Faith and Fun in Rochdale

January 2024

Incredible things are happening at our Rochdale Centre. In partnership with the Diocese of Manchester, Bing Liu and Nicola Harris are inspiring a community. Together, they are passionately spreading the Good News of Jesus to the residents of the Belfield & Cray and Firgrove estates, reaching out to those who are disconnected from the church. Rochdale faces several challenges, with over 40% of children living in poverty and a high number of single parents in the area. Additionally, almost 30% of the community identifies as having no religion.* Amid these challenges, Bing and Nicola are building trust, identifying local needs and finding innovative and creative ways to foster faith exploration in the community. By forging relationships, they are bringing hope and love to those who need it most. 

Meet Nicola

The areas of Rochdale we serve have a lot of deprivation. There are a lot of single parents and families struggling with food poverty and relationship breakdowns. It’s easy to see the impact this has on children. I often have children telling me there’s no food at home, which is utterly heartbreaking.

We run a football club on a Wednesday afternoon on some local football fields. Often, children will just wander on and join in, which is wonderful because we want to be inclusive for everyone. We try to speak to their parents and get their contact details so that we can continue to connect with them. Some of the children don’t want to play football but do want to be involved, so I often do crafts with them. This has led to some amazing conversations about faith and Jesus. It’s really organic, and it’s great to see them being comfortable enough to ask questions.

Recently, one of the mums asked Bing to pray with her, which was really special. Some of the children asked what it was about, and I said we were asking Jesus for help. They wanted to know more about how they could talk to Jesus; they were really inspired, which was incredible. 

We are working hard to generate cross-over between our initiatives so that everyone feels welcome to become part of our worshipping community. Once a month, we have ‘Fun Time’, which is a cross between messy church and holiday club. Children come along with their parents, we eat together and have all sorts of activities, with a gospel message behind it all. It’s really taken off, and we have up to 70 people attending. Even better, some of them now come along to the resource church in the centre of town.

Some of the parents have a guarded attitude towards the institution of church, so we’re encouraging them to reimagine what a relationship with God can look like for them. We have people saying that it’s helped to heal the misguided understanding they had of church and actually believe that faith can be something they want to be a part of. Many are coming to feel that belief in God is something they could approach again.  

We are identifying what the community needs and working to provide that, with a focus on building trusting and flourishing relationships. God is really at work here.  

*End Poverty Coalition Annual Report  

*ONS Census 2021