West End to Broadway
‘I prayed to God every day I'd live to see this day' - Ilona Parkes (member of The West End Methodist Church)
In January 2012, the congregations of Trent Vale and Wesley Epworth Street Methodist Churches sold their buildings and came together with the vision to build a new church and community cafe in the centre of Stoke on Trent.
At the time, the churches were looking at three potential sites, but to everyone's surprise, it was an old, derelict pub, The West End, that came up trumps. Many of the middle-aged members actually remember going there to celebrate their twenty-first birthdays. After two years of planning and fundraising and six months of building work, the West End Methodist Church Community Centre and Cafe opened in January 2015.
It has been “jam crammed full” every Sunday since, according to the minister, the Revd Nichola Jones. ‘The kingdom of God has come on chocolate biscuits and cake,' joked Nichola.
At the first of the openings, 95 year old Ilona Parkes cut the ribbon, saying ‘I prayed to God every day I'd live to see this day'. At the community opening over 900 turned up and the church ‘did not know what to do' – there wasn't a room in the place that wasn't crammed but there was an ‘atmosphere of joy bubbling all the way through,' said Nichola. The Lord Mayor even commented, ‘you can feel there is love here.'
On the corner of the church there is a brand new community café. “It's a hugely popular venue,” remarks Nichola. “The staff only has to turn the lights on and people come in. When they come in, they're stunned by the quality of the work, a testament to the builders, who knew they were building something beautiful for God.”
West End Methodist Church is growing. There are only 80 seats in the church but on Easter Sunday they had to shunt the children upstairs to free up space for more people. The church is raising funds to build more cupboards, so they can run a foodbank.
A Connexional property grant of £173,000 helped make the project possible, and the church was immensely encouraged by the Connexion's confidence and generosity. The church itself raised £83,000 in three years, and numerous secular grant givers have also given grants to it.
The West End cafe has met many needs – providing good, affordable food, and a safe space to find new friends. One lady was asked what made her come to the cafe and said, “I was so lonely; I just hoped someone would talk to me – and they did! This is such a happy place to be!” Another individual shared his joy on finding the cafe: “I came looking for good food, but I found something better. I found Jesus!”
There are many budding church initiatives like The West End Methodist Church that need your ongoing support. Please pray and give towards our Mission in Britain to release their potential.
Mission in Britain is an essential part of the One Mission of the Methodist Church in Britain. Churches across England, Wales and Scotland are courageously living out the calling of the Church in their communities - that is to respond to the gospel of God's love in Christ and to live out its discipleship in worship and mission.
Gifts to Mission in Britain enable us to support mission-orientated church projects through grant giving across the following categories:
In 2014 your support enabled us to provide substantial financial support to 5 Mission in Britain projects. Thank you! Read the story above of the conversion of The West End pub into a thriving Methodist Church at the heart of Stoke on Trent as an example of what your support is going towards. We are hoping to support even more ambitious projects like it in coming years.