Following the miners’ strike of 1984/5 and the closing of the mine in 1994, Grimethorpe was a devastated community. The closure of the pit resulted in the loss of 1,500 jobs. Homes were repossessed and several High Street shops were boarded up. Two of the four village schools were the subjects of arson attacks. There was incredible stress placed on families and marriages. The local Pentecostal Church at that time was a dilapidated wooden hut erected as a temporary structure in 1958. It seated about 50 people, with an assortment of chairs and décor and it was freezing cold.
Pastor Joy Gascoigne came to Grimethorpe in 1982 after studying at Mattersey Bible College. Grimethorpe then was a proper mining community, with smoke hanging in the air, and streets lined with coal dust. When she first went to view the church there were about 12-15 people but unbeknown to her, they had been sent from another church to encourage the Grimethorpe congregation. On her first Sunday morning, there was a total of three people including herself.
However, before Joy had come to Grimethorpe she had a dream about living in the cities. Ezekiel 36 in the Bible says – “I will cause you to dwell in the cities and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And all who pass through will say, this place that was once deserted has become the garden of the Lord.” Grimethorpe had indeed become a waste place, and it was made up of cities – three areas of the village named Red City, White City and Black City, red because the houses were made of red brick, white because the houses were made of white brick and black because the houses were black due to the coal dust. So Joy was actually dwelling in the cities. At that time no-one ever “passed through” because the village was off the major routes but within a short time a major new road scheme was announced which would connect Grimethorpe to the A1 and M1. So the area was earmarked for regeneration, and the prophetic word was being fulfilled.
Furthermore, a small group of people set about replacing the existing building and succeeded in completing a £300,000 building project to produce a purpose-built church with community facilities. This would take the church forward into the 21st century but also provide outreach to the community, and caused the church to fulfil a proactive role as a major player in the regeneration of the village. Amazingly, the project started with just £25 in the fund, but also with a belief in the miraculous power of God. The project was not without setbacks and almost at the outset the situation appeared very bleak, but another prophecy came to Joy “What you have started God is going to finish”.
The project went ahead and again problems surfaced but another verse from the Bible came to Joy “this will be a place for shepherds to rest their flocks”. After much investment of time, money and prayer a beautiful new building was opened in 2003.
The church has now grown to well over 60 people and has recently been blessed with a band of gifted musicians. With various ministries, outreaches, a strong community ethos and events hundreds of people come through the doors regularly, being reached by means of the Lunch Club, Toddler Club, Kids’ Clubs in the school holidays and school assemblies.
The future for the church and the village is very bright, with large-scale regeneration, new housing and new jobs. The church is looking for continual growth and continues to invest in the community. Pastor Joy sums it up by saying that if you are going to embark on a big project or invest in any ministry area you will need to start out with the determination that by God’s grace you will succeed. It is that which carries you through when everything seems to be going wrong. With God all things are possible!