The listening and discernment process began pre Covid when the changing needs of the communities who looked to the church for help and support became increasingly apparent. Churches in both Willington and Spennymoor are in areas of economic and social poverty. The opening up of both churches has provided places of safety, places where need can be explored and met and/or help signposted. The church is recognised as a hub for help and support and a safe place for community responses to growing need whilst at the same time the church is providing a forum for questions to be openly asked about God, Jesus and faith. Questions that require people to be met in their environments, where encouraging new disciples is a real possibility. Questions about faith and planting a new worshipping and disciplining community within the context of new communities hub is an evolving theme.  Significant feedback has been received from a variety of community support organisations and individuals and it is clear that community space is needed in the areas to meet a variety of needs and to address local issues and problems in an evolving practical and spiritual way.

The project is set within the context of a Pioneer Deacon being appointed from September 2023 having responsibility for two churches with a clear focus in meeting individuals’ practical and spiritual needs from a new community of people who have engaged with the church as a source of practical help and support.

The vision and value of the project is firstly to show God’s love in practical and prayerful way but also to provide answers to questions from individuals who are seeking new direction or wishing to find new meaning in their lives. Each church has its own mission statement endorsing that of the Circuit but with specific aspirations and ways of working with a commitment to practical actions to respond to community needs, listening to those who need support, further community development, build capacity and opportunities for pioneering elements of creating and developing discipleship in new places and situations.

The appointment is centered on two churches. Willington Open Door Methodist Church is a new building (opened 2016). It has at its heart a passion to serve and welcome the community, its worship and work is shaped by the mission and outreach work it undertakes in responding to local needs. The “Our Confident Community” project has led to a range of services being provided from its building including, food bank, mental health awareness, support to the elderly and psychologist services while being alongside people and sharing an understanding of Jesus’ love in action. The work in progress is discovering Church at the Margins, there are early indications that a non-traditional Methodist community could form the basis of a new Christian community amongst marginalised people.                                                                                               

Equally the Church at Spennymoor has a passion for work with young people and community outreach. It has a clear mission statement which states that “as a church we aspire to be a people of courage and hope with the confidence that “God is with us,” The Spirit will lead us” and “Christ will walk alongside us”. Spennymoor, including Tudhoe, is a church with an emphasis on meeting the needs of others and a significant amount of project and outreach work including debt advice, food bank and CV writing, job searches, help with benefit forms and housing and a clothing bank are also in existence.

The vision and value in Spennymoor is to explore and connect further with the many families and other persons who have formed a connection with both churches and also integrate with other groups/activities that also exist as part of the church in this area. The project Pioneer Deacon appointment overall present opportunities for a greater sharing of the Christian message in whatever context leading to work that ensures that as a church we receive and value the gifts of all people and that we nurture all in the Christian faith.