Grace Church, Cowley in Oxford prides itself on being a church for people who don’t do church.
A church plant from St Ebbe’s and operating on a Bishop’s Mission Order, it opened in September 2019, giving the new team six months to establish roots before the pandemic struck.
“We’re thankful to God for those six months,” says Minister the Revd Ben Vane, “For uniting together a group of people before we went into lockdown.”
Ben was employed to open the church and gather a core team from the existing churches and multiple congregations. The disparate group found a new home in the former Congregational church on Temple Road, which had been bought by the Littlegate Trust and offered to St Ebbe’s.
“These were people who had a heart for Cowley, says Ben, “Either because they lived or worked in the area. The aim was to reach the people of Cowley with the good news of Jesus, many who may never have encountered church before.”
The church has grown. Around 110 people attend on Sunday. The congregation illustrates the diversity of Cowley, through age, socio-economic groups and ethnicity.
Midweek Grace MINIs, a parent and toddler group for 20 families has its base at Temple Road (Cowley being the home of the mini factory).
The church is also very active with Christians Against Poverty. “Through that we’re helping people in debt and that is another way of reaching people we would never have contact with,” says Ben. “We get to show them Christian Love and Christian community.” The church also runs a Global Cafe for international students studying in the city.
“It’s all about relationships. We’re trying to encourage our church family to form relationships in workplaces, social settings and leisure activities that might them lead to an invitation to come and experience some Christian community.”
That might be on Sunday, but during the week Grace Church runs a series of Missional Communities - small groups studying the bible which have a missional function. “We’re trying to lower the walls as much as we can, to give people a taste of what Christian community is like and welcome people into that,” says Ben.