Two Coventry churches have merged to further the gospel in a needy area. Described as an ‘enfolding process’, a small church with diminishing resources has been lovingly taken in by a neighbouring congregation to form one new fellowship across two locations.
Lower Ford Street Baptist Church, founded in 1857, has been experiencing growth in recent years. Two Sunday morning services are needed to accommodate attendees during term time. More space was a pressing need.
In contrast is Hillfields Evangelical Baptist Church. Ten minutes’ walk from Lower Ford Street, it recently celebrated its centenary. Recent years have seen a decline in attendance.
This has followed a change in the demographics of its locality. Hillfields is in the red-light district of Coventry and few believers wish to move to the area.
Asylum seekers, the poor and the elderly also characterise the area. The composition of this locality means that it is vital for a gospel witness to remain in place.
Two years ago, I returned to my native Coventry and visited Hillfields. I saw a discouraged fellowship in need of revitalisation. I consulted the elders at Lower Ford Street, explaining Hillfields’ situation. Would a partnership be feasible?
By this point, Hillfields was between pastors and efforts to find one were proving fruitless. I agreed to be the moderator of the fellowship and sought further discussions with the Lower Ford Street elders.
Following much prayer and a series of meetings, a joint future was proposed. Reports and Q&A sessions with members followed as transparency and openness was maintained among all concerned.
Over the years, synergies had emerged across the two churches. Both had joined the FIEC at the same time; both had held joint prayer meetings.
While the Lower Ford Street premises underwent an extensive refurbishment in 2014, both churches worshipped together in the Hillfields building.
All seven elders of the two churches sensed the future lay in the one church being enfolded into the other. Two churches would then become one church in two locations.
Following a proposal to both memberships, a virtually unanimous consent was given to make the change. This has been a monumental step for both churches.
Yet now, under God’s blessing, the church is better equipped to glorify God and minister to people in the two locations. Having dispensed with their previous names, the combined fellowship is now known as Hillfields Church Coventry.