Meadow Way’s final service as it joins Gateway
Meadow Way Chapel in Norwich will be holding its last-ever service on Sunday April 24, before it transitions to become part of Gateway Vineyard Church, which is based in Norwich and Beccles. Keith Morris reports.
The move comes after 18 months of detailed discussions between the leadership and boards of trustees at the two churches, which initially started when Gateway were looking for a location to use for some of its community activities and somewhere to film services during the lockdowns in 2020 and approached Meadow Way as one option. At the same time, Meadow Way were starting discussions about the future of the church and finding new leaders.
The chapel building just off Meadow Way in Hellesdon will become one of several locations at which Gateway Vineyard Sunday services are regularly held and will be known as Gateway Vineyard at the Chapel.
Gateway assistant pastor, Marc Lillystone, and his wife Katie, have been appointed as the new site pastors at the Chapel and they will be joined by existing youth worker Gemma Stapleford who will be working across the Gateway Vineyard sites in her role. Existing Meadow Way leaders Richard Sadler and Thelma Robertson will be stepping down from their roles.
The enlarged church will continue to be under the leadership of Craig and Hannah Deal who founded Gateway Vineyard church 15 years ago and are also Vineyard Churches area leaders for East Anglia.
Last year Meadow Way Chapel celebrated its 50th anniversary as a church which first started in a mission tent. This was followed by meetings in the home of David and Ruth Southgate then into a Portacabin and finally into the current self-built bricks and mortar building which has been extended several times over the years. All of this on the same site in Hellesdon.
Marc and Katie already have a long-established relationship with Meadow Way as Katie’s grandfather, Howard Norton, and Marc’s father, Peter Lillystone, both worked for the church in the past.
The couple were both baptised at Meadow Way, met at one of its popular summer camps and got married there in 2008 before leaving for studies and work, Katie as a midwife and Marc as a nurse.
Marc said: “Katie and I have a deep love and connection to the Meadow Way church and people. They have had a significant history in our lives and in the lives of both our families.
“It feels like a Joshua moment for us in all honesty, being handed a responsibility to care for something precious and take steps into a promised land, to be bold and courageous. There is an incredible legacy of the last 50 years in Meadow Way and we want to honour and respect that, but also look forward with expectation to what is to come as they join us to become a part of Gateway Vineyard.”
Meadow Way trustee, Andrew Southgate, who will join the Gateway trustee team for a year in an advisory role, said: “The timing of our discussions with Gateway was so clearly led by God in that, unbeknown to the Meadow Way trustees, the very day they met and agreed that a fresh start was needed to take the church forward, Marc had contacted the Leadership Team to see if there were ways to potentially work together.
“In one sense it’s sad that after nearly 51 years Meadow Way will be closing but the excitement of the future far outweighs this. God has blessed our gatherings, church family and community of Hellesdon so much over the years and we believe that He will do so even more as we move forward with Gateway and pass on the leadership baton to Marc and Katie. Praise God for all He has done in the past and we believe will do in the future.”
Gateway Vineyard’s lead pastors Craig and Hannah Deal said: “We are excited to launch Gateway Vineyard at the Chapel as we continue to build community, learning what it means to follow Jesus, love people and bring life to others in Norfolk and Waveney.”
The combined church will meet at Gateway Vineyard’s main Sunday location at Norwich High School for Girls during May and then launch ‘Gateway Vineyard at the Chapel’ in June alongside its other sites
Gateway Vineyard Sunday morning services at Norwich High School for Girls run every Sunday at 10.30am, including a children’s and youth ministry.
Gateway Vineyard runs a number of compassion and outreach projects including ‘The Place’, Growkids, Baby Café and pre-school groups, sports initiatives and community projects.
Pictured outside the Meadow Way chapel in Hellesdon are, from the left, Richard Sadler, Thelma Robertson, Katie and Marc Lillystone.