Bringing the gospel to England - The story of Christ Church Stockport
Having a larger population than over 50 UK cities and being one of the 10 boroughs that make up Greater Manchester, Stockport is a significant market town in the North of England. And it is a town that is changing. With planned investment of over £1 billion, the town centre is currently undergoing huge revitalisation. Plans include a new retail and leisure development, a new commercial district, two new hotels, a strategy for the indoor markets and up to 1000 new homes for the town centre. There is a lot going on in Stockport!
Jon Cawsey and Matt Thompson, two newly appointed AMiE Church Planters, believe however that there is a growing need in Stockport which hasn’t been addressed. Jon says: “As a Stopfordian (a general term used to describe people from Stockport) it is great to see so many of the needs of the town beginning to be met, but there is little doubt that there is a great need for the same level of strategic thinking and heavy investment when it comes to the spiritual welfare of Stockport too.” The statistics back this claim up: There is only 1 church (of any kind) for every 3,437 people and church attendance (of any kind) is at 3.11%, compared to the national figures of 1 church for every 1,256 people and church attendance of 8.48% respectively. The need for more Gospel proclaiming, Bible teaching, missionally-minded churches in Stockport is great.
In order to begin to address this need and with the conviction that the church is God’s primary means of mission to the world, Matt and Jon have begun to gather a core team of people in order to plant Christ Church Stockport (CCS). The vision for CCS is to grow a healthy, large, active, heterogenous Anglican church, predominantly through conversion growth, from which other churches and ministries can develop and be resourced. CCS will be made up of people who live and work in and around the town centre, but also from those who travel in from the suburbs in order that over time, CCS might plant churches back into these areas and beyond.
Matt explains: “There are small pockets of faithful and active churches throughout Stockport but the cold reality is that there aren't enough. Under God we hope we can be a part of the solution as we plant a church, which in time we pray other churches will be planted from. In fact, the purpose of planting CCS from conception with two full time qualified Ministers is to cement into our DNA the idea that we are a sending church. Our prayer is that within five years one of us will leave with a core of people to plant elsewhere in Stockport.”
In June 2017, Jon and Matt were assessed and recommended for both ordination and as church planters with Anglican Mission in England. When asked what led them toward AMiE they explained: “We have both been confessionally Anglican throughout our Christian lives. Matt used to be the Associate Minister at Christ Church Central, Sheffield and Jon the Associate Minister at St Paul's, Harold Hill (Both Anglican churches) before we each moved to Stockport some years ago. We affirm the GAFCON Jerusalem Statement and Declaration and love and stand upon the doctrinal heritage of the Book of Common Prayer and ancient creeds. However, due to our unconventional routes into ministry , we found ourselves ministering outside of the Church of England and until recently we worked together at an Independent Evangelical Church.”
“When the opportunity to plant CCS developed, we decided that we wanted to come home to our theological roots and plant Anglican churches. This together with a longing for faithful and Biblically robust episcopal oversight and our principled pragmatic desire to plant a church in Stockport town centre, led us into a conversation with AMiE. AMiE offered us a fresh, exciting and distinctly Anglican gospel partnership; a band of brothers to stand shoulder to shoulder with in ministry and a vision for gospel growth through planting confessionally Anglican churches. As we explored further, AMiE’s desire to be theologically robust, their commitment to planting throughout England and their drive to offer a fresh biblical, relational and local episcopal oversight was a wonderful answer to our prayers. We had no doubts that AMiE was to be the home of CCS.”
The church itself is in the very early stages of development. Jon says: “We have a plan, we have God’s Word and Spirit, we have a growing core team, and we have a website, but beyond that there is not much to us!”
Over the next months, the core team will be meeting weekly to pray and get to know one another and from September they are planning to gather together in the town centre for fellowship, teaching and training before launching in January 2018. They are currently busy applying for funding and charitable status whist seeking suitable premises in which to meet as well as praying for more people to join them in the task of ‘mission Stockport’.
Their strategy for growth is one of biblical discipleship. CCS believe that as Christians are taught, modelled and encouraged toward Christ-likeness then this will by definition lead them to imitate Christ in all areas of life, not least in both personal and corporate evangelism. CCS are convinced that the primary responsibility for mission lies with the whole church family working together using their diverse God given gifts to reach other people. With this in mind, the backbone of their discipleship strategy will be applied expository teaching through the pulpit, in small groups and in one to one bible studies.
CCS covet the prayers of their GAFCON brothers and sisters. Matt says: “we recognise that this is an ambitious project in a post-Christian town where there is little spiritual appetite. We would love for you to pray with and for us:"
- Please pray for conversions. We want people to know and glorify the Lord Jesus. Ask that God’s Word together with God’s Spirit would do God’s work of bringing life to a spiritually dead town.
- Please pray for resources. We currently have very little money, we have only a few people, and we have nowhere to meet. Ask that God in his abundant generosity would provide all that we need for this project. Please pray especially for some older families/couples to join us as we are a relatively young core team, pray that those trusts, churches and individuals to whom we will soon be writing for financial support and prayer partnership might look generously upon us.
- Finally, please pray for wider relationships throughout Stockport. As we start out, pray that the other churches here view us as partners and not problems and please pray that we would be considered a valuable part of the Stockport revitalisation project.
 Christ Church Central for example, was planted outside of CofE structures and before there was any alternative provision for Matt such as AMiE or GAFCON
 Statistics derived from www.faithsurvey.co.uk/download/csintro2.pdf, www.eauk.org/church/research-and-statistics/how-many-churches-have-opene..., www.stockportjsna.org.uk/2016-jsna-analysis/demographics/, Thomson Local Stockport (2015)