Bradford: city of culture, city of need

Culture is coming home. We awoke to the news this morning that Bradford has been placed on the shortlist to be City of Culture 2025.  It probably says a lot about my home city that the response of most showing an interest will be a little bemused and so the jokes are already starting. Of course Bradford has lots of culture, most of it Is in my mum and dad’s fridge.

Yet whisper it quietly but Bradford has much to be proud of in terms of its cultural heritage. The city was built on the back of the industrial revolution becoming the wool capital of the world. It’s hard to believe now but the city was once famed for its wealth and millionaires.  The result was some impressive architecture, notably the Lister and Salt mills.  Titus Salt was a philanthropist with a similar agenda to the Cadbury family, like them building his own model village for factory workers. The modern city is diverse, immigrants have come from all around the world to live and work there so that many claim it as the curry capital of Britain. It’s the city of Kikki Dee, Zayn Malik, Dynamo, Gareth Gates, Kimberly Walsh, JB Priestly and David Hockney. Here you can visit Little Germany, the iconic Alhambra Theatre and the National Media museum.  Oh and when you’re visiting other museums around the country have a look and check, there’s a good chance that the exhibit was built at the Low Moor Iron Works. 

There’s a fascinating Christian heritage too, some for good, some perhaps less so. The church where I grew up at and gave my life to Christ, Sunbridge Road Mission was planted in 1883 from a prosperous Methodist church into a tough inner-city neighbourhood and so arguably could claim to be the forefather of modern church planting movements in our cities.  From there, many have been sent out to serve the Lord around the country and the world including Harry Kilbridge to Lansdowne Baptist and Fred Mitchell who was to become Home Director for OMF and Keswick Convention chairman.  It was here that Pentecostal revivalist Smith Wigglesworth preached and Bradford played a significant role in the birth of the restoration/new church movement, whilst Terry Virgo planted on the south coast, Bryn Jones arrived in Bradford to start what is now known as Life Church. 

Bradford has much more to offer than you might think. However, there is also great need.  This is a city of half a million and yet today there are very few thriving, Bible teaching Gospel centred churches.  You are more likely to associate Bradford with Islam than with evangelical Christianity. So, today I want to encourage you to pray for Bradford, pray that God will raise up workers in his harvest field there. Maybe, God might even encourage you to support Gospel work through one of the local churches or WEC missionaries based there. Maybe God might even send you to be part of a church plant there one day?