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HTB planters seek to bless the west

09 August 2018


Teams preparing to lead plants on stage at HTB Focus, where they were prayed for by the Bishop of London

Teams preparing to lead plants on stage at HTB Focus, where they were prayed for by the Bishop of London

A CHURCH-PLANT in a deprived parish in Plymouth is among the latest wave of church-plants originating at Holy Trinity, Brompton, announced at the church’s Focus festival last week.

The Revd Rob Fowler, a Curate at St Matthias, Plymouth — a plant from the HTB network — will plant at St Chad’s, Whitleigh, part of the benefice of Ernesettle, Whitleigh and Honicknowle, which receives ministry from the Bishop of Ebbsfleet. He will serve as minister-in-charge, under a Bishop’s Mission Order.

Another church in the benefice, St Aidan’s, Ernesettle, will receive a plant from St Budeaux, Devonport; and St James the Less, Ham, part of the benefice of St Peter Plymouth and the Holy Apostles, also under the see of Ebbsfleet, will receive a plant from St Andrew’s, Plymouth. All planting churches are charismatic Evangelical. They will lease the buildings from the PCCs of the receiving parishes, which will remain traditionalist.

A press release from the diocese of Exeter said that they would “seek to establish vibrant and contemporary worshipping communities in these areas where more traditional congregations have sadly dwindled over recent decades”. The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Robert Atwell, said that the average Sunday attendance in Plymouth was “less than half of what we expect for the rest of Devon”.

The project is being funded by a £1.69-million strategic-development grant from the Church Commissioners (News, 13 July), which will help to fund community and youth workers. Christians Against Poverty workers will also be present, and each of the three churches will be expected to plant.

On Tuesday, the Bishop of Plymouth, the Rt Revd Nick McKinnel, said that there was no Anglo-Catholic church in the city in a position to plant, but emphasised that the strategic-development bid included funding for a mission development worker who would assist the existing churches to “serve parishioners and students who prefer a more traditional style of worship”. Last year, the Archdeacon of Brighton & Lewes, the Ven. Martin Lloyd Williams, spoke of “struggling to find resources within the Catholic tradition” (News, 20 January 2017).


Nine other church-plants were announced at Focus, held at Somerley Estate, in Hampshire, last week.

The Revd Paul Cowley — one of 19 curates listed at Holy Trinity, Brompton, with St Paul’s, Onslow Square, and St Augustine’s, South Kensington — will lead the mission community at St Francis Church, on the Dalgarno Estate, North Kensington, which was previously led by another curate from the church, the Revd Azariah France-Williams. The HTB Focus Twitter account said that a team would move to the estate.

The Revd Andy Watkins, a Curate at St Stephen’s, Twickenham, part of the HTB network of churches, is establishing a new Anglican church-plant at Christ Church, Feltham — a URC-Methodist church faced with closure last year — in partnership with the Methodist Church.

Last year, the diocese of London received £3.9 million to train 15 “planting curates”, who, at the invitation of diocesan bishops, will be deployed to 15 “strategic cities” between 2020 and 2022. At least ten are being trained at HTB (News, 29 March).

Four of them are part of the wave announced at Focus. The Revd Chris Bradish is returning to the diocese of Winchester, where he first served as a curate, to become the incumbent at St Mary’s, Andover, an Evangelical church set to become a resource church in the diocese.

The Revd Joel Sales is to plant Pattern Church in Swindon, sited at a former railway-works building and backed by £1.49 million of Strategic Development Funding (SDF). The Revd Toby Flint will be leading St Nicholas’s, Bristol, reopened with £1.5 million of SDF funding (News, 22 January), and the Revd Jon Flint will be planting at St Mary’s, Southampton, backed by £800,000 of SDF funding (News, 4 May).

The Revd Richard Atkinson will plant at St Margaret’s, Apsley, in Nottingham, a Charismatic Evangelical church set to become a Resourcing Church. Also announced was the merger of Harbour Church, Portsmouth, with St George’s, Portsea, and its plant at St Alban’s, Copnor (News, 1 June).

The plants were commissioned on stage at Focus by the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, who prayed: “Heavenly Father, we ask now for your blessing upon these churches, these cities, on your communities and your people. May they remain rooted in you, open to the moving of your Spirit, and may you renew your communities and this nation.”

The Vicar of Holy Trinity, the Revd Nicky Gumbel, said: “We have many students going through St Mellitus, training for ordination, and lots of women. Next year, we want to see more women planting churches.”

It is understood that just under half the ordinands training at St Mellitus are women. But, of the 49 churches listed in HTB’s network, two-thirds have no women clergy. Three are led or co-led by women, and another 13 have a woman serving among the clergy. All of the ten announced last week are led by men. Focus included a seminar organised by Arise, a network dedicated to female leadership. 

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