Before taking retirement from the Anglican Church in April 2017, Howard Astin was active in church growth and community development as Vicar of St John’s Bowling Bradford West Yorkshire for 29 years. Previously he helped lead a church in Huddersfield and before that was a Solicitor in the Bristol/Bath area specialising in crime and matrimonial work. He has helped in the growth of an informal network of church congregations across inner city Bradford, now under the name of Outworks:Bradford. For many years he also chaired the trustees of three community charities and was until recently Chair of Governors at Bradford Academy. He has pioneered many ministries. He currently coordinates ‘Prayer for Bradford’, which brings church and Christian organisation leaders together from across Bradford to share and pray for the city.
He has written a couple of books. The first ‘Body and Cell’ about pioneering the cell church model in Britain and the second ‘12 ½ Steps to Spiritual Health’ detailing radical discipleship in the local church.
He and wife Helen have 5 children and 8 grandchildren. They now jointly have a half time role with Outworks:Bradford helping to encourage and mentor leaders.
Helen Astin has enjoyed working with children and young people since she was a teenager herself (a little while ago!). Having obtained her degree in Sociology and Theology and qualified as a teacher she has undertaken various roles including working for the old Abbey National. She has 5 children (all grown up and away) and now 8 grandchildren. As well as being alongside Howard in leading a few churches down the years, she created and ran Caleb Alcohol and Drug services for 13 years. At its peak it employed over 40 staff and saw many into recovery. Although the rehab project closed in 2010 the remaining detox unit continues to offer hope to those in addiction. Having spent recent years co-ordinating the Prayer Platform in Bradford city centre, fostering mums and babies and latterly being manager of a local CAP centre, she now works alongside Howard in a half time role with Outworks encouraging and mentoring leaders. Finally she is the ‘head’! gardener at the Bradford Industrial Museum (the only gardener!).
Chris Barnes was born in Bradford and left school at 16 to become an apprentice engineer. He worked on the shop floor for 17 years. At the age of 35, Chris began to work for Olive Branch Trust doing pastoral care through St John’s Bowling, and gradually, over the next 25 years, took over as a congregation leader and looked after 19 cell groups. He also managed a day-centre for the elderly. He and wife Margaret have 2 children and three grandchildren. In 2006, having been ordained as a minister he planted a church at The Lighthouse Group head office and worked to support families in crisis. He now works as the minister for Bierley Bethel Community Church and has seen considerable growth in all aspects of that church’s life. Also for a few hours each week he is a Seniors Inclusion worker at Bierley Life Centre.
Jan De Villiers
Jan De Villiers was born, raised and educated in South Africa. After starting his professional life as a police officer, he joined Operation Mobilisation and worked in Montreal for two years with marginalised young people involved with drugs and prostitution. He married Sharon in 1994, and in the same year they came to Bradford to establish a youth work project at the Vine in BD4. He continued to lead this work through its transformation to become e:merge in 2004, and served as e:merge’s CEO for seven years. Jan continued to pursue his passion for supporting churches, small charities and community groups in their growth by providing development planning and funding support through his role of CEO of Olive Branch Trust. A couple of years ago he started his own development and funding company called Futurekraft which has seen considerable expansion, not only in helping projects in Bradford, but across Yorkshire and beyond. He and Sharon have been members of Church at Bradford Academy for the past years. They have children and are foster parents
Cassie Biggin really came to Bradford to marry Jon in 1996 having lived in various places including Nottingham. She had also previously studied Biblical studies in Sheffield and did further post-grad studies in Belgium. She and Jon have 4 children. They have led Meeting Point congregation for 9 years and then experimenting with the development of 3 hubs from that congregation, she and Jon now run one in BD9 called The Garden Project. Cassie has been a director of Olive Branch Trust for the last 17 years and is a regular New Wine speaker.
John Foxcroft is Bradford born and bred and has always been sporty, having excelled (in his youth) at both boxing and snooker. He went into the roofing business and has run a successful ‘industrial cladding’ business with his wife Sandra over the years. Now with his son taking a lead in the business, contracts have included roofing such units as ‘Halfords’ and the like across the country. Many years ago John had drug and alcohol problems but has been ‘clean’ now for well over 30 years. He has been an inspiration to many who are wanting to get into recovery. John and his wife Sandra are leaders in The Morning Congregation (TMC) at St John’s Bowling and continues to lead men’s groups. He has 4 children and grandchildren.
Terry Henry was born in Nottingham but moved to Bradford with his family. He started work in mechanical and production engineering before moving into management development within the financial services sector and then into management consultancy. He has been involved in leadership within church settings for nearly 30 years, especially in the area of youth work but also as part of the leadership of Bradford Family Church since its beginning in 1999. He and his wife Meg have 3 children. He is part of the Prayer For Bradford steering group and is an Advisor with the Bradford University Christian Union.
Jimmy is the Vicar of St Stephen’s Church West Bowling. He and his wife Sarah have given themselves to building the church in that area and it has grown as a vibrant community over these last years. Sarah runs SHINE a community outreach charity that has successfully attracted funds to deliver many projects that help those who are in need of help and encouragement.
Richard and his wife Sophie moved to Bradford in 2013, to explore intentional community and alternative models of Church, with a community called ‘The Well’. Richard also project manages the ASH CIC project converting Bowling Park Lodge into a lively community hub and cafe, and works at Tearfund, a Christian relief and development charity.