“We thought we’d be losing our identity – that we would be the Cinderella church”

Last week we spoke to Rev Andrew Stott about the formation of the 4 Saints Team in Huyton. This week we get a view from the pew as we talk to Irene Hunt a devout parishioner from one of the churches in the team – St Jude’s about how the process worked from her point of view.

Irene has been a faithful member of St Jude’s since 1972 seeing the church as a heart of the community and a centre of her faith. Her own children benefitted from St Jude’s Sunday School which she led for a while. Well known in the community her membership of St Jude’s has enabled her to have an open witness to her faith in Stockbridge Village.

She sees a lot of affection from the community to the church. People turn to it for the crucial moments of their life. There is a strong community feeling that there needs to be a church in Stockbridge Village. Whole family’s histories are bound up with the place. “there is a real spirituality there – a lot of love for the place.” Irene said “it is not just a building. It’s a place where you come and shared laughter and tears. If you close a church then you close the memories that go with it.”

But Irene is not just nostalgic, she has a realistic attitude. With an average Sunday attendance of 15 and knowing that is an ageing congregation she know that it will become increasingly difficult for the church to sustain itself. So realising change would have to be on the agenda they entered the process with some trepidation. “we thought we’d be losing our identity and we worried about losing our weekly communion services. I was also concerned that the pastoral support would go – that we would be the Cinderella church.”

But like others in the church Irene felt that they weren’t bullied into a team but allowed to take it step by step and get a real understanding of how the team would work. And now it is starting to work she is seeing real benefits. St Jude’s enjoy the service of the Word she says and not having a vicar on site has not affected the level of support they receive. “if you can’t get one vicar you can try another and one of the team will respond.”

And whilst treasuring worship at St Jude’s Irene has enjoyed coming together for Team services. Ash Wednesday was an example where there was a fuller service at St Mary’s as a team than any of the churches could have done individually. And this has led to a Lent course taking place at different churches across the team.

And St Jude’s continues to serve the community with a weekly foodbank – supported by other team churches – and a TANGO project. Irene admits that it is still uncertain. She prays for a bigger congregation, for St Jude’s still to be a beacon for the young people of Stockbridge Village, for more people to feel the spirit that she feels when she enters the building.

But she is certain about one thing – she’s a lot more positive about being part of the team, they couldn’t have carried on alone.