A Church of new beginnings, new relationships and new found hope.
Nobody’s Perfect, Everyone’s Welcome, Anything’s Possible.
If the above words were spoken to you at random, then I highly doubt that your first thought would be that they areassociated with a Church. Now, I am not saying that Churches do not have these characteristics or words in their vocabularybefore I get told off for generalisation. But what I want to spell out is just how powerful those words are in describing Freedom Church. There are connotations of inclusivity, of imperfect humans being accepted, of the chance to reach your God given potential and beyond. At Freedom Church, there really are no guidelines for entry and everyone really is welcome,imperfections and all.
I want to make it clear from the start that this blog does not aim to convert or persuade or force religion upon anyone. What it does aim to do is banish the one-dimensional view of Church that I myself once had. Of Church as a contrived preaching, faith pushing society. Of course, the Church does preach the gospel and it is a place of worship, but we do not push. Freedom Church is a community with a lot more depth and variation than you would first imagine. Many people would run for the hills atthe mere mention of Church because of false perspectives (I hate to admit, but I was one of these people). Realistically though, what is the worst thing that could happen? You go and find out it’s not for you? But what if it is? That’s the real question is. Likethe saying goes, you don’t know unless you try.
I remember the first time I heard about Freedom Church through a friend and I just shrugged and made an off the cuff comment about how it wouldn’t last long and would be gone again in less than a year. There was no offence meant by this comment, it just seemed to be the norm. Since a child I had seen numerous Churches on the estate fail, why would another one be any different? I’m not usually one to admit when I am wrong, but I was wrong. Infact, I was more than wrong. The Church and its community are currently thriving and, in my eyes, there are no limits on what can be achieved. We are only justgetting started.
If I am being completely honest, the only reason I ever went to a service at Freedom Church is because I had FOMO (fear ofmissing out for those of you that don’t know what that means). My friends went and I wanted to know why. Not to be funny or anything, but Church isn’t really the normal thing to spend your weekend attending when you’re in your early twenties. Or so, that’s what I thought. So off I went, a little bit nervous and apprehensive. I sat at the back away from prying eyes and the potential for awkward conversation. I scanned the room more than once to take in my surroundings and I remember thinkingto myself that it didn’t seem so bad here. Everyone looked happy and the people I spoke to that day made me feel like I belonged there.
Now, I’m not going to spiel off into an analysis of the service because that’s not what this blog is for. I want to make note ofhow different and modern this Church was to all of my preconceptions. A lot of my judgements were erased that day. When I first started going to Freedom Church, the services were held in a community centre. It was small, but that didn’t matter. I could instantly sense how much this Church meant to its congregation. Nobody cared that they were in a community centre, what mattered was coming together and worshipping God. It’s very evident to see a complete mixture of people there. From
young to old, and this shocked me. I’d always had this perception that Churches were for old people
(please don’t shout at me, Nan).
Diversity and difference are key and these attributes set this Church apart. The Church is traditional, but it is also modern in itsapproach. The sermon doesn’t drag on for hours, but it always has a clear message. We don’t sing traditional hymns, but we sing worship songs. There is no prerequisite for strict formality. It is very evident to see that the leadership team clearly knowthat offering something different is the way to attract people.
I think it is interesting to mention that before I went to Freedom Church, I was not interested in religion at all. I was as far away from a Christian as you could imagine. But, from the second I stepped into that community centre on a rainy day in Blackpool, a light switched on inside me. I had this burning desire to learn and find out more about faith. So that’s what I did. You become part of a family who will help you explore your calling. Sometimes you will want to throw in the towel, but you will always find yourself guided back to the right path.
Freedom Church changed my view on religion, and ultimately it changed my life. A bit of a deep sentence but it is 100% true. I had zero expectations when I took a leap of faith the first day I went and yet here I am three years later having been commissioned as an Authorised Lay Minister. You might not think you have anything to offer, but believe me, you do. Everyone on this earth has gifts which with a little bit of support (well, in my case a lot) can be used in ways you wouldn’t imagine. The Church gives you the guidance and encouragement to do this. You grow and you learn. You step out in faith to do exactly whatyou were meant to do. Comfort zones need to be walked out of and Freedom Church will help with this. Of course, at times it is going to be uncomfortable and you will be pushed as far out of your comfort zone as you can get. But you will be supportedthroughout the whole process, as long as you give it a try.
The thing about Freedom Church is that it is not just a service on a Sunday and that’s the job done for the week. A lot of time and effort goes into the smooth (sometimes bumpy) running of a Church and its community centre unbeknown to the majority of people. We help communities, we do charity work, we offer support, we hold groups and events. The list goes onbut I don’t think you would want to read a ten page essay, so I will leave it at that. Freedom Church really is a seven days a week service. Many people think Church is just for Sundays but if you look a little deeper, you will see that this is far from true. We need to remove this outdated stereotype and make it known how different Church really is from the outdated views.
The Church itself is situated on a deprived estate in Blackpool. When I say that this Church is a lifeline to its estate, I mean it. It is a well required gift for an area which didn’t have much to offer. There was little hope before Freedom Church arrived. People were lost and there was no community feeling. But with Freedom Church comes a new lease of life. The Church offers something for everyone and no two days are the same. From community groups, to a baby and toddler group, to dance groups,to worship services. You don’t have to be religious to use the facilities and that’s what I love about it. Everybody is welcomeand it really is a Church like no other. Oh, and before I get told off for not mentioning it, we also have a café which does GOOD coffee. I’m not bias by the way, but you will have to come and try it yourself to verify that.
One thing I want to mention is the Leadership Team. The people that hold this community together. The people that go aboveand beyond to ensure the needs of their audience are met. The people that offer a
listening ear when times get tough. They are the glue which hold everything together. They understand that no person is thesame. That we are all individuals.
I was once told about a Church where the people in charge were hardly seen, kept themself in the background and they didnot lead from the front. In today’s society, this will just lead to failure. We need people in charge who really care. So, if you’re hiding in the back then I’m sorry to say, but this isn’t the way to go. Good leaders need to have vision, respect their communities and communicate effectively. These attributes flow out of Freedom Church’s leadership team which only contributes to the Church’s success. Each of them inspires me daily and if I can be half the person they are, I would be happy. They welcome everyone and are always open to suggestions. So, if you’ve got any ideas or recommendations then do not hesitate to contact them. You never know, you might get to try a cup of the good coffee as well (as an aside, other drinks are available).
Freedom Church is a home for so many and a place of refuge and support. I could go on forever about what it has to offer, but I want to make one last point. If you’re looking to become part of a well-loved and supportive family, Freedom Church more than provides. Step out of your comfort zone and you will never look back. I certainly haven’t.