Ann’s story: having faith in Skelmersdale

Ann Petty and her husband Duncan, a Church of England minister, came to the Tanhouse area of Skelmersdale in 2004 to ‘plant’ a new church called Oaks. Ann shares their story.

"At Oaks, we value the small group approach to church life as the basis for stable, secure and loving friendships to grow. Tanhouse offered a great opportunity for our initial group of eight adults and three children to introduce this new approach to faith, and also to make a practical difference to people’s lives.

We don’t own a church building but bought a community house, Oak House, on the Tanhouse estate to encourage these friendships within the community. As well as space for activities such as mum & toddler and dads’ groups, and a foodbank drop in, we have a prayer and meeting room and regularly cook and share meals together.

We do have a regular Sunday morning service, but in an unusual location - the local pub! The landlord and manager at The Tanner have given us an amazing welcome, and when our worship is over many members of our congregation stay for a chat over a drink or lunch.

As Oaks has grown, the support of many organisations in Skelmersdale has been really valuable. For example, Cerys Smye-Rumsby, a community development worker at West Lancashire Council for Voluntary Services, has helped us to combine faith and secular approaches to supporting people with mental health problems. The Places of Peace group has met a direct need within the community, offering peer support, craft activities and healthy cooking / eating sessions.

As a church, Oaks is committed to transformation – a vision we share with Well Skelmersdale. It’s exciting to be part of a movement which brings people together to make things happen. For us, it’s about life in all its fullness – enabling local people to enjoy good physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and social health.

We met Andrew Mawson and visited the Bromley by Bow Centre in 2007. It was inspiring, and so we’re delighted to be working with him and the Well Skelmersdale team. We too have a vision for creating a multi-use community space, where, amongst other things, you can visit a doctor, get debt advice, access addiction services, apply for a job or simply meet friends for a coffee – all under one roof. Travelling to lots of different places for health, public or advice services can be a struggle for many people. We may start small but we’re determined to think big!

And it’s not just about creating new physical spaces. The culture at the heart of any community is very powerful, and the Oaks team is keen to help nurture and mentor the leaders who will shape the future culture of Tanhouse – making it a great place for us all to live."

Find out more by contacting Rev Duncan Petty on 01695 721537 or at duncan@oaksinskem.org.