Success and Failure:
PIONEERING ON AN ESTATE
by Trisha Wick
I started in August 2015 on Longhill Estate in Hull which is an outer estate with about 8,000 people living there. It is a deprived area with high unemployment. It is a Bishop’s Mission Order and I am the Pioneer Minister. Our building is a church with a community centre but the whole thing is church. The building and its location are a tremendous resource. Previously I was church planting in Bolton, church planting in Hull and then spent 16 years as a Mission Partner in South Sudan. I am 64 years old and I was ordained a Deacon in 1987 and Priest in 1994.
I started alone with no one to even welcome me on my first day. I had to start from scratch. Within two weeks I had 13 local people willing to volunteer and help me with the new work I had come to do. My role is to be Manager of the building, to do church in a new way and to work with the local community to provide activities they request. I now have a team of part time paid staff plus over 20 volunteers. We have developed our café which is bringing people into the building. I have built many partnerships with other organizations either based on Longhill or from elsewhere but serving Longhill. I work with the local community as we develop new activities rather than just landing them with programmes which may not be appropriate. We have now employed a Family Worker. I have come to love the local people. However, it was a huge culture shock coming here and even after over three years I still feel apart and different from the local people.
I have been experimenting with doing church in a new way including a Saturday Church Praise Service and a quarterly all age outreach service. I consult with non-churchgoers as to how I can do church in a way which may attract them to attend. Other local churches support us on special occasions or when extra help is required. New people have joined the church and become Christians but in small numbers. The church is for the local community and people of different denominations attend. We have a large fringe of people in the building but they need to move off the fringe and become committed.
I am well supported by the Diocese of York, my support group, individual Christian friends and local clergy and lay people.
I am very tied to the building with its maintenance, handling people, activities, paperwork etc. It takes up 70% of my time rather than the 25% originally intended. I hate admin but so far have not been able to find a competent person to assist. I don’t enjoy fundraising either but I have to do it to try and cover utility bills, salaries etc. There seems to be a lack of local people with the skills needed. I sometimes have to look beyond the estate for help – such as a Treasurer. I work many more hours in a month than required just to keep on top of things and find I don’t have enough clear thinking time. It is difficult to get away from the job and the demands and needs of people. I need to protect my time as a pioneer as so many things creep in which means I lose my main focus. I am still not working to my strengths due to being so tied up with other things. I am a people person and get frustrated when tasks occupy so much of my time.
Staff and volunteers have been a challenge. They are not all Christians so there have been some misunderstanding about church values. I do a lot of peace keeping when people fall out with each other. There are a lot of personality clashes. Many of my volunteers have mental/health/challenges which can affect their work.
The church building does not look like a church which is a challenge to many outsiders who want a ‘proper’ church. Our Saturday Church Praise Service did not attract local people and few of our church members attended so we closed it after six months. We do not have a Sunday Service and all our services are midweek – often after school. I need more mature Christian leaders to assist me. It can be a very lonely job. I am not married so have no one to share with at home.
The building has security shutters which need to be closed when no one is in the building and sometimes local people think it looks as though the church has closed down. Vandalism and anti-social behaviour from local gangs which damages the building and threatens people have also been a challenge. I live 2 miles from Longhill which has its disadvantages but at least it means I can escape from the pressures of the work.
I love my work despite the challenges. I have seen God at work in so many ways. I have often felt I am in the deep end when faced with new challenges. Stress levels can be very high. My calling from God to this work has been very important in times when I have become discouraged and felt tempted to give up. It has been very important to be at the centre of God’s will for my life which gives me peace in my heart.
Rev. Canon Patricia Wick Pioneer Minister for Longhill, Hull April 2019