With a population of 177,000, St Helens is a former coal-mining and glassmaking (Pilkingtons) town. Beechams also had its home in the town. The industrial base has all but gone and the town has been developing its new identity.With significant local authority budget cuts over the past few years there are lots of challenges in the town. St Helens is ranked as the 36th most deprived local authority in England out of 326. There are 12,500 (20.9%) workless households compared to 15.3% in Great Britain. The percentage of children in low income families is 24.2% compared to 19.9% in England, and in the Town Centre Ward it is 37.5%.
A number of schools in St Helens have more than half their children qualifying for pupil premium payments. St Helens has a far higher percentage of children in care than any other local authority, save for Liverpool, and considerably higher than the North West as a whole, and England.
However, there are signs of hope and opportunity. The local authority is considering a major redevelopment of the town centre, and St Helens Parish Church (a building that can seat 750 people) is located in the very centre and heart of the town. St Helens College of Further Education is located close to the St Helens Parish Church. They provide courses and training to around 8,000 students across two main sites, the Town Centre Campus and the STEM Centre, Technology Campus. Street Pastors has been recently launched, supported by St Helens Parish Church, and the town has an active food bank. The “Mission in the Economy” charity is also based at the Parish Church supporting local businesses. There is a strong civic link between the Parish Church and the local authority. The Rector is a Deputy Lieutenant for the region and well-respected in the county and in the borough.
Four years ago, a journey was begun to transition the church into a missional discipleship church, building a discipling culture by raising up missional leaders to make disciples and to lead missional communities. There are now between 15 and 20 missional leaders with more in the pipeline. A Young Adults Leader has been appointed. There is a part-time worship leader who leads contemporary worship gatherings each week, helping to embed the culture and support the missional activities during the week.
Within the wider deanery a new team is emerging who are ready for change with seven recent clergy appointments. It is also developing its vision, mission and strategy with help from the Transform Wigan project.