About Middlesbrough Centre of Mission
Middlesbrough Centre of Mission is based on the Brambles Farm and Thorntree estates in Middlesbrough, which are in the top 1% most deprived neighbourhoods in the country. – Thorntree is being one of the most deprived areas in the UK (IMD 2019). St Thomas Church (Brambles Farm estate) no longer has a building or congregation and was the last Anglican worship on the estate. The last time the church met there was in October 2006 and their building was demolished in 2007. My role is to start a New Worshiping Community (church plant) focusing on the 20s-40s on the estate.
Lockdown has been really busy. We have been taking up to 60 food parcels out every other week. And in the school summer holidays this has increased to 72 families which means we’re supporting more than 260 people.
The food has been donated from Churches outside the parish and also from Together Middlesbrough and Cleveland who has so generously gave us funding. I not only bought dried food but also fresh fruit and veg and meat which included recipes to cook and online Zoom sessions to help.
We have given out activity packs for over 120 children and run events on Facebook. Activity packs included creating a COVID-19 time-capsule and an Easter colouring competition.
We have now set up an Eco Shop to address food poverty. People pay £2 for 15 items of food. Food is donated from the local supermarket. Volunteers from local families help to run the shop.
Life before Lockdown
When I first started my role as Lead Evangelist I was told not to really do anything other than get to know the area and to listen to what God is saying for the first 6 months. I understood why and the importance especially as I didn’t know the area its needs or anyone. Anyway, for those who know me this was near on impossible.
So I began by going out with Fr Terry and his Coffee van three mornings a week. It’s where we park the van in different parts of the estates and give out free coffee to people in the local community. With a stamp on the side saying ‘given with God’s love’. In doing this it not only enabled me to be present but also form some good relationships. One in particular was with a guy called L who had recently come out of prison where he told me he had spent most of his life and he told me that he gave his life to Jesus just a few weeks before his release. He said that he would like to help me set up a church and that he wanted to share his faith.
I also started to build up good working partnerships and was handed keys to three local community centres and was told I could use them free of charge to set up what groups I felt appropriate, even a church. I was also asked to be one of the trustees at one of the centres.
One of the centres already had a youth club called Tommy’s. However just a few weeks after my arrival the club closed due to lack of attendance. About a month after this I was asked by the Area Dean if I could start it back up. Which I did in November after lots of prayer, a great team and a few changes. We ended up with 142 young people on the register in just a few months.
I find it such an honour and privilege to serve God in Brambles Farm and Thorntree. The people, children and young people are so amazing. They are a beautiful community who are generous and support each other. And whilst being over here I have also met my future husband David. We got engaged on Valentine’s day.
Reverend Sister Jane Anne Emson
Pioneer Minister, Deacon and Church Army Sister