Here is a really beautiful story of a transformed estate church and transformed lives:
Jill MacDonald, Minister-in-Charge of St James’ Church Rounds Green, on the Lion Farm estate, Dudley
‘People thought that the place was shut for years. The grass wasn’t mowed. The glass in the doors had been broken so many times that they were boarded up. The windows were opaque glass with wire over them. However much we cleaned, it looked grotty. It was vile.
They know it’s open now! I mow the grass every week and that enables me to say “hi” to everybody as they go past.
We have always been a church with absolutely no money. We had £1,000 in the bank. We took out a loan to redecorate and applied for lots of grants. Painting the church has made such a difference. The whole feel of the place lifted people’s spirits. I’ve even put pink chandeliers in the toilets, and you don’t see that often. They’re a real talking point.
It’s a hard patch. There’s a lot of apathy, drug abuse, financial problems. But now we have a friendly face and there are people coming in. The hall is booked every night.
We will never be a massive, humungous church, but we have grown. There used to be a time when I thought, “Why would I invite anyone to come?” But now I don’t mind inviting people.
We used to get lots of graffiti and broken windows on a regular basis, and dog muck on the grass. That’s very rare now. It’s almost like God has put angels round it. People have seen that it’s cared for and looked after, and they have responded.
The church has a future that I could never have imagined. The fellowship here have a confidence in sharing their faith. We take the love of God to those around us in whatever way we can.’
Barbara, member of the congregation
‘When I first came to St James’, I was a heavy drinker and gambler and I was getting loans every week for my drinking and gambling, but I couldn’t afford the loans. I had big debts: hundreds and hundreds of pounds from door-to-door loans.
Drink blocked out memories. The more I drank, the more it blocked them out. But I’d been to Sunday School as a child. Later in life, one of my twin daughters died. The vicar who did her funeral was very nice. I realised that this [church] was where I belonged. So, I turned up one Sunday and thought I’d sit at the back, do the service and go. But people opened up their arms to me. It was “wow”.
When I first came, I had long uncombed hair, and everything I wore was black. I never knew how to dress. I never knew about hygiene.
My family are worse than you can dream. This is my family now. This is where I’m happy. I’m not scared any more. I don’t need the booze now. I thought I was nothing, but I’m as important to God as the next person.’
Andy Delmege, Urban Estates Missioner
‘The estates are one of the more socially and economically challenged part of the country and if we are not present in vital ways in the estates, then we have lost the gospel of Jesus’ heart for people in situations in poverty, which was so much at the heart of his life and message.
It is vital that people on estates such as Lion Farm realise their worth in Christ. Everybody is our sister and brother, especially those who are in more challenging situations. So it is important that the church is there, helping people.’
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