GLO Church in Offerton, near Stockport, was awarded a Bishop's Mission Order earlier this year – the first BMO in the Diocese of Chester. Its licensed lay workers Gareth and Lizzy Robinson give an update on how it's getting on.
The consultation process to become a BMO had been going on for over a year. In March, the Bishop of Stockport, Rt Revd Robert Atwell, issued the Order on behalf of the Bishop of Chester, Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster and he commissioned a team of eight to work with us. GLO (God Loves Offerton) is a mission project from All Saints' Marple, and our team will reinforce the ministry in two large housing estates as we look to establish a Christian community there.
GLO's commissioning service took place at All Saints and it was great to see it publicly welcomed by vicar Ian Parkinson; Alan Bell, Rural Dean of Stockport; Mrs Lois Haslam, lay chair of Stockport Deanery Synod – as well as a local police inspector and a community worker.
The Bishop of Stockport said that we need to encourage mission partnerships across traditional Anglican boundaries of parishes and deaneries. It is all credit to him for really getting the whole thing off the ground because he saw that something needed to happen and made the decision to go for it.
Our focus is to the east of Offerton where the two housing estates have completely separate cultures and identities – in many ways. One estate is made up of some social and some private housing and the other comprises privately owned housing stock; there isn't even a road to link them together.
We meet for worship on a Sunday afternoon in a local primary school but GLO Church is offering lots of different sorts of opportunities to be involved in it and build community as a result. One such opportunity is The Young Mums Way – a group for Offerton mums under 21 years old. It runs every Wednesday afternoon during term time at a local Children's Centre.
We also provide New Life Packs, including nappies, wipes and babygrows, as our way of saying welcome to the world for newborns. The Garage is developing into our freecycle project, a place where unwanted but useful things can find a home until someone needs them. The idea is that if you need something and we have it, you're welcome to it. We hope to make it useful for anyone and everyone.
In August we organised a Serve Week so that we could serve the community of Offerton through things like car washing, gardening, litter picking and sorting The Garage. We feel very privileged to be working alongside the police and the council; they are extremely supportive of GLO. We were invited as 'stakeholders' in Offerton to be part of a meeting with all of the interested agencies to look at the Urban Priority Area plan. I was amazed to see that all of the Plan's aims could clearly be seen as signs of God's Kingdom. It was also amazing to know that we arrived just as the local authority started to draw in the community's 'leaders' to change the face of this area and improve it as a place to live. They know that we at GLO are an extremely motivated volunteer force and that has to be a good thing! We've had the opportunity to pray and talk with council workers; I would never have expected that.
Another very positive step forward has been the approval of our application for charitable status. We have also had planning permission granted for a coffee shop; the idea being to establish GLO Coffee as a place in the heart of Offerton for people to gather as community, train for employment, provide internet access for homework clubs and more. We're just waiting to see what's going to happen with the extremely run down precinct where the coffee shop would be. There are all sorts of discussions going on as to its future and we want to be wise as to the right thing to do next.
From the start we have been blessed with a fantastic team. A number of people, with very different gifts and skills, had previously been in touch with All Saints' to say they felt called to be part of something similar to The Message Trust's Eden network but wanted to serve the wider community rather than focusing solely on young people. As a result, we had a team on hand from the offset; people who come from the area – or moved into it – all of whom want to be part of this new thing of God.
As far as we are concerned we are doing Kingdom work. If people become Christians as a result of it, I don't mind where they go to church because if it's with us, great, if it's with another church that will disciple them, that's great too.
All I want to do is make sure that anyone who responds to the Gospel through us has the opportunity to become part of a discipling community. What I'm concerned about is that we are faithful to honour Christ in our worship and all we do but our time of worship in itself is not going to be primarily missional at all. You can't disciple somebody solely in public worship.