Wigan church leader humbled by response to Covid-19
Bishop Steven Evans, who runs the Living Faith Church in Orrell, has spoken of the way congregations in the network he leads have stepped up to support people in the pandemic.
Bishop Evans. who is also a councillor in the Wigan chamber, is presiding bishop of The International Christian Churches Network (TICCN), made up of around 2,000 churches in 30 countries.
Worshippers and their leaders have provided a variety of services and help to those who have been affected by the massive upheaval the novel coronavirus has caused.
The network also hit the headlines spectacularly when the amazing story of drug dealer turned minister Pastor Mick Fleming in Burnley, who trained under Bishop Evans in Wigan, was featured on national news and generated a huge public response.
Bishop Evans ordained Pastor Mick and spoke of his pride at the huge effort he is putting in to support people in often-desperate circumstances in the east Lancashire town.
Bishop Evans said: “It is thrilling for me to see what he is doing in Burnley. He has such a genuine love for people and his story is a compelling one.
“I think the way he has translated that into a love for other people is at the heart of the gospels. I have been brought to tears by his personal testimony, it is very moving and harrowing in places.
“There’s now a real momentum around the work that he is doing.”
The public, touched by the story of Pastor Mick’s road to redemption, have now donated a six-figure sum for his work helping those on the breadline.
Across the network churches in TICCN have delivered more than 250,000 meals to people who needed them during the pandemic.
In Orrell hampers have been distributed to older residents and a foodbank has been facilitated.
Bishop Evans, who is also a Conservative councillor for Orrell ward, and his volunteers have also been running a telephone support service for those worried by the pandemic or just in need of speaking to someone.
He said: “I have been humbled and amazed at what the network has been able to do. We’ve brought people together and inspired them during this time, we’ve delivered PPE equipment, we’ve delivered food in different countries, we’ve given uplifting messages and love.”
For 2021 Bishop Evans is hoping to preside over increases in the network’s reach, with more pastors being trained and churches in more countries coming on board.
Having been unable to welcome people from across the world to Orrell for a 2020 conference due to Covid, he is also hoping that will be able to take place in October.
The network has learned a great deal about how to serve people’s needs this year and he hopes churches will learn from each other, so ideas that have worked in one community can be tried out in others.
And sadly, it is unlikely the social problems TICCN’s churches tried to help tackle in 2020 will be solved any time soon.
Bishop Evans said: “It’s traumatic to see people on the streets without anything. If you miss three appointments you are no longer able to see a doctor.
“For many people there is no-one there to look after or care for them. We have to step into that gap and provide something. We feel compelled to do that.
“We’ve done some short-term things, like setting up night shelters in Burnley, but going forward we are looking for long-term answers.
“We’d like to help meet needs in Wigan in areas like homelessness and mental health. We take services in nursing homes and we’ve been looking after vulnerable and elderly people. We think we’ve had a real impact and can make a difference.”
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