PARTNERS IN WILMSLOW
In the autumn of 1987, three Elders from our church in Wilmslow held discussions with Francis Smith and Harold Ward to find a way for our church to strengthen its existing personal links with our sister churches in East Manchester and Wythenshawe. Francis had been helping out in East Manchester since 1983 and Harold had been minister of St Mark’s Church, Wythenshawe, since 1985, and their knowledge was invaluable. Out of these discussions and subsequent events, the idea of Partners was born, not as a one-way outreach by Wilmslow in a ‘Lady Bountiful’ manner but as a two-way equal partnership of people offering different experiences, skills, and resources to the task of helping people in areas of urban stress.
A social survey of East Manchester was initiated by Brian O’Neill in 1988, involving twelve people from each of our two churches, and, later, the Wilmslow church held a series of open study meetings to learn more about the problems of poverty, debt, unemployment, and drug abuse. After a talk on Manchester’s Restart Programme in Gorton, as requested, we started to collect good-as-new clothes for job applicants and storing them in what became known as ‘the magic garage’; because there always seemed to be something available that was needed. If there were any lingering doubts about the ability of the different churches to work together, they were dispelled at the first Partners Conference, held at the Windermere Centre in September 1990. We quickly realized that we were all just ordinary people and friends, and subsequent annual conferences consolidated those friendships. Meanwhile,in June 1990, members of our church and St Mark’s visited Penrhys in South Wales, at the invitation of its minister John Morgans, and this led to a further partnership link. Then, in 2009, our sister church in New Mills – Providence – also joined the partnership.
Partners in Wilmslow has now been going for over a quarter of a century and is still very much alive. And throughout all that time we have been forever grateful for the privilege of being part of a shared ministry towards those in greatest need in our society.