The churches that make us: The Church at Carrs Lane
A series covering the breadth of church life in the United Reformed Church. This month, Reform visits Birmingham
In many ways, The Church at Carrs Lane embodies the 50-year story of the URC, evolving from its 18th-century beginnings as an independent chapel into a thriving, socially aware, urban congregation, and becoming, in more recent times, a URC-Methodist Local Ecumenical Project (LEP).
Now just a stone’s throw from The Bullring, Birmingham’s shopping centrepiece, the first Carrs Lane chapel was tucked into a narrow lane, crowded in by cramped housing. The city was already a focus for nonconformist Christians and the growth of the congregation meant that only 50 years later a new building was required. Two more would follow, including the present ‘modernist’ building, made with engineering bricks that speak of the industrial enterprises crucial to the city’s growth. The church also boasts the largest free-standing cross in the country, made of CorTen steel – the same as The Angel of the North.
Opened in 1970, the new building’s multi-purpose layout and conference centre facilities underpinned the congregation’s firm intention to interact with the communities around it seven days a week. That ethos was nothing new. One of Carrs Lane’s several influential ministers, Dr RW Dale, was preaching a ‘civic gospel’ in the second half of the 19th century – a desire to be very present in the city centre. It lives on today in the work of the Methodist deacon, a longstanding counselling service based in the building, and in a full-time retail chaplaincy that is more welcome than ever in turbulent times for that industry and in the face of the planned HS2 hub, which will displace many shops….
Laurence Wareing is Content Editor of Reform
This is an extract from an article published in the June 2022 edition of Reform