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.