New Christian communities are to be created across England in an ambitious new growth programme announced today. More than 100 new churches will be created in a £27 million drive “to revive the Christian faith in coastal areas, market towns and outer urban housing estates,” the C of E said in a statement. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby described the plans as a “wonderful example” of how churches are seeking to be faithful to God and to serve their communities.
A total of 10 dioceses will receive grants ranging from £887,015 to £5.34 million for church planting and evangelism initiatives.
“The Church of England exists to share the good news of Jesus through our words and our actions,” he said. “Across the country, churches are bursting with life – which in part is shown through how they love and serve their communities. I’m especially pleased about these grants because they demonstrate our commitment to following Jesus to the places of greatest need in our society.
“These projects are wonderful examples of how churches are seeking to be faithful to God – and faithful to their communities in love and mission. Through their innovation, they signal a growing determination in the Church to share the good news of Jesus Christ in ways that make sense for those in our most deprived communities.”
The Chair of the C of E’s Strategic Investment Board, John Spence, said that the grants would fund “bold ambitious initiatives” and added that “their scale and breadth show that the Church is feeling confident about its future.”
In the Diocese of Canterbury, a pioneering café-style church called Ignite in Margate is to be used as a blueprint for nine new worshipping communities in the Kent coastal towns of Herne Bay, Sheerness, Sittingbourne, Maidstone and Ashford; and also in St Peter Port in Guernsey.
On the other side of the south coast, in Plymouth, a £1.69 million grant will be used to create three new churches for people living in the city’s outer urban estates. “It is hoped that the new churches will provide support and inspiration for up to nine new churches in and around the city,” the C of E said.
The Diocese of Ely will promote church growth in a project focused on the market towns of Wisbech, March, Chatteris, Littleport, Ramsey, Huntingdon and Downham Market.
Bristol Diocese will use its grant to transform a former railway works building in Swindon into a new church aimed primarily at people under 40-years-of-age who have no current connection with a church. The diocese anticipates the new church will act as a catalyst for training clergy and supporting mission in both new and established churches across the area.
The full grants announced today by the C of E are:
Bristol: £1.49 million
Pattern Church – A catalyst for mission in Swindon
For development of a new church in Swindon, based in the Pattern Store, a former GWR railway works building next to the Designer Outlet commercial centre. The church will be known as Pattern Church and will be launched in December 2018 with a vision to “Love Jesus, Build family and Serve Swindon”.
The Bishop of Swindon, Dr Lee Rayfield, said: “The Pattern Church is set to become the home base for providing fresh energy, people and approaches which will resource other churches across the town and contribute to social transformation.
“This is an inspiring and challenging vision, both for Swindon and for the Diocese of Bristol. It is a venture of considerable faith and reflects what Jesus Christ has laid on many of our hearts for this very special town.”
Nine new worshipping communities throughout the diocese and the Channel Islands, based on the model of Ignite, a church gathering which aims to reach marginalised and deprived communities. Ignite offers an unconditional welcome to all and weekly meetings involve food and a magazine-style service based around short interactive activities and input exploring a Christian theme.
The Bishop of Dover, Trevor Willmott, said: “The Gospel is core to everything Ignite is about. It begins with unconditional welcome to all who walk through the door, the assurance that they utterly belong and that Jesus is good news for them too, no matter who they are or where they’ve been. We’ve been simply astonished by the success of the first Ignite congregations and we can’t wait to see what happens next.”
Ely: £2.13 million
Changing Market Towns church growth project in Wisbech, March, Chatteris, Littleport, Ramsey, Huntingdon and Downham Market. The funding will help attract new congregations and set up new forms of church services. It will also help to pay for a network of community support workers with family, youth and other specialisms, leading the work of the Church of England in the area in transforming their communities. Other elements of the project will include the development of a learning community for theology and mission in Wisbech. This will aim to equip lay ministers and other trained volunteers to develop new partnerships between the churches and the wider community.
The Bishop of Ely Stephen Conway said: “I am delighted that this major project has received support from the Strategic Development Fund. We hope that, through it, very many more people will be enabled to join a journey of faith and share in God’s work of transforming their communities. It is far-reaching, complex and ambitious and an expression of our faith in the power of God.”
Exeter: £1.69 million
New churches in three estates on the outskirts of Plymouth. As well as bringing renewed spiritual life to their communities, the churches will work with families, children and young people and will have close links with Christians Against Poverty (CAP). There will be a part-time debt coach working from each of the new churches, together with job clubs and a chance for residents to attend CAP’s Money Course. It is hoped that the new church communities will result in up to nine new churches in and around the city.
The Bishop of Exeter Robert Atwell said: “We are thrilled by the news that this project has got the go-ahead and look forward to engaging with people in these communities in new and exciting ways.
“We want the people of Plymouth to experience the joy of knowing God’s love and of building friendships within a dynamic church community.”
Leicester: £5.34 million
Supporting a network of six existing churches in key city centre and market town locations that will provide clergy and help support more new churches in the area. The aim is to see an increase in the size of the worshipping communities within the six churches by 1400 people, to establish 20-50 worshipping communities and to see around one new fresh expression of church, or new form of church gathering, every two years alongside strategic church plants every four years.
The Bishop of Leicester Martyn Snow said: “We are delighted that the Church Commissioners are supporting us in responding to God’s call to develop more ‘resourcing’ churches specific to the context of Leicestershire.
“Through them we hope to bless our communities and see God’s Kingdom grow, especially in better serving and reaching the 93 per cent of people who are not currently part of any Christian community.
“Please pray for all those involved in an audacious and ambitious vision and, if you are interested in being part of it, we advertise the first four new Associate Vicar roles this week.”
Manchester: £2.14 million
Projects that will help grow a younger and more diverse church, particularly in areas of high deprivation. The aim is to plant 16 small churches over six years on estates and deprived communities in the poorest areas and those with the lowest church attendance across Greater Manchester and Rossendale.
The money will also enable the Church of England to invest in work with children, families and schools in the Bolton area.
The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, said: “I’m delighted that Manchester has been supported with this award of over £2 million. Jesus came to bring Good News to the poor and this grant will enable us to grow small churches in our most needy areas that enrich people’s lives through new-found faith and the fellowship of others in their community.
“It will also enable us to engage more deeply with children and families in our Church Schools and local pre-school groups in the Bolton area, helping more young people to retain their Christian faith and identity.”
Newcastle: £2.6 million
Project to promote church life in the city centre by creating a church in the city centre that will provide clergy and support to other churches in the area. The church is targeting 17 to 45-year olds who study, live and work in the city centre. This includes around 67,000 students, as well as city workers and their families. Over time, it will act as a catalyst for growth across the whole diocese, offering support and resources to churches throughout Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle.
The Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman, said: “The news that we have been successful in securing such significant funding to create our own Resource Church is wonderful and supports God’s call to us to be faithful and bold in everything that we do. This ambitious and exciting project will help transform Christian life across the diocese. As the Resource Church grows, it will be able to provide support and resources to other churches as they too seek to grow and develop.”
Peterborough: £1.13 million
Generation to Generation project to invest in training and employment of children and youth missioners to develop innovative and effective outreach and discipleship amongst young people. The project is part of a wider strategy to raise the profile of ministry with children and young people at all levels in the diocese. It will develop the diocese’s successful Youth Ministry Apprenticeship from a one-year programme into a five-year training pathway leading to sustainable employment as licensed children and youth missioners. Parishes will be supported to develop new patterns of children’s, youth and intergenerational ministry and to act as resource centres for their deanery.
The Bishop of Peterborough, Donald Allister, said: “I am delighted that we have been awarded a grant from the Strategic Development Fund. This is a tribute to the excellent work of Pete White, our Director of Children and Youth, and his team. This money will enable us to deliver degree-level training to youth workers, bringing real benefit to both church and wider community."
Southwell and Nottingham: £4.67 million
Project to develop four churches and the creation of future church plants. The grant will help develop 75 new worshipping communities by 2023 along with a School of Discipleship to focus on the spiritual formation and training of lay disciples and leaders in mission. This will incorporate new licensed Lay Ministry/Reader courses training people for a wider range of ministries, including children, youth, worship leading, preaching, nurture groups, pastoral, evangelists and church planting.
Worcester: £5 million
All Saints’ Church in Worcester and St Thomas & St Luke in Dudley (“Top Church”) will each receive funding to develop their church buildings and employ additional team members to enable them to grow, serve their local communities and become a resource for other churches across the diocese.
The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, said: “We’re absolutely delighted that the Church Commissioners are supporting this new project. Research has shown how bringing resources into an area to fund intentional mission can have an impact much wider than the individual churches. Resourcing Churches have been very successful across the Church of England in bringing more people to faith and All Saints and Top Church are both an important part of the mix as to how we can better serve and reach those who are not currently part of any Christian community.”