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Londoner seeks to plant new church in a barn in rural Devon

24 July 2020

The Revd Pete James

The Revd Pete James

A PRIEST from a London church-plant has said that he wants to bring a “compassion-centric entrepreneurship” to a planned new church in a barn in rural Devon.

The Revd Pete James, from Kings Cross Church (KXC), an offshoot of St Mary’s, Bryanston Square, will lead St Basil’s, a church-plant on a farm near the villages of Tedburn St Mary and Dunsford. Planted by KXC and Exeter Network Church, it hopes to open its doors for worship later this year.

Mr James, who has been at KXC for ten years, and was ordained in 2017, was licensed on Wednesday of last week. He said that the new church’s name and mission was a tribute to the fourth-century bishop St Basil the Great of Caesarea.

“St Basil was one of the earliest Christian ‘social entrepreneurs’. He bought a farm on the outskirts of the city to feed people during a famine; he set up a hospital there, a hospice, and an orphanage. It became known as the Basiliad: a place of monastic prayer, feeding people, teaching trades, and breaking the cycle of poverty,” Mr James said.

The barn that will soon become St Basil’s

Although he had similar hopes for the community in Devon, it would be a big challenge. “Rural Devon is a long way from King’s Cross — and I will have much listening to do and lots to learn about the new environment I find myself in. And yet the theological vision for the Church and prophetic imagination for the world that got in my bones at KXC is just as relevant in Devon as it is in King’s Cross.

“I hope this means that new enterprises and charities and projects will spring up that restore dignity to people, transform the unjust structures of society, and renew creation. We hope that Exeter and the wider region will look different as a result of the church in the area telling a better story for the world.”

A consultation with other churches in the area is described as currently under way: there is a possibility that St Basil’s may eventually be designated a new church under a Bishop’s Mission Order, which endorses mission initiatives undertaken through the founding of a “distinctive” Christian community.

The Revd Martin Wood, whose North Kenn Mission Community in Exeter diocese will be hosting St Basil’s, said: “The church-plant of St Basil’s offers an exciting opportunity to develop a new church in the rural community. It offers a different expression of church in a new context.”

The Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Jackie Searle, said: “This will be a different way of doing church, based on a desire to see rural communities flourishing as places of faith for all ages. It will sit alongside the great work already being done by our rural churches. I’m excited by Pete’s vision for St Basil’s, and his desire to serve local people and make a difference in their lives, particularly at this time.”

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