When the church plays catch up
Andy Fitchet reports on how, and why, a church is beginning to form on a new build development in Andover
Picket Twenty is a standard new build development. No doubt you will have one not too far away from you. It currently stands at around 1000 houses with 600 more planned in the next phase, and more to come after that.
There is a good C of E primary school, a packed community centre and nothing else. No shop, no pub, no GP/Pharmacy and no church.
If anyone lives on a new build estate you will know the many varied issues that crop up; bad or no drainage, street lighting that doesn’t work for years, hedges blocking paths, curbs you could abseil down, damp, leasehold fees and so on. This is where the story starts. A local community fed up to the back teeth with local authorities and the developers blaming each other and nothing getting done.
As a local councillor this is where I come in. To write emails, have meetings, point at these issues for grumpy local paper shots and generally try to help. Helping, not because this is covert evangelism, but because that’s what you do and I have the position to do it.
18 months on, we are getting somewhere. Slowly. The shop is about to be built, drainage is being overhauled and there are more lights on than there were.
What I didn’t expect was to be planting a church.
Turns out the local community would quite like to have a local church and a local minister to be able to go to.
I had no intention of planting a church in Andover. There are far too many of the things already. In and around Andover there are 36 churches. 36. For a population of 50,000. We most certainly don’t need anymore…but what do you do when a distinct local community, of which those asking are not churched, ask for one?
You kind of have to say yes. So I did.
We (the deputy chair of the resident’s forum and I) decided to start something easy to plan, community focussed and open to anyone. So we held a picnic. 10 turned up, five churchy and five not churchy. Seven people sent apologies.
We still have no permanent home, or indeed a temporary one, that’s all being worked out. What it does seem to me, though, is that after six years perhaps God got bored of waiting for the church to do something and so decided to use the community to start something instead?
The Revd Andy Fitchet is a pioneer minister on Picket Twenty in Andover. For more info go to pickettwenty.church or search for Picket Twenty Church on Facebook.