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:

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The Northstowe Church Network is committed to the safeguarding of children, young people and adults. We follow the House of Bishops guidance and policies and have our own Safeguarding Officer. The Diocese of Ely’s safeguarding pages contain vital links and information including contacts for the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor (DSA) who advise our SO. If you are concerned that a child or adult has been harmed or may be at risk of harm please contact the DSA. If you have immediate concerns about the safety of someone, please contact the police and your local authority Children or Adults Services."