A recent study found Blackpool had the highest rate of deaths linked to alcohol, drug abuse and suicide in England – dubbed “deaths by despair”. Meet one church leader bringing the hope of Jesus


Hannah and her husband, Matt, in Blackpool

Three years ago, with permission to travel to explore a job opportunity, my husband and I found ourselves walking the quiet ‘locked down’ streets of the second, fourth and eighth most deprived parts of the country.

As we walked and prayed, we reflected on what it would look like to leave our two jobs in London to share one full time salary; to leave behind a teaching career driven by results and goals; to leave behind the friends, colleagues and church family we cared so much about.

As we did so, we were drawn time and time again to the streets that so many turn away from. When we finished our walk, my husband said: “This is where Jesus would have been, and it’s where we need to be.”

We’ve seen belief in Jesus grow from a place where people feel welcomed, acknowledged and loved

It’s been two and a half years since we moved from Blackheath to Blackpool. In that time we have bought a house and had a baby. Our work and life as Eden Team Leaders at Beacon Church has brought us joy, encouragement, laughter and tears. Every day, we are amazed by God and his wonderful provision.

Longing for more

Very quickly, we saw that people in our local area desired to belong; to be proud of something and to be part of a community. Whether it was through a friend’s invitation, a chat on the street, a holiday club or just hearing the loud music on a Sunday afternoon, local people started to discover Beacon.

One week, someone might walk in looking a bit confused, not knowing anyone. After a conversation with us, it becomes clear they are feeling a bit overwhelmed by being in a church space. We might suggest they sit on the tech desk, so they can help out but also to give them a physical barrier, protecting them from having to talk to too many people. Within a few months they are regularly serving with purpose, have learned a skill and integrated into our community.

Finding Jesus

The belonging stage is crucial and can’t be rushed. But, over the past year, we’ve seen many people shift from just wanting to belong to believing in more. “I don’t just come to Beacon for the kids any more, I come to worship”, one lady said to me last week. “I now realise it isn’t just about Beacon, it’s actually about Jesus”, said another.

We’ve seen belief in Jesus grow from a space where people feel welcomed, acknowledged and loved. We journey with people - whether they have anxiety and are scared to leave the house, are struggling to pay the bills and terrified of becoming homeless, have just buried their baby or simply need someone to listen.

It’s real life, not just a Sunday. We don’t always have the answer, but we always have time to listen, pray and point people to other organisations who can help when we can’t.

Every day, we are amazed by God and his wonderful provision

Over the years we have journeyed with many people. Some begin not feeling proud of where they live, lacking purpose or hope, but they find a home and community right on their doorstep. Did they move house? No. They stepped into a loving, welcoming church community who introduced them to Jesus.

Beacon isn’t the only place that does this. There are churches all over Blackpool bringing light and hope into their communities, offering youth groups, hot chocolates after school, warm spaces and places to belong.

“We do life together” is a phrase we use a lot. Life in the laughter and life in the tears. Life in the ups and downs, the joys and challenges - and everything in between.

Each day as I walk the same streets we walked three years ago, I thank God that he called us here. I thank God for the people behind all the front doors - those that I know and those I don’t. I thank God that he is drawing people to himself and that we get to see glimpses of his kingdom growing.