In September 2020, The Message Trust launched their first Community Grocery in Wythenshawe, Manchester. Those struggling to afford their grocery shop can become an annual member at £5, which allows them to do their grocery shop up to three times a week at a standard rate of £4 each time.

Alongside the highly reduced food shop, the member and their whole family have access to a wide range of free support courses. These include healthy cooking classes, debt management, IT skills, children’s dance and music classes, community meals, exploring Christianity and so much more. Members have the dignity of choice as they walk around the farm shop style stores, of which there are now 19 around the UK connecting with over 30,000 families. 

All of the groceries are located in areas of high deprivation and are launched in partnership with a local church who are then responsible for running the wrap-around support courses. As members join, they are welcomed into what is a real community hub, and as they are supported, not only with food provision but with the extra support, the question of faith often arises. I think it’s safe to say that all our churches have experienced church growth through the work and a number of churches would say that their congregations have doubled due to the impact of the grocery. 

It’s been incredible to see all that God has been doing. Our very first grocery project in Wythenshawe saw 200 members make commitments to follow Christ in the first eight months. Due to the original church not returning to the site that the project was held in, and with many who had made the decision to accept Jesus into their lives asking for a church here at the site, we decided to plant a new church where these people could be discipled. With over 750 adults and children on the church database, Message Community Church has a regular attendance of around 180 – 250 people each Sunday and even more connecting throughout the week, engaging in the many courses and events on offer. Since the launch of the church in July 2021, we have seen nearly 300 first time commitments on a Sunday morning alone and every month hold baptism services. 

The stories that have come from the groceries have blown us away.

Sam’s story

Sam joined our grocery project in March 2021 and was at her lowest. Having just lost her partner to suicide, she decided to remove herself from the heart transplant waiting list as she felt it was a waste of a heart and that her life wasn’t worth saving. However, Sam began to volunteer one day per week and became friends with our staff and volunteers. She found that it was the grocery store that motivated her to get out of bed in the morning and she began to volunteer more of her time. 

Sam attended the first MCC service and gave her life to Christ. Two weeks later she came to tell us that she had put herself back on the heart transplant list. A month after that she was baptised. She has herself led others to Christ and has been transformed for the better. She is also on the local Eden team, impacting her community in such a special way.

Tyson’s story

Tyson is 11 years old, he initially came to church on his own. He asked to be baptised and asked for a letter to give to his parents. Tyson has a lot of challenges and has a tough home life but comes to church most weeks. I visited the family home to ask his dad about his thoughts on his son being baptised. His Dad told me that Tyson had been talking to him about it and definitely understood what it meant. Not only was the dad pleased that we had asked permission, but he said that he would be there on Sunday. Over time Tyson has invited his brother, parents, auntie, cousins, and other family members to church. A number of them have become Christians and have been baptised. Last week, at youth group, Tyson prayed for two other young people who were both healed and led one of them to Christ.

It is incredible what God is doing and I could tell story after story of God at work. We just need the wisdom to steward this well!