission seemed like an exciting next step. People in small UPA churches often lack confidence, but together we reasoned that surely we could pull off a large mission. To organise this each church needed a small planning team and then one joint one made up of the three vicars and someone representing the three planning teams.
We invited a team from Oak Hill to do our mission. They gave some helpful information about a year or so in advance. They made the point that they come to help us do mission rather than do it for us; it really needs everyone to pull together. The other two good suggestions were to get numerous people to go through some of the follow-up (we all used Christianity Explored) before the mission and not to wait until the mission to do evangelism.
This was brilliant advice. It meant that people were confident about the follow-up, clearer about the gospel and enthusiastic. As the year went on people became increasingly willing to invite friends to events, particularly when they realised the events weren’t embarrassing.
One of the warm-up events we did jointly; a men’s dinner at Tranmere Rovers, with a talk from the Liverpool Chaplain. But mostly the churches put on their own events, some purely social (curry night) but some with a gospel message, e.g.: ladies Bollywood night (Indian food, Bollywood music, dressing up in saris, henna painting and a testimony from a lady converted from Hinduism) and a pancake supper/quiz.
We rain a joint evangelism training course about a year before the mission and our home groups worked through the Six Steps to talking about Jesus course. Also each PCC and mission planning team worked through the CPAS booklet, Planning a Parish Mission by Paul Weston.
Each term we had a joint prayer meeting instead of our usual evening services, the last of which we had as a launch event with the Bishop of Birkenhead.
In the week itself we did a variety of events for different kinds of people. Every event had some sort of gospel input, a few quite short, but mostly a ‘proper’ talk. Some events were very small, e.g.: a coffee morning in somebody’s home and an evening meal in somebody else’s. One home group did a wine tasting evening in the vicarage.
Each church did something for young people. Several local schools had events in them. Two churches did a one-day holiday club, one did a treasure trail with lunch and a talk. Each church did a number of events for their church e.g. film night, ladies pamper/chocolate evening.
We carried out the big events together. The first was a curry night. We hired the function room of a working men’s club and got the local take-away to cater. After popadoms and a starter we had a talk, followed by curry. On the Saturday morning we had a five-aside football tournament, each church putting in two sides, made up mostly of ‘ringers’ and watched by girlfriends, wives and children. Afterwards we had a buffet lunch and awards with a short talk. Saturday night was the mission finale with a big party with a live band at Tranmere Rovers. We saw video clips from the week, including comments from people who came, a talk, a meal, then live music and dancing. Each church hosted a guest service on the Sunday morning.
Afterwards each church re-ran Christianity Explored (evening and daytime with crèche) and tried to keep up some kind of momentum of regular guest events.
All three churches hailed Life and Soul as a success. Lots of people came, up to 60 adults per church (bigger than one of the churches), some of the events were attended by 60 per cent non-Christians! There was a tangible buzz around the churches. Those who didn’t invite people commented that it was still great fun and that they wished they had. In many ways that’s been the biggest achievement. Christians have started inviting people to events. We’ve seen non-Christians who haven’t minded being asked by friends and have appreciated the events, including the talks and testimonies. If they don’t mind coming, we don’t mind asking! Everybody is looking forward to our next mission push.