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23 November 2012

TWO years ago, the Revd Andrew Dunlop moved to Peterborough diocese to become the Pioneer Minister on St Crispin's estate, a new development in Northampton. With him were his wife, Sarah, their baby, aged six months (they have since had another), and their cat. "At that time", he says, "the development was just numerous houses, a school, and a post box." There were no shops, although some have been added since.

They had to start getting to know people, and they built up a team to help them, which met in their own home. A weekly kick-about, Monday Night Football, followed by a trip to the pub, began to draw some of the men together. There was also a book club, and a baby-signing course, and there is now a Little Bundles club for new mothers.

But what they could do was constantly limited by the fact that the estate has no community centre, even though one has been promised by both the developers and the council. By May this year, he felt it was time that he and his team - mainly a few young families - started worshipping together, and now, once a month, they gather at an unused Free Church building a-mile-and-a-half away from the estate.

Starting at 4 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, they begin with a game, before the children go to sessions for their different age-groups, and the adults explore a theme for the day. "We are following a series on the basics of Christian faith, leading up to Christmas." Then everyone stays for an early-evening sandwich tea, before departing.

But that, he says, cannot be his primary outreach. The church is too far away, and what he desperately needs is an adequate meeting place in the centre of the estate. There is an old church building that is used by the Orthodox, where he has held Christingle services that drew more than 200 people, but it is not suitable for regular sharing, and the school is used for worship by the Baptists. Gradually, however, people are coming together, and friendships are being formed, which he sees as an important part of his ministry.

Faith is also growing. One day, they will have a regular place to worship, in a form that will be recognisably Anglican. Important growth is going on, but it does not yet make the Church statistics.

Festival of Pilgrimage online

Monday 14 September, 9.30am - 4.00pm BST

A free, one-day online festival from Christ Church Oxford.

With speakers Martyn Percy, Stephen Cottrell, Graham Usher, Dee Dyas, and Sally Welch.

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