A NEW Christian centre based in a former Burton store in Wrexham, north Wales, boosted by a £1.9-million grant from the Church in Wales’s funds, will offer “a radically different take on what it means to be a Christian”, the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, said last month.
The centre, Hope Street, will focus on young people and families, and will be run in partnership with existing churches and the Church Revitalisation Trust (CRT), a charity based at Holy Trinity, Brompton, in London.
Last month, the diocese said that the money would be used to establish “a dedicated team to provide worship and outreach which will appeal to those outside the Church”. The building would also undergo “substantial renovations” to create a worship space, training and meeting rooms, office, kitchen, and hospitality areas.
The expectation was that workers in Hope Street would spend time in other churches, “sharing their experience and skills”, and that community programmes, including support for rough sleepers, would be based at the centre. The aim is to open in 2020, and it is envisaged that, in four years, new church communities will be established.
Local clergy welcomed the development. The Team Rector of the Offa Mission Area, Canon Kate Tiltman, described it as “a wonderful opportunity to engage with younger people, and people on the fringes of the Church who are put off by the more formal worship and older congregations of our parish churches”.
Wrexham town centre
An Assistant Curate in Llay, Rossett and Isycoed, the Revd Dominic Austin Cawdell, hoped that the project would “complement the life and witness of St Giles’s Church, which . . . is growing at a remarkable pace”.
St Giles’s, a medieval church considered one of the Seven Wonders of Wales (a list of notable landmarks in north Wales), is based directly opposite the proposed site. The Vicar, the Revd Dr Jason Bray, described it last month as “quite a traditional church”, with a large number of families with children. He welcomed plans for Hope Street: “We are looking forward to working with them and coming at the same thing from different angles. . . There is room for a mixed economy.”
Asked about Bishop Cameron’s description of an ageing church, Dr Bray described how the all-age worship service at St Giles’s had grown significantly in recent years. There had been a focus on being “genuinely welcoming”, acknowledging that walking through the doors of a church could be “daunting”.
The Team Vicar of the Alyn Mission Area, the Revd James Harris, said that mobilising the energy of young volunteers could have “a big, positive impact on the lives of the most vulnerable people in our borough”.
He continued: “As someone very liberal in matters of theology but more conservative in approaches to liturgy and worship, I note the concerns that have been expressed in other places in recent years about the impact of church-plants and fresh expressions of church. . .
“Hopefully, valuable lessons have been learned about the need to do mission without naïve, exclusivist triumphalism, and to work with and affirm existing local clergy and laity, many of whom are struggling to balance their churches’ books at the moment and who can be forgiven a little envy of the money going to this project. It will also be important not to alienate gay and lesbian people, who, as the St Teilo’s and St Andrew’s, Cathays, story earlier this year showed, are sometimes especially suspicious of initiatives such as this.
“My hope and prayer is that this radical new development will continue to be thought out very carefully by the diocese and province, and that those who will be setting it up will be knowledgeable about, and sensitive to, the particular context in which they are operating.”
The senior team leader at Hope Street will be appointed in consultation with the CRT, which was incorporated as a charity in 2017 “to further the church-planting activity which was previously undertaken by Holy Trinity, Brompton”. It is seeking to plant 100 city-centre resource churches by 2028, and is the partner for the diocese of Llandaff’s plans to establish a resource church at St Teilo’s (News, 22 March).
Hope Street is the first project to bid successfully for funding from the Church in Wales’s £10-million Evangelism Fund (News, 21 September 2018).