The history of Brickworks starts in 1983, when St Mark’s Church, Stambermill closed its doors for the last time. Although the congregation was thriving, the building (which stood where Stambermill Close is now) was having some problems, and the tough decision had been taken to merge with Christ Church in Lye. But as he locked the doors for the last time, the young churchwarden had a sense it wasn’t the end: “We’ll be back!” he said.
Over the years a number of “ways back” were explored including a housegroup meeting on the estate, an after-school club at Rufford School and visting the estate to find out people’s concerns about the area.
In 2001, Revd Simon Falshaw became vicar of Christ Church. He had a passion for the local community, spending time every day walking round the parish, praying, meeting people, seeing what was going on. Before too long, an idea started to form in his mind.
In 2005 he mentioned it to the congregation. In a sermon on God working in unexpected ways, he mentioned that he had a dream that one day Christ Church could plant a new church on the New Farm Estate. “That seems a long way off. And yet if we really believe in a God who works in unexpected ways then this could happen. I hope that we are not surprised by miracles.”
In 2011 Simon had study leave and visited Pakistan. He was struck by how churches there were intentionally starting new churches, and returned asking the question, “What specifically do we need to do to help a church grow in the Rufford area?” He came to the conclusion that there was a need to recruit a person to work full time on the estate.
In 2012 the church council met – in the Sunshine Club on Crowle Drive – to think through possibilities for the future. That session was led by Andy Hodson, who had recently started a new church a couple of miles to the north, at Lakeside near Sainsburys, Brierley Hill. Following that meeting, later in 2012, Simon applied to the Diocese of Worcester for permission (and funding) to bring in a curate to lead that work. Initially, the reaction was mixed, “Great idea, we’d love to help but it’s not likely that we will find the right person.” However God was at work and the church started praying…
Meanwhile, in 2009 Tom and Helen Fish, then heavily involved as members of a thriving church in the London suburbs, had received out of the blue a clear sense that God was telling them that their work there was done and it was time to move. That led them to an ex-council flat on a large estate in Lambeth, and to a journey towards ordination. Tom was recommended for training and started at theological college in September 2011.
They had thought that they would stay in the area they’d moved to, with all its diversity and intensity. But Tom had also been warned on a college prayer day, of the danger of “staying in Haran” – being told by God to move, but then getting stuck in the first place you arrive. So although it was a disappointment, it wasn’t a total surprise when all the possible places in London fell through, and they had to start looking afresh at where God wanted them to go.
Eventually, in March 2013, they came to look at the position Simon had advertised in Lye. Within 24 hours of arriving, they were convinced it was right, and were relieved when Simon and the church agreed. Within 2 weeks, Tom had met the bishop and got his final seal of approval on the plan. Tom was ordained in June, moved to a temporary house in Dudley Wood in July, and to Bredon Avenue in November.
Soon after moving in, they leafleted the area with a card saying “Meet your new Vicar”, explaining that they were hoping to start a new church. A handful of people in the community, some of whom who had been going to other churches, responded. In January 2014 a small team, partly from Christ Church, partly from those who responded, started to meet and make plans.
The team organised a series of community events – a Pancake party, an Easter Egg hunt, a children’s treasure hunt, a litter pick, and finally the visit of a wonderful team of young people from South Korea who ran children’s games and a Korean night on Rufford field in August. A growing number of local people started to get interested and involved. We also held a number of church services – a Carol Service just before Christmas, an Easter Sunday service, and then a few trial services in different locations.
In the summer 2014 we decided we were ready to make it real and committed to launch the new church in September.
Meanwhile, in February 2013, across the pond in the US, Fred and Lacey Swartz had just been appointed to serve in the UK with Greater Europe Mission after sensing a growing desire to serve in Europe since 1998. In March 2015 they landed in the UK to work with Andy Hodson's church in Brierley Hill. During those first three summers, Fred helped Tom and Helen with the Summer Event, and in July of 2018, Fred and Lacey came to work with Brickworks full time.
In August 2019, the Lord decided it was time for Tom and Helen to move again, so He led them to pastor St Albans Church in Wednesfield, with Fred, Lacey and a core team at Brickworks carrying on the work they had started.
Where might you fit into the story of what God is doing in and through Brickworks Church?
We take the protection and safety of children and vulnerable adults very seriously. All Volunteers in the church who work with children, youth or vulnerable adults are checked with the national Disclosure and Barring Service. If you have any concerns about safeguarding and would like to talk to someone, here are some useful phone numbers...
Pastor for Brickworks, Fred Swartz - 07745 301136
Women's Pastor for Brickworks, Lacey Swartz - 07470 060211
Parish Vicar, Rev Simon Falshaw - 01384 423142
Parish Safeguarding Officer, Mrs Gloria Burrows - 01384 894948
Diocesan Safeguarding Officer, Hilary Higton - 07495 060869
Childline - 0800 1111
Age Concern UK - 0800 678 1602
Dudley Social Care - 0300 555 0055 (out of hours 0300 555 8574)
Non-urgent Police Enquiries - 101
This website (like Brickworks) is a work in progress - suggestions and comments welcome!
Any ideas of things we could do, or improvements to the website - we'd love to hear from you!
28 Shepherds Brook Rd
Tel: 07470 060211
Brickworks is an outreach from Christ Church Lye (the one with the WWI soldier statue in front).