Wakefield is a busy city in West Yorkshire of at least 77,500, though this number probably increases to 110,000 when including near-neighbour areas.
Wakefield has long been a gospel black spot, a city notable for its lack of thriving evangelical witness. In 2014, Dewsbury Evangelical Church, six miles from Wakefield, set apart a small team of seven people to pioneer a new gospel ministry there.
We trialled Sunday afternoon meetings in a local cafe space and some low-key events to get to know people. Since February 2016, Grace Church Wakefield (GCW) has taken on a more independent identity. An elder and part-time employee at DEC now devotes all his hours to it.
We are currently a team of 17, and have, between us, a dozen children. We run a public meeting each Sunday morning at a community centre on the Lupset housing estate, very close to junction 40 of the M1. With only 17, running a good public meeting can be difficult. However, we have been encouraged in the first few months of 2017. There has been at least one visitor with us each Sunday, and a number of young children from the local estate have been coming to our Sunday school.
We’ve also enjoyed getting stuck into the Bible together. We’ve just started a new series in Mark’s Gospel, and it’s been so good for us to come back to seeing Jesus ‘face-to-face’ in Mark’s story.
We emphasise church as a community to which we belong. As a way of making this a reality, there is a bring-and-share lunch every Sunday at Ian and Lydia’s home. This is also a good chance for church members to invite friends who may not otherwise attend a church meeting.
There is massive potential for children’s and families’ ministry in the Lupset/Flanshaw area of the city. It’s a natural opportunity for us, given our own young children, the sheer number of children on the estate, and the fact that Jubilee Hall where we meet is right next door to the local children’s playground!
There are also opportunities for holiday Bible clubs, after-school clubs and youth clubs. Some more team members would help us take this opportunity (another four committed team members would make a huge impact).
We have also been meeting monthly on a Wednesday night with the small Wakefield Evangelical Free Church (WEFC) on the Eastmoor estate. In February, we welcomed Phil Walter, the FIEC’s revitalisation co-ordinator, principally to help WEFC think about their future. We would love to see a gospel church revitalised on that huge housing estate. They own their own building in a good location for community-based outreach. We’d love to hear from people who share a similar vision.
In December, we ran our first ‘Carols by candlelight’. It was a great deal of work for a small team, but we were very encouraged by how it went. We worked hard at creating a festive atmosphere in the hall and being welcoming to guests. We served some nice home-made sausage rolls and spiced hot drinks! A four-piece choir gave a performance and Ian gave a short talk about the coming of Jesus offering our lives meaning that goes beyond material things. At least 60 people came.
In February, we held a team-training morning on the theme of ‘Mission in everyday life’ with Tim Chester from Grace Church Boroughbridge. Kind partners from Dewsbury Evangelical Church occupied our children, while Tim led us in two inspiring sessions on ‘mission in everyday busyness’ and ‘mission in everyday conversation’.
The hard work, of course, happens through daily life. We’ve been learning how to pastor each other through difficult times. One of the team members has a terminally ill parent and one couple’s eldest son has suffered a brain tumour. Being a small team which is working very hard has also brought tensions to the surface at times. When we read the New Testament, however, we are led to expect these sorts of things.
We have plans for regular men’s and women’s social nights and an evangelistic Easter Sunday event. We also would greatly appreciate people and churches partnering with us financially, as we pay for evangelistic resources, further room hire and equipment costs.