Three years we have lived in Manchester.
Manchester continues to treat us very well. I feel like I have only scratched the surface of what this magnificent city contains. The people are generous, innovative and mad as fish.
Year three has seen the church grow with people and new sites take shape in Salford and Withington. I have also found myself travelling to Alderley Edge every week to pray with a handful of people about another site of Christ Church Manchester being established in North Cheshire. The futures bright, the futures wildly unpredictable.
In September CCM:City will be launching a morning meeting. This means CCM will have a 10:30am sunday meeting in Gorton and Fallowfield as well as a 6:30pm meeting in Fallowfield. This feels like a bold step considering our numbers. We will be a church of 60-80 in CCM:Gorton (+20 kids) and 50-60 at CCM:City (if every regular turned up at the same time) with three Sunday meetings. Breath deeply.
Starting another Sunday morning has been on our minds for a while. It is a logical step for CCM:City to broaden the range of people who could join us, we will even have kids ministry in the mornings. KIDS MINISTRY!
I have always tried to be honest on this blog about the journey we are on. So in the interest of honesty I should be clear that I have no idea how this is going to work. Everyone at CCM:City has brought into the idea (which is humbling) but every time you push into something new there is risk involved. Massive risk. That’s why it’s fun.
At this time of year I always wonder what I will be writing next year. I hope that I will be able to tell you about more Mission Communities, more Sunday meetings and who knows what else.
I have been pondering this post for a while and I have no earthly idea how to write it. I have always wanted this blog to be honest and open about the journey we are on as a family and my experiences in working for a church.
I always wanted be involved in church leadership. I remember being about 5 years old and deciding that I wanted to be like my granddad who led a church. That’s a bit of a weird ambition for a 5 year old boy to have but there you go.
If I am being honest that ambition did me no favours at all. Idolising church and leadership is not in anyway cool and I was deeply uncool. The good thing about idolatry is that God gets you in the end. Idols get broken. That’s pretty much all I want to tell you about that!
Anyhoo, tomorrow night I am being turned into an elder. That’s where we are in our journey right now. Apparently, in Manchester, starting a church community in a vodka bar gets you made an elder. I love this city.
My main concern is that all the elders I know cannot sing, or clap in time, and have appalling taste in music. Is this a choice they make or does it just kinda happen?
CCM:City was two years old on Sunday. We are behaving like most two year olds do, we aspire to be like the big kids but we have a tendency to run into walls and burst into tears for no reason. I have resolved to enjoy the journey and I am!
Two years ago I wrote about my own anxiety and the tiny hope that we had for the future.
I have learn’t more in two years than I can possibly fit into one blog post, lets just say that we have tried to learn from every mistake and not got too excited about any success.
One thing I have slowly grasped is that you have to view any church plant or site plant as a long term project. I want to build something that outlives me. Being caught up in the present battles and goals is important but they must be formed by what you hope for in the future. We want a church packed full of missionaries who love Jesus and love Manchester. Simple really.
That first night two years ago was made up of a small core (maybe 6) and 14 well wishers, some of whom never returned. We were a Sunday night mission group with a big idea and no real clue as to how we would get there (worship led by a punk band? great idea Tim. Great idea). Two years later there is a core of 40 ish with a fringe of 20ish* and we are learning to walk.
To celebrate our second birthday we had our first stab at dance music in worship. It pretty much worked. More on this soon.
*those numbers adjust depending on my mood, today I feel optimistic so you may want to adjust for “church planters inflation”.
So our story carries on from yesterday.
The whole time God had been talking to us about Manchester some good friends of ours were moving from Churchcentral in Birmingham to take over a church in Solihull. Because all we had for Manchester was a desire to go but no plan and no-one to go with, we decided to go to Solihull with these guys so that we could wait for God to instruct us further. We loved the guys who were moving and wanted to help them out.
At almost the exact point we decided to move to Solihull God intensified within me the desire to move to Manchester. I was getting these dreams, God was giving me vision. I spent most of my waking hours thinking about Manchester. Honestly, it was a completely bizarre experience. God was givning my plans, ideas and almost helping me map out the future.And yet we were going to move to Solihull! If you could imagine a place that is completely opposite to Manchester then it would be Solihull!
Anyways one morning in June 2008 I wrote in my prayer journal (this is not a dear diary kinda thing, so please don’t mock!) – “It is funny what God talks to you about. We are preparing to move to Solihull, and yet all God is talking to me about is Manchester. Lord, What is with that? I trust you. I am listening lord, please help me to be obedient” . That morning I rode to work and asked God to give me clear instruction.
That day I get a phone call from the guy who led my church. He explains that he has been in a meeting with Colin Baron (leader of Christ Church Manchester and Newfrontiers heavy weight), after the meeting they get talking and my pastor asks Colin what he is planning for Manchester. Colin explains that they would love to start a meeting aimed at students and the 18 -30s crowd but they don’t have anyone to lead it. My pastor tells Colin about me, he explains that we are planning on going to Solihull but that he doesn’t think we should go. So God broke in. We found ourselves deciding that Solihull was the wrong place to go and that God was very clearly telling us to move to Manchester.
Yesterday I started to blog about how we ended up moving to manchester.
In short God was making me like Manchester before we even got there! At this point things started to get a little supernatural. If you pushed me to define my faith I would say that I am a charismatic evangelical christian. If you pushed me a little harder I would tell you that I find charismatic evangelical christian (including myself) a little strange. But, I believe the bible so I have to believe that God is involved in our world today.
So, I started to get dreams. That’s right. Dreams about Manchester (told you this was wierd).
I had four dreams in total. Each dream was pretty similar. They all basically involved me talking to four significant people about what I felt called to do in Manchester. Each of the people in these dreams reacted in different ways. Their differing reactions have helped inform me and even begun to guide me in the steps I take. Even now I am still unpacking these dreams
I won’t tell you about all the dreams but the first involved me and Vicki trying to convince a friend of ours who we both look up to, and who leads a church in the south of England, to move to Manchester. In the real world – I had said to a few friends that if this guy moved to Manchester to plant a church I would be there in a shot.
Back in the dream – this guy freaked out. Walked out the room and said we shouldn’t tell anyone we had asked him.
When I told Vix about the dream, I didn’t really get it. Vix said that she thought it showed that I needed to step up and do this Manchester thing myself.
Deep breath. More wierdness tomorrow.
It occurs to me that looking back a little can help you fathom where you may be heading. I am a history nerd so really enjoy context.
So this week I am going to write about how family Simmonds ended up in Manchester. This involves explaining how God talked to me. Some of my more conservative readers and my agnostic buddies may find this a little odd. Not much I can do about that I am afraid! Read it anyway (tomorrows post is weirder…).
We got married in 2000 and we lived in Birmingham because that’s where Vix was at Uni. We didn’t really expect to stay there but we got stuck into churchcentral. We both led worship (Vix was an excellent worship leader. I was not!), we led small groups and we led the student work.
About two years before we left Birmingham we felt God stirring us that our time there was drawing to a close.
One night I was in the pub with a friend. We were discussing cool places to live and be part of a church, as he was in the process of moving away. Manchester came up in conversation and something clicked inside of me. I think it was one of those moments when God prompts you and you realise that you have to listen. So I took note and filed it away in my brain. I didn’t tell anyone. Not even Vicki.
Over the next few months I let it stew in my head. God started slowly talking to me about Manchester. The rainy city, as I am sure you are aware, is a very cultural city. There is always something going on. If a music scene starts in Manchester it is quite likely to effect a whole nation. During the 80s and 90s the Hacienda nightclub had a massive affect on the music scene, the club scene and the drug scene of the whole of the UK. If a band does well in Manchester they will be massive in the whole of the UK. This is not a common occurrence. This probably doesn’t happen for any other city in the UK apart from London.
The creative community of Manchester has huge influence over UK culture. So it occurs to me that if these influential people start getting saved then that could have a much broader impact than just Manchester.
In short, God was making me love the city of Manchester in preparation.