St Cuthbert’s, Marley Hill & All Saints, Lobley Hill

The Hillside PMC Adventure

‘We stand here today on a firm foundation.

Embracing our rich history and tradition, we take our place in the long line of individuals seeking God for this church and this community.

We are where we are now because of all that has gone before. As we stand, we express gratitude for all those who have served God in this place week in, week out…all those who have offered their gifts and resources for God to use in this place.

And now it is our turn.’  PMC steering group member, Hillside Church

PMC stands for Partnership for Missional Church. It’s an exciting national initiative facilitated by the Church Mission Society which invites church communities to discover where God is at work in their area and to experience the joy of joining in.

In 2018, Hillside Church signed up for the PMC adventure. The formal process takes three years and will have a transformational impact for years to come.

‘It’s a wonderful journey that helps churches discover a sense of purpose, discern the call of God, and engage in joyful, hopeful mission in their local communities.’

Rt Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham

In 2019, the PMC Steering Group from Hillside Church spent time listening, paying attention to, and discovering where God is already at work in the church and in the community. We also invited members of the congregation to spend a morning with us in November listening to what God is saying to us about where we go from here.

In 2020, we enter the second phase of the PMC adventure, which focuses on experimenting. This is a time to take some mission risks and learn from both what works well and what doesn’t. Whatever we decide to do, we aim to do it with people in the local community, not simply for them. Watch this space!

We’d like to share with you here what we have discovered about Hillside Church and the communities it serves.

During 2019, we conducted three discovery processes: A Listening Portfolio, a Timeline Event and Congregational Interviews.

The Listening Portfolio looked at demographic information, geography, numbers, finance, premises etc and here’s some of what we discovered:-

  • With a church base at both ends of ‘the hill’ and the whole parish being split by the A692, it’s often difficult for the whole parish to have a community feel
  • Hillside is seen to be a lively Anglican church known for its welcome and work with young people
  • The parish encompasses a wide range of social groups, including sections of the community which represent deprivation
  • 50% of our congregation comes from outside the parish
  • There is little footfall past either church building, but many people pass by car and bus every day

You can read the full Listening Portfolio Report Summary here.

The Timeline Event took place in May where members of Hillside Church past and present had the opportunity to share memories of events to celebrate, events that brought sadness and events that brought hope. Here’s some of what we discovered:-

  • Many memories of celebration were personal celebrations e.g. Weddings, Baptisms and Confirmations
  • Personal moments of sadness include leaving the church and the sad loss of a friend or relative
  • There were many memories of joy in the early 1980s when Bob Hopper became vicar and brought ‘new life into this church’
  • As the two parishes came together in 2003, there was celebration around the refurbishment of St Cuthbert’s
  • There was importance placed on children’s work, youth work and a warm welcome

You can read the full Timeline Report here.

Congregational Interviews were conducted with 20 individuals of varying ages and involvement with the church. The same eight questions were asked to each person and here’s some of what we discovered:-

  • There’s a lot going on at Hillside Church! People are encouraged to use their gifts and get involved
  • There is always a warm welcome at Hillside
  • Geography of the parish means we have two distinct communities: All Saints in Lobley Hill and St Cuthbert’s in Marley Hill
  • The biggest change at Hillside in recent years is the arrival of a new vicar, Glen MacKnight with a new vision and outward focus
  • God’s presence is tangible in our worship, gatherings and events

You can view the presentation about the Congregational Interviews here.

Having discovered so much about all that has gone before, we met as a whole congregation in November 2019 to come before God to listen to what He has to say about the present and the future. Together, we were reminded that as a congregation, we bring many and varied gifts: we’re generally present and available, enthusiastic, welcoming and prepared to serve. What a great place to start!

In reflecting on the question ‘Where do we go from here?’, we were unsurprisingly not short of ideas!

  • Compassion: Alongside the existing Friday Coffee Morning, many other events were suggested for reaching out to the lonely and elderly.
  • Communication: We need to find better ways of communicating who we are and what we do to the people around us.
  • Community: Facing the challenge to overcome the current disconnect between church and community.

So…where do we go from here? Well, we’re having an awayday on Saturday 29 February to discover together the challenge that God has for us here at Hillside. You know, all that ‘Your mission, should you choose to accept it….’ exciting kind of stuff! And what makes is so exciting is that with God on our side, no mission is ever Mission Impossible.

If you want to find out more about the Awayday, please contact us at admin@hillsidechurch.co.uk.

The Spirit of God is moving among us here at Hillside and working within each one of us. Yes, each one of us. We each have an important role to play in what God is doing in this place and in the wider world.

Our God is a God of surprises. Are you ready for Him to surprise you?

Hillside Church