An abandoned allotment became a special place of worship for a pop up church

An abandoned allotment was the unlikely location when a group of children and adults were baptised and confirmed in Lancashire.

By Julia Bennett
Wednesday, 1st September 2021, 11:46 am
Bishop Jill (back row centre left) and Sharon Collins (back row centre right), are pictured with the baptism and confirmation candidates
Bishop Jill (back row centre left) and Sharon Collins (back row centre right), are pictured with the baptism and confirmation candidates

Three children and an adult were baptised while two adults were confirmed by the Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev. Dr Jill Duff, at the unusual location.

The baptisms and confirmations were the first to be held by a new church on the giant Higher Croft housing estate in Blackburn.

The church opened in November 2018 after Licensed Lay Minister Sharon Collins was employed by ‘The M:Power Project’ – based at St James’ Lower Darwen and the Freedom Centre at

Mereside in Blackpool – and subsequently moved to the area to church plant in nearby Higher Croft, with the aim of connecting with people on the estate who had never attended church.

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After joining local groups and speaking to residents on the Higher Croft estate, known as ‘Crofters’, Ms Collins began small group meetings in the community library.

Then the pandemic arrived. Lockdown meant the church - named ‘Pop Up Church’ - could no longer meet in the library. It was temporarily homeless but, as restrictions eased, it relocated

to an outside venue – a disused former allotment.

Sharon said: “The church is very well placed on the allotment because it is near a path that is very well used by residents and every week.

“When we are worshipping, people can see us and hear the singing. We use the fence along the path for mission and place passages from the Bible there for people to see.

“The weekend of the confirmations and baptisms people brought their families and friends who would not normally have come to church. There was a buffet and music. We hope that this

time next year the numbers coming forward for baptism will have significantly increased.”

Bishop Jill said: “My experience of estates is that many people don’t feel good enough for church, let alone good enough for God. But out in plain sight, on what was an abandoned

allotment, it’s so much easier to join the family.

“The sun came out just as I baptised the girls. It was a beautiful moment.”

Drinks were served after the service and party-bags were handed out to help celebrate.

Bishop Jill continued: “Thanks to Sharon’s authentic faith and hard work, Pop Up Church has grown from scratch after Sharon moved on to the estate as an urban evangelist to around 50

people now. It’s the only church I know where people give their apologies when they can’t come.”

Pop Up Church also supports a pop-up weekly football session on the estate run by Ambassadors Football, a Christian sports charity. They currently have 57 children registered to take


Sharon Collins’ post is supported by Strategic Development Funding from The Church of England and with local resources and support from the Diocese of Blackburn. Sharon also trains

people for urban evangelism through the M:Power programme in Blackburn.

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