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 9 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 9 grandchildren. As well as being alongside Howard in leading a few churches down the years, she created and ran Caleb Alcohol and Drug Services in Bradford 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 Christians Against Poverty (CAP) centre, she now works alongside Howard in a joint half time role with Outworks encouraging and mentoring leaders. Finally she volunteers as the ‘head’ gardener at the Bradford Industrial Museum (actually – 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 Church 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 five grandchildren. In 2006, having been ordained as a minister, he planted a church at The Lighthouse Group head office at the end of the M606 entry into Bradford and worked to support families in crisis. He then took on the leadership of The Church at Bradford Academy before starting as the minister for Bierley Bethel Community Church. He and Margaret have seen considerable growth in all aspects of that church’s life and especially among the youth and a family focused congregation at 5pm on Thursdays. Also he was very involved with The Life Centre Bierley , where he planted an additional congregation from Bierley Bethel in 2019. Chris retired in January this year and presently seeks a role in pastoral care very much part-time!
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 Canada 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 Emerge Youth Project in 2004, and served as Emerge’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 as the follow on from Olive Branch Trust. The company has seen considerable expansion, not only in helping projects in Bradford, but across Yorkshire and beyond. He and Sharon have been members of Sparrows Union (previously Church at Bradford Academy) for the past years. They have 2 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 led Meeting Point congregation in East Bowling for 9 years and then experimented with the development of 3 hubs from that congregation. She and Jon ran one of these in Bradford BD9 area called The Garden Project, which itself has diversified, hence the current name 3 Gardens. For 17 years Cassie was an influential director of Olive Branch Trust (a developmental and funding charity in Bradford) and is a regular New Wine conference speaker, whilst Jon leads worship there and elsewhere. Jon is currently the musical director of Fountains Church in city centre Bradford.
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. Recently it was decided that this church should amalgamate with Fountains Church in city centre Bradford and Terry has a role in leadership there.
He and his wife Meg have 3 children. Meg, who is a teacher, pioneered the charity National Schools Linking Network which had humble beginnings in Bradford and has now been rolled out nationally.Terry is part of the Prayer For Bradford steering group and is an Adviser with the Bradford University Christian Union.
Jimmy is the Vicar of St Stephen’s Church West Bowling. He and his wife Sarah initially spent a number of years in Zimbabwe as missionaries whilst Jimmy worked as a maths teacher and Sarah as a nurse.
Since returning many years ago, they have given themselves to building the church in the West Bowling 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. Not only has Jimmy overseen the renovation of the St Stephen’s church building into a functioning relevant facility for the needs of the West Bowling area, but has worked tirelessly with Sarah to disciple the many who have come to faith.
Last year they have been joined by Hannah the new curate, but also by a new Eden Project (Message tribe) leader moving into the area to help continue this vital vibrant work.