A MANCHESTER church-plant is to feature in a BBC documentary about Christians Against Poverty (CAP), that is due to be broadcast tonight.
Sports Village Church, Leigh, was set up ten years ago by the Revd Eric White, and seeks to reach out to the marginalised in society.
CAP runs debt-relief services and life-skills courses at the church, and it is featured in the documentary as it follows Holly, a young woman who becomes a regular member of the congregation after receiving help from the charity.
Mr White, a senior pastor at the Sports Village Church, said on Monday that the CAP scheme had “gone from strength to strength”, and that he turned to CAP to help people because “debt is endemic”. Through CAP, he said, “we have helped people out who have considered suicide.”
He explained his decision to set up the plant: “Twelve years ago, I looked at my congregation and realised there was a socio-economic group not represented there, which was the marginalised.
“So I started to think about how this could be addressed. We decided to set up a church-plant targeted at that marginalised group, and we considered what cuts people off from going to church.
“We all eat together at 4.30 p.m. on Sunday afternoons; we’re trying to reach people who might have a big headache in the morning. Eating together helps create the community.”
Services are not traditional, he said. “We don’t have a book culture here; so worship is a bit more like karaoke. The way society is going we need to be more creative to get people to come to church.”
Mr White explained that the decision to involve CAP came after the church considered: “How can we show the people in the parish that we care?”
He went on: “People started coming through that. For people to come to church it is weird if you’ve never been before, even if we have made it very accessible.
“When we met people through CAP, we would send befrienders along to help them through, and then when they come to church they see one face they know, which is really useful for them.”
Mr White said that, after ten years, the church-plant project was going strong. “We are seeing people move to the main church now. Sometimes, I think this isn’t fair, but this is what it’s all about: we are a halfway house to getting people to go to church.”
Featured in the documentary will be John Kirkby, the founder of CAP. Earlier this year, he was awarded the Langton Cross for Community Service (News, 2 February).
The documentary follows Mr Kirkby, as well as some of the charity’s debt coaches. A BBC press release says that it “asks whether the real motivation [for CAP] is debt relief or bringing people to Jesus, or both”.
The Debt Saviours is to be broadcast on BBC2 at 9 p.m. tonight, and will be available on BBC iPlayer.