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Christ Church, Norris Green


The Revd Helen Edwards was appointed as priest-in-charge of Christ Church Norris Green (within the most deprived 1% of parishes in England) in 2005, with a church building (built in 1932) that was in a very bad state with repairs estimated to be around £0.5m. The congregation, which at that time numbered around 15, was exhausted and demoralized.

Helen’s vision was to move the congregation away from a focus of simply keeping a building going and to transform it into a mission-shaped church which would build faith and serve the community. She found that winning acceptance of this proposal was ‘surprisingly easy’. Although the congregation was sad to leave the building, the suggestion that it should do so came as a relief to those who had struggled to keep it going for many years.

The congregation moved out of the church building in December 2005 and began to worship in the local primary school. The process of closing the old church building was accelerated by arson attacks which led to the Chancellor of Liverpool diocese issuing a demolition order. Christ Church then successfully applied to Liverpool diocese for permission to convert the former vicarage into a Church Community Centre. The project generated a lot of goodwill in the community and a number of residents gave their talents in helping to convert the building.

Six years on, Christ Church has found that the model of using the local primary school for worship coupled with having its own distinct physical presence in the form of the Church Community Centre has worked very well and has helped it to realize the vision of building up faith and of serving the community. And the fact that the Church Community Centre and the school are situated at opposite ends of the parish has enabled Christ Church to reach out more effectively to the whole parish.

Since 2005, average Sunday attendance at Christ Church has grown from 19 to 45 adults and 11 children. Helen says that one of the key factors underlying this growth has been the church’s move to the school and the opportunity that this has given for the church to be more visible and to build strong links with children and parents (the other key factor in growth has been through the Occasional Offices). And the move to the school has brought in people who would never have entered a church building but who are comfortable worshipping in a school. In terms of finance, Christ Church is able to pay its way. Its parish share is low and it pays it in full. The move from the church building has been instrumental in reducing costs.