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Middlesbrough church may pull out of needy area unless funds are raised

May 2019 | by Rachel Dalby

An FIEC church serving four social housing estates in Middlesbrough may pull out of the area unless money can be raised to buy the building it currently rents.

New Life Church, Middlesbrough, has been meeting in Ormesby Methodist Church Hall since 2014 but the owners no longer need the site and are putting it up for sale.

New Life’s pastor, Ian Williamson, said: ‘Apart from the local library, the hall is the last remaining public building in the area. Although our church is quite small, with around 25 regulars on Sundays, we have contact with almost 100 people each week through our outreach activities.’

If forced to vacate, New Life’s leaders would have to pull the church away from its existing community. ‘Local schools aren’t keen to have us,’ Ian said. ‘There are too many of us to meet at someone’s house.

‘The Methodists have been great landlords, helping us tremendously, and we completely understand that they need to sell the site. Our prayer is that we’ll somehow be able to buy it.’

A local man, Ian understands the community’s needs. As a youth, he himself struggled with debt, drug addiction and suicidal thoughts. ‘I attended a church youth club as a boy,’ he recalls, ‘but there was a divide between the “estate kids” and the “church kids” – most of whom lived outside of the housing estate I lived on.

‘The church wasn’t equipped for working with marriage break-ups and lone parents, so we felt like outsiders. I soon became dissatisfied and started knocking around with friends from school rather than the kids from the church.’

Ian and his team run outreach projects including all-aged football, parent and toddler groups, and a pensioners’ luncheon club.

They also run a ministry called SixtyEightFive, providing positive activities for people, building relationships and sharing the gospel. The ministry specifically helps children with absent fathers.

Ian said: ‘It’s vital that we go on serving this community.’ An appeal has been launched on in the hope of buying the church hall. ‘It’s situated on a sizeable plot which is likely to attract housing developers, so we imagine we’ll need to raise over £200,000.

‘So far, we’ve been blessed with around £9,000 in pledges. We would really appreciate prayer about this whole situation. This is a testing time, so pray for the right outcome for the vast and needy community we serve.’

Rachel Dalby

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