Our Story – The history and background of friendsfirst
Our story begins when friendsfirst was established in late 1999. Earlier that year Katharine, the founder, was part of an annual church weekend away (St. John’s Church in Birmingham) where Elaine Storkey (theologian and sociologist) spoke powerfully about all types of single people and their needs in the church which were largely going unmet.
As Katharine gave Elaine’s words more thought, and discussed it with friends and family, it became clear that many single people in churches don’t have a lot of opportunity to mix with other single people apart from those they already know. Added to this are busy lives, long working hours, the perceived stigma of past broken relationships, or naturally diminishing circles of friends due to family commitments, changing circumstances or age. She wondered if there was more the church could do, so she spent a number of months talking to a cross section of vicars, parish priests, pastors and church leaders in the West Midlands about whether a service for single people would be welcomed. She was amazed at the positive response from them and how many said that they’d really welcome something practical they could do for single people as well as praying for them. It was clear that people didn’t want a Christian dating service so much as a trusted friendship service where they could meet and make Christian friends. (Little did Katharine know that this was going to be the beginning of our story!)
Alot of thought went into the organisation’s name and we finally decided on friendsfirst because above all else we believe friendship is at the heart of any relationship and relationships are at the heart of being human.
friendsfirst was launched in January 2000 and our story continues. Soon many people were responding to the first notices and adverts. It was clear this was going to be an important service. And it wasn’t long before people started leaving the organisation because their lives had been changed. Then we really knew we were doing something important and worthwhile!
Since those early days, friendsfirst has gone from strength to strength, seeing thousands of people make new friends and special relationships, and celebrating many marriages along the way. Our staff numbers have grown to incorporate the organisation of events and the most important focus on customer service and dedicated support to each and every member. We’re proud and humbled to say that our story is now many years old and continues to grow day by day.
The idea for friendsfirst came from the St. Johns Church (Harborne, Birmingham) weekend away in September 1999 where our speaker Elaine Storkey challenged the church to assist single people in finding partners. This weekend away became the beginning of our story.
There are a huge number of single Christians in the UK, who are single either because their work commitments/social lives are not conducive to meeting sufficient Christians of the opposite sex (apart from often limited numbers of contemporaries in their own churches), or because of other personal circumstances like divorce, separation or widowhood for the older age groups.
Many ‘single’ people look to friendship/dating agencies nowadays to find soul mates. A dedicated Christian service is vitally important to enable Christians to find others who share their Christian beliefs. Without access to this sort of service many Christians will seek partners who may not share their beliefs and this can easily lead to difficulties later on.
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Verification & Support
friendsfirst was established with the support of Christian leaders in Birmingham like The Reverend Canon John Hughes (St. John’s, Harborne), The Reverend James Langstaff, Bishop Jo Aldred (Executive Director of The Centre for Black and White Christian Partnership), and Reverend Brian Nicholls (General Superintendent of the West Midlands Area of the Baptist Union of Great Britain). It also has the support of theologian and sociologist, Elaine Storkey. Our story wouldn’t have happened without them – and we still see these people as very foundational to friendsfirst.
Our Story – The friendsfirst Concept
friendsfirst is an introduction service for single Christians across the UK. It is based in the Midlands and is run exclusively by Christians for Christians (i.e. those people who associate themselves with a mainline Christian denomination). It is a fundamental part of our story that we are a Christian company serving Christians.
friendsfirst is open to unattached Christians of all denominations and ages and welcomes people from a wide variety of backgrounds and traditions. It is a friendly and professionally run service which puts its members at the heart of everything it does. It is a membership organisation with annual membership fees.
The service is run on the simple basis of allowing people to make contact and friends with other people whose details they have seen and like the look of. friendsfirst believes that friendships are vitally important and are at the heart of any good and meaningful relationship.friendsfirst recognizes that in today’s world, where people’s working and social lives are not necessarily enabling them to meet new friends or potential long term partners, some Christians can either face involuntary singleness or long term relationships with people who don’t share their deepest desires and beliefs. In addition, many older people are isolated and for many reasons find it difficult to join the sorts of networks that would enable them to make like-minded friends.
All members write a brief but concise summary of themselves which is then circulated to other members within appropriate age and geographical bandings. A variety of means of contacting other members is available, for example, contact through box numbers, administered by friendsfirst, to provide confidentiality of details to either/both parties until both parties are comfortable to release them.
There is no intention to specifically matchmake although some of our services do intentionally do this – but generally people are free to make their own selections based on the information which is provided to them regularly through the continually updated profiles. friendsfirst offers a service that puts members in control and avoids the embarrassment of interviews, blind dates, awkward situations, and especially the trauma many people go through when using an online dating site. Members have the choice how and when to take things forward. There is no pressure. They meet who they choose, when they choose, how they choose. friendsfirst provides much valued support to members for all aspects of membership as and when required.
For members security and reassurance, all applicant members are asked to provide some form of identification that validates that they are who they say they are.
Box numbers for correspondence between members are provided in the profiles for security reasons. However members are able to provide other members with their telephone number and email, so that they can be contacted directly if they so wish. Since some members may be well known in their local area there is the option to be referred to in the profiles by a nickname.
friendsfirst holds members details on computer and is registered with the Data Protection Register.
As members or enquirers to friendsfirst you’ll have spoken to a number of people over the years. Further more there are others involved with us, who you won’t have spoken to.
Our Story – The people who are or who have been involved with friendsfirst are as follows:
Katharine Gray- founder and Director
Sacha Jorden – Enquirers Manager
Jo Marriott – Enquirers Manager
Sarah Rodgers – Membership Manager
Ella Jordan – Membership Manager
Emma Rowlands – Membership Manager
Jo Edwards – Membership Manager
Patricia Bow – New members
Lori Penhalligon – Membership Manager
Jackie Wardle – Membership Manager
Kay Lane – Membership Manager
Jake Pearson – Membership Manager
Lizze Doole – Membership Manager
Dawn Keitley – Membership Manager
Alan Bold – Membership Manager
Claire Earle – Membership Manager
Wayne Exton- Membership Manager
Julia Fulukiya – Membership Manager
Patricia Gilliam – Membership Manager
Lauren Stephenson – Membership Manager
Lizzie Pullin – Membership Manager
Charles Ferguson MW- head of Credit Control
Jan Spalding – Bookkeeper
Stephane Vergnaud- head of training
David Barlow – our illustrator
Leslie Peat – press support
Oliver Leggit – design – a key part of forming our story
Design Principles – Design
Dandelime Design – Design
Nick Herd – Moo Design
Alan Johnson – consultancy
Karen Walford – IT support
How to be the One
Serious about relationships - then this book is for you!
How to be the One
Serious about relationships - then this book is for you!