This simple outdoor meeting represents the central truth of the Freedom Church, expressed in the Rev. Linda Tomkinson’s sentence: ‘We may not have our own church building, and we may live in an area of deprivation, but we believe that it doesn’t matter where you meet to worship God, as long as you meet to worship God.’
The church was born out of the closure of the old St Wilfrid’s Church on Blackpool’s Mereside estate.
Linda arrived four years ago, determined to try something different. Her first services were in her own home, but the congregation quickly grew and starting meeting in a council-owned building. It is now outgrowing that facility, and Linda and her team are raising money to renovate and reopen the old church hall, which has been derelict for years.
‘We’ve raised £75,000 to repair the roof,’ she said, ‘but the inside will cost a further £240,000. The prize money for this competition is significant for us.
‘In the meantime, we do lots of outdoor services – we held walking nativity at Christmas, we do an outdoor Remembrance service, on Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday we gather round fire pits, we hold a prayer tent at a major local car boot sale. It’s a busy little church, with a growing congregation and lots going on – a seniors group to combat loneliness, a gospel choir, a “Shed Men” group when men can do practical things and build friendships, and lots more.’
The photograph shows church members outside the derelict hall, taking a break from clearing rubbish from the inside.
‘It was taken by an incredible single mum called Amanda,’ said Linda. ‘She came to faith through our church, and is studying to be a photographer. To see her joy over what she’s achieved for her church family was wonderful.’