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Skating and gospel songs win funding

08 August 2019


The Sports Factory team at St Thomas’s, Norwich

The Sports Factory team at St Thomas’s, Norwich

MOBILE skate parks and football cages are among the resources for mission funded by the latest round of grants from the Church Commissioners.

The diocese of Norwich has been awarded a strategic development funding (SDF) grant of £1.98 million for its plans to create “ten new or revitalised churches” over the next five years, focusing on secondary-school catchment areas. The work will be done in partnership with St Thomas’s, Norwich (formerly Heigham), a church in the Holy Trinity, Brompton, network (Features, 21 April 2017).

With a focus on sports ministries, inspired by the St Thomas’s “Sports Factory”, which runs activities including holiday clubs, the funding will pay for new and trainee sports ministers and undergraduate students to work with churches in the diocese. Mobile skate-parks and mobile football-cages will be deployed to “bridge the church and community through sport”.

The Vicar of the Mitre Benefice (which includes St Thomas’s and St Barnabas’s, where a “church training hub” will be based), the Revd Ian Dyble, will be appointed Director of Church Revitalisation. 

The grant is part of the latest tranche of SDF funding, totalling just over £12 million, after the £35 million announced in January (News, 25 January).

The diocese of Exeter has been awarded £1.33 million towards establishing St Matthew’s, Exeter, as a “diocesan mission church”, with a particular focus on mission to students. The Revd Ed Hodges, a former student at Exeter University who served his title at St Paul’s, Onslow Square, and St Augustine’s, Queen’s Gate, which are also associated with Holy Trinity, Brompton, in London, will serve as Rector.

Exeter has about 30,000 students, and the diocese said its research suggested that “only around 350 of them regularly attend some form of Christian worship”. The St Matthew’s project seeks to increase weekly attendance to more than 400 young people within five years, most of whom are unlikely to have attended church regularly before.”

“Our aim is to reach a generation that might never otherwise come to church,” Mr Hodges said in a diocesan video. “That means making church accessible and relevant.” The plans include the planting of two more churches in outlying Exeter estates and social action work.


To date, it is estimated that 30 per cent of SDF funding has been deployed in areas of deprivation. In this round, the diocese of Leeds has received £1.03 million, about half of which will be shared among Anglican churches in Keighley, “with a strong mission to help those battered by the storms of life”, a diocesan press release said.

The four churches were united three years ago to serve one of the most deprived parishes in the country. There are plans to plant new worshipping communities on the town’s outer estates, where there has been “no church presence for decades”, the Archdeacon of Bradford, the Ven. Dr Andy Jolley, said.

The diocese of Rochester has received £1.39 million for four parish projects in south London and Medway, including support for projects at Christ Church, Anerley, such as a car-wash service provided by ex-offenders, and a boxing club for teenagers at which ex-offender volunteers discus how their Christian faith saved them from knife crime. Also planned is a congregation based on gospel music at St Mark’s, Gillingham, in Kent.

On Tuesday, the Vicar of St Mark’s, the Revd Saju Muthalaly, said that gospel music could be a “fantastic vehicle” for mission, and a “pathway for people to encounter Christ”, but he did not see many expressions of it in the C of E. There was a “wonderful, gifted musician” from Nigeria in the congregation, Mayowa Oyinloye, he said, and the plan was to establish a church-plant in October, which might particularly appeal to the African diaspora in the area.

DIOCESE OF ROCHESTERA gospel choir performs in Gillingham high street, at an event organised by St Mark’s, last month

The diocese of Truro has received £1.7 million for plans for church growth in four areas, including establishing worshipping communities in cafés, community centres, and a former pub. The social-action component includes developing a Christians Against Poverty centre in Liskeard, and the foodbank and support services at All Saints’, Highertown, in Truro.

A grant of £1.54 million has been awarded to the diocese of Leicester for its work to reach BAME communities, including the creation of six new “intercultural worshipping communities” (“a church community where people from different cultural and ethnic heritage deliberately interact with one another in order to deepen their understanding and experience of God and of each other”).  Its targets include welcoming up to 900 people of BAME heritage as “active worshippers” by 2024, and seeing 20 people of BAME heritage explore vocation to ordained ministry (in the hope that at least 70-75 per cent will be recommended for training).

The diocese’s research in preparation for the funding bid suggested that “very few” of its churches considered BAME mission and ministry a priority: “Cultural and ethnic homogeneity is the current strategy for church growth. Cultural assimilation, not integration, is the leading assumption in BAME mission.”

The £3.1 million allocated to the diocese of Southwark will include support for expanding the Hispanic bilingual church St Matthew’s at Elephant and Castle (News, 7 September 2018). It will pay for another full-time bilingual priest and parish administrator, with plans including support for Latino ordinands, and the planting of another bilingual church in the diocese.

The diocese has also been given funding for a pioneer minister to establish an “eco-church” congregation at St Mary’s, Lambeth (which was converted into the Garden Museum in 1976), in conjunction with Lambeth Palace, its next-door neighbour.

A spokesman said that the diocese hoped “to engage with this those who see themselves as spiritual and not religious, as well as those who want to explore the role of Christianity in relation to the environment”.

The Commissioners have awarded the Estates Evangelism Task Group £115,037 to support its work, and the Mothers’ Union £190,692 for its Metamorphosis initiative, which seeks to “support churches in building relationships and networks within their communities and to help congregations share their faith with others”.

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