Photos can be found at the bottom of this article.
While some people are writing off the Church of England, with statistics indicating a story of decline, the Bishop of Birmingham last night (Friday 5 February) opened a new vibrant church just off Broad Street in Birmingham city centre. More than 400 people from across the city and beyond gathered to celebrate the launch of ‘St Luke's Gas Street’ a community of worshippers that has grown to over 300 before it officially opened its doors…
The former Gas Retort House on Gas Street was purchased by the Church of England - Birmingham in late 2014 and has been developed through generous funding from all over the region, as well as gifts from around the world. The building, now known as St Luke’s Gas Street, is a second place of worship in the parish of St Luke’s, and is the new home to the hundreds of largely young people and students who have been worshipping temporarily at Jongleurs Comedy Club just around the corner on Broad Street. Regular Sunday services commence on 7 February at 10.30am and 6pm.
The vicar of St Luke’s Gas Street is The Revd Tim Hughes. He and his wife Rachel bring a wealth of leadership experience from their 10 years at Holy Trinity Brompton in London where Tim was Director of Worship, heading up Worship Central, an international worship training and resource centre. Together they lead a dynamic team of people who want to grow a church that is centred around the vision of being “light for the city”, seeing people alive in Jesus, living life to the full and bringing hope and light to Birmingham. Tim said: “We’re really inspired to be here at this exciting time in the life of Birmingham. We can’t wait to play our part in being good news for the city and are praying that we will have a positive impact on Broad Street and the wider area.” Rachel passionately shared part of their vision for the church: "We believe in a God who can bring a physical, emotional, social, economic and spiritual transformation. Our hope and our prayer is that, in Birmingham, no one should stand alone."
This brand new church was launched by The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham who was joined by church leaders from across the region, well-wishers, members of the congregation as well as the buildings design and construction teams. Bishop David applauded the efforts of his team and the contingent who, in faith, moved up from London to be part of this, saying ”Birmingham is like Guinness... you don't like it, because you haven't tried it. But then you try it, and you love it." The Head of Alpha, The Revd Nicky Gumbel and his wife Pippa expressed their appreciation of their former colleagues saying: "Tim and Rach will bring an abundance of loyalty, humility and fun... We believe you will reap far more than you sow."
As well as an official launch by Bishop David, attendees were be treated to some brilliant music (including a specially-written rework of This Little Light of Mine), an opportunity to pray for and hear more about the vision of Gas Street and even a drop of bubbly at the end.
The Rt Revd David Urquhart said:
“This is a brilliant moment in the life of the Church of England in Birmingham. We have prayed, discussed, given, supported and prayed some more for all that has gone on to bring St Luke’s Gas Street to this launch date. But this is only the beginning. My personal prayer is that this church will be a home for many students and young adults to discover the truths of Jesus and answer His call to ‘go and make disciples’ to have a lasting impact across the city.”
Find out more at: www.gasstreet.org
We captured some of the feelings of the event from people on their way out of this special occasion:
“We’ve just had an hour and half of worship and celebration of the first public event at St Luke’s Gas Street here in Birmingham city centre. The place was packed out. We’ve heard from Nicky Gumbel a great commission for Tim and Rachel and the team here. But we’ve also had people from different Church of England churches and other churches from all over the region, from Polesworth to Dorridge and Newtown. We are delighted by what God has done amongst us tonight and we’re already planning Stage Two of the building. We encourage you to pray for us, but also to come and see and worship with us here as we seek to grow resourced people ready to serve churches across the Diocese.”
- The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham
“Gas Street has launched, the building is open, there’s a buzz in this place. We’re so thankful for so many people who have served to make it happen and we’re open, so come and visit!”
- The Revd Tim Hughes
“We’re delighted to welcome Tim and Rachel and the community who, in faith, have come here to Birmingham. We thank God for what they’re bringing and I thank God for their generosity of Spirit in welcoming people of different traditions and no traditions. The Bible talks about the fact that God delights in unity because when there is unity God will bless. I believe in our diversity God is really going to bless this city and we’re going to get a foretaste of the heavenly city here. So welcome to Tim and Rach, I thank God for them and pray that we can grow together and be the lights of Christ in Birmingham and do amazing things together for the Lord. Tonight was a wonderful act of worship, hallmarked by grace and a real sense of a people embarking on an adventure but also respecting and honouring the faith and people who have been here a long time. It’s about sowing in season and leaving the reaping to God and I believe that they’re coming at the right season to do a great deal of sowing and reaping.”
- The Revd Ian Harper (Vicar of St John’s and St Peter’s Ladywood and Area Dean of the Deanery that includes St Luke’s parish)
“It’s absolutely amazing to see a vision come to life. It’s absolutely amazing to know that the people who have prayed, thought and worked to deliver something which looks like a carcass of a building but is actually symbolic of so much change that could happen. It’s brilliant to be here on this day, knowing that the prayers, promises and visions of the combine here and then outwork from here onwards…”
- Dr Nick Harding OBE
“Being here tonight has been an immensely encouraging seeing The Church of England - Birmingham taking a huge step of faith, doing something new and exciting.”
- The Revd Duncan Hill-Brown (Vicar of St Philip and St James Dorridge and member of the Transforming Church committee)
“I moved up with my wife, Amelia, last June from Holy Trinity Brompton. We wanted to be part of the move to Birmingham and shared the vision. We wanted to be part of something new and grow community. We’ve been here six months and we love it!”
- Dan Sommers (Graphic Designer)
“The last week has been pretty busy with scaffolding towers in the building and painters painting and no toilet roll, no chairs, no stage, so it’s been a really crazy week. But everyone has done an amazing job and we got the doors open and it’s been an amazing night tonight. We hope that this place will be a home for lots of people and where peoples live will be transformed. It’s been really important that our kids have been involved in the vision right from the start. They’ve been really excited and have been telling all their friends that they’re part of the Gas Street Kids!”
- Ali Herbert (Head of operations at St Luke’s Gas Street)
“It was very good to be here this evening at the start of something very exciting for the city and the Church of England - Birmingham. As someone who has a passion for the welfare of the city and the ambition to have a city of flourishing neighbourhoods, I just dream that this place becomes a resource to people living in tough places, churches that are serving those areas and a group of people who will understand what’s it’s like to live in those places.”
- Fred Rattley (Director of Community Regeneration for the Church of England - Birmingham)
“I can’t say just how awesome it was to be here. I’ve been following the journey right from the very beginning and just to see the people worshipping here and the building transformed and to see the potential and excitement is beyond brilliant! It’s been a real privilege and I found it hard to keep the tears back throughout the whole service."
- The Revd Rhiannon King (Director of Mission for the Church of England - Birmingham)
Photos by Philip King