Why the Northstowe Church Network signed up to be Voter Registration Champions

News Release: 30th May 2024

The new town of Northstowe is being built on former RAF land near Cambridge. Just 1,500 of the planned 11,000 homes (upward of 26,000 residents by 2042) have been built. But, already, this new town is characterised by people of all religious and non religious beliefs working together to make a difference. 

However, in a new town, everyone's recently moved house. It would be easy to forget to register to vote... and suddenly find it's too late to join in. So we've become Voter Registration Champions to help encourage all new residents to use their democratic rights.

Northstowe's demographic is much younger and more diverse than surrounding villages, with many people working from home, juggling long hours, or perhaps caring for a family. In the busyness of settling into newbuild life, it can be hard to form connections. So people can easily feel disempowered, or isolated. Like many other community networkers, however, we're working to change this: to find ways to connect people and help them too step up and make a  difference.
We started small, theologically, and democratically. Our reading of Scripture has convinced us that God cares about giving a voice to the voiceless, and empowering those who might otherwise be overlooked. At our Church Meeting, people shared stories and encouragement about why voting mattered to them - and some of the challenges faced locally. So we voted: and committed to encourage all of our eligible members  to get registered to vote in time for May's mayoral elections, and to start to spread the word about the new need for photographic ID at the polling stations.
Within a day of the Church Meeting, 100% of eligible members were registered to vote, and had checked their photo ID.  On polling day, members shared photos of themselves outside the polling station on the church WhatsApp, celebrating our new temporary community centre ("The Cabin") being used as a polling station for the first time. Being able to physically vote IN our own new town was encouraging: previously, lack of community spaces meant we had to vote in the neighbouring village.

When the General Election was announced, we started looking for resources to help us equip people not just to register, but to participate critically and constructively in the democratic process. The Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) a partnership between the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, and the United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom, have put out helpful resources encouraging everyone to LOVE, PRAY, VOTE. Their purpose is to help the Churches work together for peace and justice through listening, learning, praying, speaking, and acting on public policy issues.  We're using their resources within our Sunday and midweek gatherings, and sharing them on social media. Our thriving baby group ("Little Explorers") is also becoming a place where honest conversations about politics are being encouraged, as we share opportunities and resources with the carers, mums, and dads who join us week by week. 

We'd love to have been able to host a hustings. But, in these early stages of a new town, we don't yet have a church building - in fact, there are very few public spaces, or groups with the experience and resources to host such an event. However,  as a church, we're preparing to write to our local candidates and ask them some key questions. We look forward to sharing their responses locally.

We know we won't all agree on what's best for our new town, let alone the wider area. But our prayer (inspired by JPIT!)  is that the political debates will be characterised by listening, kindness and truthfulness; and that  voters will listen actively and demonstrate love-filled curiosity towards those they may disagree with or do not understand.

Read more about what we're sharing locally on our website: www.northstowe.church/vote

Previous News Releases

The Methodist East Anglia District show support for Northstowe by signing a Shared Vision Statement

News Release: 1st May 2024
Today the Revd Dr Julian Pursehouse visited Northstowe in order to make a commitment, on behalf of the Methodist East Anglia District, to share in prayer for Northstowe and help deepen the relationship with the ecumenical community forming here (Christian traditions working together). He was accompanied by the Revd Colin Watkins, Ecumenical Officer for the Methodist East Anglia District, and the Revd Nick Witham (St Ives Methodist Church). As they enjoyed a coffee  with Northstowe's Revd Beth Cope in the Northstowe Hub Cafe at The Cabin, the group shared stories, dreamed dreams, and discussed practical ways to deepen the relationship.
The Shared Commitment, which has also been agreed by the Diocese of Ely (Church of England), the Eastern Synod of the United Reformed Church,  the Eastern Baptist Association (BUGB), and  the Cambridgeshire Area Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), as well as the local Northstowe Church Network, reads:

Together, we have committed to share in prayer for Northstowe, and provide practical support in setting up the right structures for the next stages:
  • We commit ourselves to sharing together in the ministry of Christ to the world, and within this context to explore together the meaning and possibilities of unity for worship, evangelism, mission and service.
  • We commit ourselves to assessing the resources of church and community in terms of people, money and buildings, and to deploying them in the best way in relation to the aspirations and needs of local people
  • We commit ourselves to maintaining and developing relationships with our parent bodies and with Churches Together in Cambridgeshire (previously Cambridgeshire Ecumenical Council).


Pathfinder Church Northstowe launches the Northstowe Church Network in celebration of ecumenical and community partnership 

News Release: 25th January 2024, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The new town of Northstowe is being built on former RAF land near Cambridge. Just 1,500 of the planned 10,000 homes (upward of 25,000 residents) have been built. But, already, this new town is characterised by people working together to make a difference. Pathfinder Church has brought together those from across the Christian traditions and those new to faith. As they have put down roots in Northstowe, their commitment to “praying, exploring, and sharing” has inspired partnerships with schools, councils, and developers. To allow more fresh expressions of church to form, and to facilitate new community partnerships and a potential new community centre, a new legal framework has been set up. The Northstowe Church Network is a local ecumenical partnership of the Church of England, United Reformed Church, and Baptist Union of Great Britain.  What unites those involved in this new charity is much more than denominational background. It is rooted, growing, and transforming faith based on an encounter with the eternal God who still changes lives today.

Long before the first brick was laid in Northstowe, Christians from across the traditions involved in Churches Together in Cambridgeshire were praying for the new town.  In 2018, the Church of England funded a Pioneer Minister, the Rev'd Dr Beth Cope, to partner with local residents and key stakeholders to build community encompassing those of all religious and non-religious beliefs. Part of this work would see the development of new missional and worshipping communities with and for those moving into the new town. These make space for people to ask questions and explore connections between everyday life and Christian spirituality centring on “The Pathfinder”, Jesus Christ.  


Soon, a small group of new residents came together to form Pathfinder Church Northstowe.  This community meets in, and has become part of the family, at The Pathfinder CofE Primary School: sharing in the life of the school family; supporting RE, Collective Worship, and wellbeing; and partnering to develop the school’s outside spaces. Like the school, the church takes their name both from Christian tradition and as a reflection on the local history of the Pathfinder Squadron who flew from the original airbase.  


Pathfinder Church have been working with the Diocese of Ely (Church of England), the Eastern Synod of the United Reformed Church, the Eastern Baptist Association, and the Cambridgeshire Area Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) to develop a shared ecumenical vision. This involves exploring together the meaning and possibilities of unity for worship, evangelism, mission and service. 

Today, in response to what God is doing, and the great opportunity in Northstowe, a framework is needed for the growing network of inclusive and diverse ecumenical worshipping and missional communities. Already, Pathfinder Church is being joined by Little Explorers (“time for you, your child, and God”), and the emerging Compline Community, who celebrate encounters with God through silence and poetic liturgies.  


The new charity, the Northstowe Church Network, will allow organic development of additional Christian communities for the people of Northstowe, making disciples of Jesus and serving the local community. Locally led, they will be part of a visible and sustainable network, not just sharing ecumenical governance but periodically coming together for joint prayer, worship, and to do things that could not be done alone.  


The Northstowe Church Network will also provide a robust governance structure for a potential new community centre, run in collaboration with residents, local authorities, voluntary and other organisations. The proposal is for a sensitively designed, open-hearted, lakeside venue, featuring adjoining internal and external worship and community spaces, allowing for private devotion, corporate prayer, worship services and the celebration of life events. It will be the main home for one or more missional and worshipping communities. A series of flexible spaces will allow not just the local church, but other community organisations, community services and faith groups to hire appropriate facilities. The entire site will be used for worship when the whole church gathers, such as at festivals and seasonal gatherings, complementing the ongoing use of other hired spaces across Northstowe. Thus the Northstowe Church Network aims to offer a peaceful, prayerful presence, having the confidence to hold the ministry of hospitality and loving service alongside acts of Christian worship. 


Mark Burleigh, of Churches Together in Cambridgeshire says, “I am excited by this fantastic example of how Christians are working together to serve the local residents, sharing the light and love of Christ in Northstowe.  It is great to see Christians working together at grass roots to help nurture life and hope in this developing community.” 


For more information, contact the church office for Pathfinder Church and the Northstowe Church Network: contact@northstowe.church

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