A church in the centre of the west of England port city of Bristol is to re-open 65 years after it was closed. Once it re-opens in the Autumn, St Nicholas’ Church will focus on engaging with young people who don’t currently go to church, and will act as what the diocese is calling a “Resourcing Church”, serving the wider city and assisting future church plants. It will be led by the Revd Toby Flint, currently the Lead Pastor at London’s Holy Trinity Brompton, home of the Alpha Course and a significant participant in church plants.
Bristol is a young city – some 60 per cent of people in the city centre are aged between 15 and 29. “The new church’s particular focus will be on younger generations,” the Diocese of Bristol said. The diocese has set out three priorities in its vision: making disciples, growing leaders and engaging younger generations. The new St Nicholas will explore those three priorities as well as partnering with other churches and organisations for social action, including looking at ways to tackle homelessness, food poverty and youth unemployment.
“As Bristol becomes younger and more diverse, we want to make an impact on the city,” the Bishop of Swindon and acting Bishop of Bristol, Dr Lee Rayfield, said. “We are excited about how St Nicholas will grow the Church and bring about social transformation.
“This is one way in which we will be developing our commitment to making more disciples, engaging younger generations and connecting with our communities in our changing city.”
Flint worked in youth and adult education in London and France before training for ordination in Oxford. He served his curacy at Holy Trinity Brompton, where he has continued in an associate role for the past six years. He is currently Lead Pastor with responsibility for Alpha and Sunday services.
He said that he and his wife Gill were looking forward to the new challenge: “We’re really excited about our move to Bristol, getting to know the city and working out how we can join in with all that is already going on,” he said.
St Nicholas closed as a church following bomb damage during the Second World War. It was leased to Bristol City Council and was rebuilt as a museum telling the story of Bristol and making reference to the church setting. A central feature of the church is a large altar triptych piece by William Hogarth originally commissioned for St Mary Redcliffe and subsequently bequeathed to the city.
St Nicholas’ Church in Bristol photographed around 1900, before the World War II bomb that forced its closure.
Photo: Bristol Record Centre / Wikimedia
Since the museum closed, the city council used the space for a tourist information centre and then offices. An agreement has been reached to continue to house the painting in the church when it reopens with allocated days when it will be made visible for the public to see.
The diocese has been awarded a grant of £1.5 million GBP Strategic Development Funding by the Church of England to support the Church and its start up costs. Some £3.8 million has been budgeted for refurbishing the church and funding its local and city-wide work over the first six years.