Church-plants: ‘Reaching new people, in new ways’

29 June 2018

diocese of london

The Filipino Chaplaincy, a weekly service in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, at St John’s, Notting Hill. It is listed by the diocese of London as one of 50 new worshipping communities

The Filipino Chaplaincy, a weekly service in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, at St John’s, Notting Hill. It is listed by the ...

A YORUBA congregation, a church that meets in a Costa Coffee shop, and ten-minute services for busy city workers are among the 50 new worshipping communities listed by the diocese of London. It marks the halfway point in its goal to “create or renew 100 worshipping communities” by 2020 (News, 14 June 2013).

The Bishop of Islington, the Rt Revd Ric Thorpe, the lead bishop for church-planting, said this week that, to “reach new people, in new places, in new ways”, the Church must look beyond the parish.

The goal was set in 2013, under the last diocesan Bishop, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres. On the current list are churches reopened after long periods of closure: a legacy, in part, of his fervent opposition to closures (News, 2 October 2015).

Topping the list is St Francis at the Engine Room in Tottenham, the first new purpose-built Anglican church in London in 40 years (News, 24 November 2017).

St David’s, Holloway was de-consecrated in 1984 and opened again in 2013, after a large scale redevelopment project. St Nicholas, Cole Abbey was reopened in 2014 after extensive renovations as “a new centre for Bible-based workplace ministry in the Diocese of London”. St Michael’s, Fulwell was re-established by a small group from St Peter’s, Fulham in 2014.

About 20 of the communities are at Evangelical churches, and the list contains ten plants or “grafts”, mostly from this wing. Five of these are connected to Holy Trinity, Brompton. The Nag’s Head Church Community — a church-plant from Hope Church Islington — meets at a Costa Coffee shop on a weekday evening.

Inspire at St James’s, Clerkenwell, was planted in 2013 by two Assistant Curates from All Souls’, Langham Place. St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, sent 40 people to plant Euston Church, which meets at Christ the King, Gordon Square, in 2010; and Trinity Islington, a plant of St Helen’s, has established a four-o’clock service at Christ Church, Crouch End.

But there are also examples from other traditions. St Peter’s, Acton Green, is listed as a church “revitalised” by a team from St Michael and All Angels, Bedford Park, and St George’s-in-the-East has established both a choral eucharist at its church school and a service for the city’s “hidden workers”, whose work might preclude attending regular services.

diocese of londonSt Francis at the Engine Room, Tottenham Hale

Two other communities seek to reach the City’s time-pressed workforce: St Stephen’s, Walbrook, has launched “Start: Stop”, a ten-minute rolling morning service for city workers (Features, 5 January, 2018), while St Olave’s and St Katherine’s hold “Sanctuary in the City” midweek services.

The list includes five missional communities. Two communities have been established in partnership with the Eden Network, which sends out urban missionaries: the Grove Community in Gurnell Grove, Ealing, and a plant into the Grange estate, Finchley.

Another theme is a drive to reach the capital’s youth. The diocese estimates that there are more than 340,000 young people aged between 11 and 18 in its deaneries, and that only 2000 attend its churches on Sundays. Last year, it announced that it had secured almost £2 million from the Church Commissioners to take a “radical approach” to the problem (News, 7 July 2017). Among the communities listed is a new youth service at St Saviour’s, Sunbury, where more than 200 under-18s attended a concert headlined by Guvna B, a rapper, in February.

Other launches include the Anchorage, a church for students that meets at the London School of Economics, which is led by the LSE’s Chaplain, the Revd Dr James Walters, and the Chaplain and Interfaith Advisor at University College, London, the Revd Charlotte Bradley; and East London Deaf Church.

The list raises questions about how to define a new worshipping community — it includes, for example, an after-school club featuring Bible stories, new evening services offering more informal worship, and others aimed at families with young children.

Asked this week whether others would chalk up all of those listed as a “new worshipping community”, Bishop Thorpe, said that he agreed that “this is what churches should be doing already . . . but, on the other hand, we need to encourage people to do it.” To be included, a community had to be “intentionally reaching a new group of people”.

The list showed the variety of church-planting under way, he said, and that “we need to move away from just doing traditional parish church. . . There are lots of other ways to connect with people in their parishes, who might not come to their parish church, but who are interested.” The strategy rested on “reaching new people, in new places, in new ways”.

The 100 by 2020 target — accompanied by a pledge to increase average weekly attendance by 6500 — has been financed with the help of a £1-million strategic-development-funding grant from the Church Commissioners. Targets to grow worshipping communities feature in many other successful bids for the funding (for example, Guildford has pledged to create at least 100 by 2027, with the help of £1.08 million).

Setting goals meant that “you have to start doing things you weren’t doing before,” said Bishop Thorpe, who advised being “bold” in creating “a God-shaped goal rather than a human-shaped one: let’s do something that really stretches us”.

He recommended the “multiplication principle”, whereby church-plants went on to plant, and emphasised that, while it could help “accelerate things”, money “should never get in the way of starting new Christian communities”. This might mean asking different questions about how to plant, he said, including looking to lay leaders.

The Commissioners’ grant worked out at £10,000 per plant, he said. To secure a share, a worshipping community should be able to achieve the goal of “20 people worshipping at least monthly for at least six months. . . All the ones we have invested in have either achieved it, or are going to, and some have vastly exceeded that.”

All-age average weekly attendance in the diocese has fallen every year since 2013, from 76,200 to 70,600, in a population of 4.3 million, with a church every 0.6 miles.

Ten of the 50 communities are centred on congregations worshipping in other languages (Features, 2 June 2017). Three of these are at Holy Trinity, Hounslow, where services are held in Russian, Gujarati, and Hindi.

There is also a Ukranian Church at All Saints’, Hanworth; a Yoruba church at St Olave’s, Woodbury Downs; a Filipino Chaplaincy at St John’s, Notting Hill; an Italian mass at St Peter’s, Acton Green; Turkish mass at St Michael’s, Wood Green; a Brazilian church at All Soul’s, Harlesden; and a French service at St Barnabas’s, Kensington.

RODYCLOUD PHOTOGRAPHYThe French Connect service at St Barnabas, Kensington

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