Church of England chooses Plymouth for major investment to revitalise church communities
THE Church of England has announced a major project planned to create new, vibrant church communities in three Plymouth estates.
The Church Commissioners have agreed to a funding bid by the Diocese of Exeter and has agreed to contribute 75% of the total £2.24 million. The money will come over a five-year period and will mainly be used to fund the people who will be working in the local communities. The diocese will co-ordinate the balance of the funding and has already invested in managing the project to get it to this stage.
The initial phase will see new church communities planted in three Plymouth estates – Whitleigh, Ernesettle, and North Prospect. They will use existing church buildings, but will seek to establish vibrant and contemporary worshipping communities in these areas where more traditional congregations have sadly dwindled over recent decades.
These new church communities will each be served by a priest and community and youth workers. There will be a keen focus on working with families, children and young people in new and creative ways, as the church strives to be alert and respond to the needs of the neighbourhoods.
There will also be a strong emphasis on working with the award-winning debt management charity, Christians Against Poverty (CAP). In each of the three parish communities there will be a part-time CAP debt management coach, a Job Club and the CAP Money Course, to help people learn how to budget and plan their finances.
As well as a wide range of services, the newly-planted churches will also run a variety of church and community groups including:
- Toddler groups and creches;
- Children’s groups and holiday clubs;
- The Alpha Course;
- Godly Play;
- Women’s groups;
- Social events for all ages;
- Dads’ groups;
- Visits to people who cannot leave their homes.
The project also includes funding for a mission development worker who will assist the existing churches in those communities to serve parishioners and students who prefer a more traditional style of worship.
Each of the new planted churches will not only be expected to become self-sustaining within the five-year period of the funding, but will also be expected to resource further plants in three and five years’ time. The hope is that over six years this investment will result in up to nine new churches in and around Plymouth.
The Bishop of Plymouth, the Rt Revd Nick McKinnel, said: “I am delighted that the Church Commissioners have seen the merits of the project and grateful for this significant investment in Plymouth. It is exciting to hear after much planning that the project has the go-ahead and we are going to be able to engage with these communities in a new and exciting way.
“City centre churches are thriving – our Minster church has an average Sunday attendance of more than 400 people and our newly planted church at St Matt’s enjoys even greater participation. We will look to these stronger churches to resource us in areas where the church is more fragile
“We believe we can do this by planting new, vibrant mission churches in these three estates, and then beyond. We know the sort of impact they could have, and pray that these new communities will bring hope and enable people to flourish in all kinds of ways.
“We look forward to our first plant at St Chad’s, in Whitleigh, starting this autumn.”
The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Robert Atwell, said: “We are all incredibly excited at the prospect of planting and growing new churches in these communities. As the Plymouth Fairness Commission pointed out, the key statistics all point to some enormous disparities across the city. Put simply, people living in some parts of Plymouth can expect less when it comes to their income, life expectancy, health, employment and their general life opportunities. That is clearly not fair and not right.
“However, we can also see that Plymouth has 23% of the population of Devon but only 14% of the stipendiary clergy, and 12% of people who participate in church. The average Sunday attendance is less than half of what we expect for the rest of Devon. We believe that by offering different styles of Anglican community we will be able to help more people in Plymouth to discover not only the joy of knowing God’s love, but also the whole raft of community and social benefits that accompany a dynamic church.
“With God’s help, we believe that we can echo the motto of the city of Plymouth: ‘The name of the Lord is the strongest tower’.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
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