Building community: Hartcliffe and Withywood Lighthouse

Lighthouse - baptismThis story illustrates the principles of Building community in the Guide.

The Lighthouse is a beacon for the unchurched on an Urban Priority Area estate on the outskirts of Bristol.

It arose out of the prayers of two women, each a member of a different church. Their vision for the estate was the provision of a relaxed environment where people could come together to share food and share their lives.

When Jenny Low arrived as an assistant minister at the parish church in 2003, she joined the women in prayer, along with others from a range of churches across the estate. With Jenny’s arrival, the women could invite their own contacts to a regular gathering at Jenny’s church house.

The Lighthouse meets for a meal at 6.30pm on Fridays. The focus is on sharing one another’s lives and their problems. Numbers vary from 12 to 40, most of whom would not describe themselves as Christians. Men and women, old and young, children with parents, come because they find something special.

Lighthouse - meetingThe Lighthouse has been described by them as ‘a life saver’, somewhere with ‘warmth’ and a place where ‘we find God’.

We have been open about the fact that we pray for people and sometimes they have asked,

Jenny says.

We usually do this in a separate room and always make sure it is more than one of us.

Members have begun to ask for more Christian content to the evenings. Jenny believes this is a result of the clear Christian welcome and strength of relationship offered at the Lighthouse. It is provided through videos and interactive learning rather than acts of worship. Some members choose to attend a monthly Sunday evening service in a local community centre.

Through the offering of a safe space, a new community has formed which gives local people a place to experience Christian love.