Acts tells us the Ekklesia enjoyed the favour of all the people and the Lord added to their numbers daily. We grow by being a blessing.

Ekklesia is an assembly of people united to impact their community, town or city. Paul tells us the glue’ is a mindset of humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another in love. Love comes from deep relationship, passionately wanting each other to flourish. We find ways to serve together – and this makes for high-impact church.

Let’s go to Partington in Greater Manchester, an overspill village built with poor-quality housing and in the bottom one per cent of most deprived neighbourhoods. In the summer, churches put on clubs and activities, attracting many local children and birthing a vision to do more.

Churches then built the Hideaway, 7,500 square feet of community interaction. Built on top of a row of shops, it provides a high-quality play area, café and a community room. It offers advice and mentoring alongside prayer, Alpha and Bible study. The Hideaway is a collaboration of local churches, with support from the leafy suburbs, serving their community.


The pandemic took this further. Initially they were selling food and meals to people in need; but soon local people could not afford the food or to pay their electricity bills or to buy school uniforms, so the Hideaway became a food warehouse supporting other hubs. People also wanted advice, reassurance and human contact. Teams from across the churches, and outside the area, made packs of food and essentials and distributed them. There was a great humility and compassion with the body of Christ working as one.

As lockdown lifted, the Hideaway re-emerged as a lively community hub. The community sensed the presence of God and wanted more. They opened a drop-in shop where people come for advice. Christian ministries including Christians Against Poverty work alongside Help the Aged and other secular bodies, with the church providing one community support point. The church is seen as one, and local people will regularly say, If you want help, go to the church.”

"The church is seen as one, and local people will regularly say, “If you want help, go to the church.”"

Partington is seeing the gospel, prayer and social action working together effectively. Many are giving their lives to Jesus because they have met Him in the foodbank, the children’s play area and in the street. The local council look to Ruth Lancey, who leads the team, and others, to help shape how they move forward from the pandemic.

Now, let’s go to Erdington, a deprived area of Birmingham. Urban Devotion Birmingham (UDB) serves five neighbourhoods, working primarily with youth, children and families in local secondary and primary schools and youth activities. UDB works with a number of Anglican churches and the area dean, plus the Churches Together movement in Erdington, the local Elim churches, the Baptists and the Catholics. They also work with non-Christian groups that provide great services to young people in their community.

UDB have a programme of prayer and worship, mentoring, evangelism and providing safe spaces for children. They prayer walk in groups of two, three and four, and this breathes life on their vison and call. They treat people with dignity and give wisdom, love and support. Andy Winmill, UDB leader, says, When we see love at work something happens.”

That something is the year 13 bringing a bunch of flowers into school for her UDB mentor who gave her the reassurance and encouragement she needed. It’s the parents of the year 8 with complex needs invited to participate in a UDB youth event declaring, You’re a gift from heaven.” It’s the parents of a girl placed under a child protection order who say, Now I know people are praying, and prayer works,” as they see a complete transformation in their daughter.

The love of God in seen in our workplaces and communities through our interactions with others. That love gives people a hunger to know more. As we learn to love each other and work together across our churches, we also learn to love our communities. Post-coronavirus many churches are saying our purpose is to impact, bless and change our communities – as we focus outwards God does remarkable things.

Serve together

Partington and Erdington show what’s possible when we serve together. Rev Roger Sutton, GATHER director, and I have learnt loads from these unity movements, and we’ve been sharing lessons and best practice within our national network. Make your way online to find out more about our mission and how to get involved: move​ment​for​recov​ery​.com