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Witnessing God do a new thing at Reading Gateway Church

Nick Hill and Carol Atkins are seeing God powerfully at work in the community of Reading Gateway Church - often in ways they didn’t expect.

‘About three years ago, we did a graft from Greyfriars church into St Agnes, which was on the estate,’ recalls Nick. ‘Arriving in the pandemic was difficult, but we’ve seen God at work with exciting things happening in our communities. My role as the Rector was to bring the graft together and start looking at where else God is moving and so as to plant within the area. 

‘Our parish is one of over 20,000 people. So it’s huge and it’s very very mixed and very multicultural. The area where we’re in is in the top 5% for deprivation whereas I would say it’s also quite diverse, middle class with pockets of affluence, a lot of business and some new developments. And we have Reading football club on our patch. 

‘In the last few years we’ve gone through a rebranding – we’re now called Reading Gateway Church. We’ve seen God starting to bring people to the church. We employed a children and families’ minister thanks to funding we received. We’ve seen growth in families, but also a massive growth in the 18 to 35 year olds, which has taken us by surprise.

‘Overall our congregation has increased by 60% in the last three years which is amazing, but what God is also showing us is that there are new areas that we need to be looking at and planting into. And so at the moment we’re thinking about what does that look like?’

‘That’s a big part of my role’ explains Carol. ‘I came in first as a pioneer ordinand, and now I’m the pioneer curate looking to see where God’s already working in the communities and then looking to start something new, joining in with what God’s already doing.

‘At the moment, I’m doing lots of listening, talking to people in the community, on the estates, particularly around St Barnabas, just finding out about them and what their needs are. And then from there we’ll start thinking about what that looks like as a church community.’

‘We’ve got two churches,’ says Nick, ‘one more traditional and we’re looking at the opportunity now for reaching estates around that church. And those opportunities are coming up. We’ve got one at the moment with Wokingham Borough Council.

‘Our area has eight different schools from nursery up to sixth form college,’ continues Carol, ‘so we’re involved in a joint enterprise with Wokingham for children who are not at school in the holidays who need healthy hot meals.

‘The other really exciting thing that we’ve been able to do with some funding is employing a parish nurse. It’s a non-medical role, focussing on well-being, and spiritual wholeness, and also an opportunity for us to work and get into homes that we’ve never got into before. In the last seven weeks since they’ve been in post we have seen a massive change in opportunity with people’s lives. She’s been out with local food bank and met people whose mental health has been really poor, but she’s been able to walk alongside them and pray with them and share the Bible with them. And that’s been just amazing.

‘It’s about advocacy, coming alongside people, supporting those that don’t have a voice, that need support from the doctors and other professionals – a lot of people are very interested in this and how it’s moving forward. We’ve really seen God moving in this with us.’

Nick and Carol are also passionate about developing leaders from within the estate. ‘They get it, they understand it,’ says Nick, ‘and it’s from there we actually see and they are making a difference.

‘We’re running Alpha at the moment, and a couple of people that worked with us when we first started are now helping and running it. It’s wonderful to see people grow and that’s where God’s really working, developing and encouraging people.’

What would Nick want to share out of his experience of working on estates so far?

‘God gave me a word, a verse I was given when we first arrived, from Isaiah 54,“God is doing a new thing”,’ shares Nick. ‘And we’re seeing that happen now. We’ve seen out of the pandemic – and for me some good came out of it as it enabled the Church to stop, and rethink, what does the Church look like and how do we move forward?

‘Rethink church, do it differently. And let’s think out of the box I’d say.’

If you are inspired by the story of Reading Gateway Church and want to find out more about the support CCX can offer for estates mission, including Become – an accessible theology and leadership course with a creative, interactive approach to teaching – Helen Shannon and Ash Chafe of the CCX Estates Mission Team would love to hear from you. Email them at