Brickworks is a small church plant based at the Stambermill end of the parish of Christ Church in Lye, just outside of Stourbridge. It is led by the Revd Tom Fish and his wife, Helen, and over the past few years has been engaging the community and evolving a worshipping community. Tom came to Lye as a curate in 2013 with the specific aim of planting a new church in the area and has stayed in the parish for an extra few years after the end of his curacy to continue the work.

Tom said: “Stambermill church closed in the 1980s and the parish merged with Lye. When the churchwarden locked the church door for the last time, he said that the church would be back and it’s lovely that he and his wife are now part of the Brickworks team! The idea of planting a church in Stambermill has been prayed about since the early 2000s. After I completed theological college, I was keen to work in urban ministry and explore church planting – when we came to Lye, it seemed that the two separate prayers led to the same place!”

After his ordination in 2013, Tom and Helen moved into a house which had been found right next to Rufford School. The first thing they did was to deliver a card around the estate inviting people to come to a carol service at the school and meet their new vicar. “Over 40 people came to that first event, which we thought was amazing,” said Tom, “but getting them to come again was more of a challenge! From those initial contacts, together with a few from Christ Church, we gathered a small group of people who said they were interested in helping.We started a series of planning meetings to decide how to take it forward.”

The group started with a series of community events such as pancake parties and Easter egg hunts. A short-term mission team visiting from South Korea helped run two days of children’s games in the summer with a cultural night in the evening which attracted around 70 people. “Locals just couldn’t believe that something like that was happening in their community,” continued Tom. “From small beginnings those two days have grown into a week-long annual summer occasion with games and refreshments in the day and one evening event. Last year 300 people attended our open air concert.”

In the September of 2014 Brickworks started meeting as a church, with a morning meeting held in the ‘Sunshine Club’ on the estate, followed by lunch at the vicarage and an afternoon of children’s activities. A handful of people from the estate are a regular part of the church and the numbers of children have steadily increased.

“Last autumn we got to the point where we had too many children for our morning venue, so we now have two separate services – we stopped children’s activities in the morning, and started something like Messy Church in the afternoon, cramming up to 24 people into our little vicarage. Since starting the new arrangement, we’ve had new families come to each service. We’re also planning a joint celebration for everyone in the school six times a year.”

Alongside the two Sunday congregations, Brickworks hosts a community café each Tuesday morning, an after school discussion group for young people, occasional men’s breakfasts and each Thursday afternoon a group meets for prayer and bible discussion in the flat of one of the ladies on the estate.

Last year Tom and Helen were joined by a missionary couple from America and together they now have a small leadership team. “Having a team of people has been transformational!” Said Tom. “It’s still very fragile, but Brickworks church is starting to feel like what we prayed for. We’ve got about 35 people attending worship regularly across the two congregations and our summer events have been amazing – really bringing the community together. There are also signs of new people coming to faith, with one lady baptised recently and others expressing interest. We are a visible presence in the community and proof that church can exist for people who are outside of it!”