A few years ago, a councillor in Nottingham described Top Valley as ‘the forgotten estate’. In the bottom 7% of deprived estates in England with almost 22% unemployment and 40% of children and young people facing poverty, with figures like this it is understandable why people would think Top Valley is forgotten, but God doesn’t forget! He is El Roi, the God who sees, who witnesses our suffering and calls his church, the hands and feet of Jesus, to reach out in love.
We recently caught up with Chris Easton, church leader of Bestwood Park Church in Nottingham, who we’re partnering with on our new Eden Top Valley team to hear about how God called him to love Top Valley and its young people and launch Eden there.
Hi Chris, tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in England but grew up in Scotland, which has blessed me with a fine Scottish accent! I met and gave my life to Jesus when I was 15 years old at a Nicky Cruz rally.
I’m married to Heather and have two teenage children, Sam and Bethany. Together we have been leading Bestwood Park Church for nearly 10 years now.
Tell us about Bestwood Park Church and your heart for the community.
Bestwood Park Church is centrally located in the middle of three housing estates in the north of Nottingham. We’re a growing diverse church and a few years ago, God put on our heart to reach out into the community. Since then, we have built strong relationships and particularly feel called to reach out to those that are feeling isolated and alone. To do this, we set up several projects, such as a weekly mental health drop-in café, and we’re in the process of buying a former housing office next door to the church where we’re going to set-up a community garden and café. And that’s not all! We have a heart to invest in the young people in our community and have launched a Kids Church and a youth group called Elevate to encourage and support young people in their faith.
What have you seen God doing already through your church?
During this past year we have been able to support hundreds of local families and individuals by delivering cooked meals and distributing food parcels. Since March 2020 we have delivered 9,700 meals and 3,350 food parcels, new families and young people have connected with us, and lives are being transformed by the love of Jesus. One local resident said that our weekly meal deliveries (which come in brown paper bags) are like weekly ‘hugs in a bag’! We are looking forward to seeing what else God will be doing in coming months!
We’re so excited that you are partnering with us to start an Eden Team in Top Valley, could you tell us a bit more about the estate?
The Top Valley estate was built in the 1970s on farmland and is one of the poorest estates in Nottingham. A few years ago, a local councillor described it as ‘the forgotten estate’ due to the lack of amenities, community space, or investment for many years.
Bestwood Park Church is a five-minute walk from Top Valley, and many of the families who are part of the church live on the estate. Demographically speaking, it used to be predominantly white working class, but more recently it has been growing in diversity which has brought so many benefits to the community. As a church, we want to celebrate this diversity and learn more about the different cultures in our community and so we have held several community cultural events over the past few years to get to know our neighbours better.
What led your church to partner with Eden and what are your hopes and heart for the community?
For several years we have been praying for the Top Valley estate and thinking through how to reach out to the young people who call it home. We’ve been working with children and families for many years through partnerships with the local primary schools and our Messy Churches, but felt God was reminding us that ‘the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few, so pray to the Lord of the harvest’. In 2019, I was at a Nottingham Church Leaders prayer day and sitting behind me was a couple of people from The Message Trust. I didn’t get a chance to chat to them on the day, but that week God nudged me to email them and to enquire about the possibility of setting up an Eden Team here!
Our hope is to set up a new community of worship for young people who live in Top Valley and the surrounding estates. Through this we dream of seeing hundreds of young people discover God’s amazing love for them and for them to become lifelong followers of Jesus who transform the estates here in the north of Nottingham.
Please join us in praying for Chris and Bestwood Park Church and for this new Eden team, as it starts later this year.
If you have a heart for community transformation, why not explore Eden and visit message.org.uk/eden? And could you support us financially as we launch Top Valley? Visit message.org.uk/give-to-eden-top-valley.