An update from Freedom Church, Richmond Hill
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Since October 2016 we have been busy at Freedom Church establishing a number of groups, which have grown rapidly in attendance and popularity and continue to do so. We have also held events which have been well received and enjoyed by the local community of East End Park / Richmond Hill.
Messy Church, which is run once a month, is a wonderful group aimed at young children and their families in which they try lots of different crafts and activities all based around a Christian theme. We also strive to provide a high quality meal for everyone to enjoy. We are regularly getting around 60 people attending every month (in fact, at our Halloween alternative - 'Light Party', we had over a hundred!).
There is a lot of positive feedback from families who say their children very much look forward to Messy Church, and apparently, a lot of the children ask every week if the group is on! Messy Church is a fantastic way of getting to know people from our community and our desire is to deepen those relationships as time goes on and introduce more people to the love of Jesus.
Our Messy Church volunteers do a fantastic job as it can be a crazy few hours! We give Pat Gray and her kitchen crew an honourable mention as up until recently they were managing to feed over 60 people every month with no oven. Because of your kind generosity, we were able to purchase a suitable oven, and it worked wonderfully last month on its first run, so again, thank you to everyone who gave money towards it. We run Messy Church together with members of Newbourne Methodist Church, and we are enjoying getting to know them better and love connecting with another local church.
Freedom Kids (Monday after-school group) is a group that we have enjoyed developing since its inception. We initially found it hard to know how to help parents bring their children to the group so after some though we added a 'cafe' for the parents and younger children to enjoy while the group is going on. Since making this change, we have had as many as 20 children to the group. It has been wonderful getting to know these families better and being able to share the Gospel with them where appropriate. Freedom Kids takes place at Newbourne Methodist Church every Monday when we're not running Messy Church.
Stay & Play (parent and toddler group) has had more than 40 families attend since we started and we are now getting twenty families attending regularly - amazing! The parents also seem to enjoy the group, and it's marvellous to see them building relationships with each other and us. It has been a joy to see the children develop over the last seven months, some of them were very shy, to begin with, and now they seem very confident and are enjoying the story and singing times immensely. Stay & Play takes place at the Vinery Centre (Vinery Terrace, LS9), every Wednesday in term time.
In Sunday Freedom Kids we've been exploring the subject of creation with the children using a Scripture Union resource called Mosaic. We have been regularly praying for growth, and in the last couple of months, we have seen an increase! It’s amazing seeing our church family growing and having local families joining us.
Freedom Church held a Community Carols and Nativity in the heart of the community last December. We helped create an opportunity for people to gather together and celebrate this special time of year. As a rough estimate, we believe we had well over a hundred people attend the event. We arranged for local children to take part in the nativity scene, we enjoyed singing carols with a Salvation Army brass band, and the children were thrilled at riding real donkeys! We kept ourselves warm with the usual refreshments as well as some festive treats. Here are some quotes from feedback we received:
"It was an amazing fun filled family night, and me and my little boy enjoyed it xx." - Kirsty Toulson (local mum).
- "There can be a lack of community feeling in our area due to lack of community spaces, so it's great to have events where we can come together. We especially enjoyed the singing and the donkeys!" - Emma Parkin (local mum).
- "I thought that it was lovely that a (previously unknown to the Church) local resident was willing for their Christmas lights to be used as the focal point for the nativity play. Also that so many of the local children wanted to be part of the nativity play on the night. I was impressed with how patiently the children waited for the donkey rides!" - Shelia Dawson (Newbourne Methodist Church Deacon).
- "A really great community event which involved children and adults, very well attended particularly as this was the first one - as word gets around I'm sure it will become a Christmas tradition for East End Park." - Peter Taylor (grandparent).
We continue to strengthen our relationship with All Saint's Primary School and we have recently been involved with a girls' lunch-time group. We also continue to work with Kids Klub and Hannah Jones recently partnered with them, on behalf of Freedom Church, to run a lunch group working with school years five and six. This group helped the children in talking about their identity in Christ and building their self-esteem.
Every couple of weeks we gather some of the teachers and school workers together for a short prayer time on a Thursday morning, and once a month we take a morning assembly. These assemblies are incredible opportunities to share the love of Jesus through whichever theme the children are working through with the school that month.
Connect, which is our Friday night youth group and involves young people from Freedom Church as well as young people from the local community, continues to build and grow. We have certainly experienced challenges as we've learned to adapt to our new local, but this is positive and is helping us shape how we present youth work and we're developing in how we engage with the young people effectively with purpose. Our hope is that we are enabling an environment where every young person feels welcomed, time and space in given to create new friendships, and that they are able learn more about themselves through developing good relationships with others. We especially hope young people will find out more about Jesus - a very important individual in the Christian faith! Connect takes place every Friday night in term-time at All Saints School.
We are also working with local charities and building links with councillors and council workers. Recently we moved into a local building: 'The Vinery Centre' and we are renting an office space. The centre is a wonderful new building owned by a local charity - Mencap. We're also connecting and discussing with local councillors, council workers, residents and other services (such as the local surgery) in various ways. We are adding our voice into this mix as we look to see how all parties involved can improve the area, raise the level of hope and expectation, and help bring into focus a strong local identity.
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