Planting in a Portacabin

Revd Patricia Wick has been involved in church planting ever since she was a lay parish worker in St. Luke’s Bolton. In 1991 she moved to Hull specifically to take on the job of bringing a church to birth in a new housing development. Here she tells the story of the work she pioneered on her own as the houses went up!

In January 1991 I arrived at the Victoria Dock Development in Hull, which is a new housing development and which has become a ‘Riverside Village’. It is part of Drywall Parish. Knowing that I had come to be involved in caring for the community, to start community activities, and to plant a church – where do you start? When I moved here there were 300 residents (In March 1997 this has risen to 2,500, which will rise to 3,500 when the building is finished in 1999).

My cat went missing, so even before I was licensed I was out looking for him and meeting many people. I visited every resident at home and began to understand the needs of the community. With this in mind I started a Parent and Toddler Group, Kings Club for children aged between 5-11 yrs, and Seconds Out – a Youth Group for teenagers. All these met at my home as there was nowhere else. I held a monthly wine and cheese party and invited a whole street at a time. These were popular and an excellent way to get to know people and their needs. I have been told that as the Vicar I am like the old style Village Bobby who is regularly seen on the streets and mixing with the local people.

In January 1992 I invited twenty non church goers to come to my house to talk about why they don’t go to church and what they would like to see in a church here. To my amazement they all came and were surprised that I should be asking them for their advice. Very soon they began to own the project and a number are now regular members of the church. We also discovered that due to a number of broken homes, there were children who would have liked to have come on a Sunday but were not able as they were staying with a parent elsewhere. Having been challenged by the non church goers about whether Sunday is still the best day to go to church, we started a Sunday school on a Tuesday as well as a Sunday and this has worked very well.

The church here started in January 1993. Apart from my house, the only available meeting place was a portacabin which belonged to a children’s nursery – so we started services there surrounded by Postman Pat and Mickey Mouse! The church started with eight of us and gradually grew in numbers during the three years that we were in the portacabin. In January 1996 we moved into the newly built village hall where our numbers doubled in the first year.

Through our Alpha courses in particular, people were becoming Christians. The Church and community work closely together in many areas – Youth Work, social activities, Community Carol Service, Village Hall committee, etc. Early on there was a lot of apathy from the local community, and it was the church who were responsible for starting most of the community activities before the Village Hall opened. My aim has always been to ‘grow’ local leaders for all the groups, rather than to bring people in from outside the community.

The Church is very much a church for the local community, and despite the Church of England taking the initiative, different denominations worship happily together. Much seed sowing has been done over the past six years and this is now bearing fruit and we look forward to all that God will continue to do among us.

This article was originally produced for an ACPI circular called “News From”. This paper publication was published and distributed between 1997 and 2001. Please bear in mind that the articles were written several years ago, and circumstances may have changed and people may have moved on.

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