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Monmouth diocese wins £3m church-plant grant

26 January 2024

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Tredegar, in Gwent, where the aim is to launch a worshipping community for the under-40s “away from the traditional Sunday-morning context”

Tredegar, in Gwent, where the aim is to launch a worshipping community for the under-40s “away from the traditional Sunday-morning context”

A £3-MILLION grant has been awarded to the diocese of Monmouth to create four new church-plants aimed at people under 40.

The funding is from the Church in Wales’s Evangelism Fund, set up six years ago to provide funding for large-scale, transformative diocesan projects — an echo of the Church of England’s Strategic Development Fund (News, 21 September 2018). Grants of between £250,000 and £3 million are available.

Over the next five years, four new plants, or “hubs”, are to be established, each with a leader and a children’s and families’ pioneer — an approach that would allow them to “develop organically and without placing burdens on existing clergy”, the diocese said. It is envisaged that they will be self-sustaining by the end of five years.

Between 2020 and 2023, Monmouth diocese underwent significant organisational change, with the amalgamation of 121 parishes into 16 larger ministry areas — “rectorial benefices” led by teams of lay and ordained ministers, including at least two stipendiary clergy — with the aim of encouraging collaborative working, including shared resources and the harnessing of economies of scale.

The Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Revd Cherry Vann, has warned that many congregations “have few if any members under 60: the life of the Church doesn’t look sustainable beyond a decade or so”.

On Tuesday, the Archdeacon of the Gwent Valleys, the Ven. Stella Bailey, said that seven applications had been received after all the ministry areas had been asked “what it would look like to plant a new worshipping community into their context with additional ministry support and a resource budget”. The Evangelism Fund committee had supported the funding of the first two plants, and another two were due to be launched in 2026.

In Tredegar, a post-industrial valleys community, “which lives with the social impact caused by the decline of the iron and coal industries”, a team led by the Area Dean of Mynydd Bedwellty, the Revd Matthew Davis, was already “creating activities that deepen their relationship with the community and create a welcoming space for families”. The aim was to launch a worshipping community “away from the traditional Sunday-morning context, that will be shaped in its discipleship and outreach to engage with those under 40”.

In Chepstow, a commuter town having many families with members who worked in the Bristol area, there was “enormous potential” to build a new congregation with a “younger demographic, working alongside and helping to inspire the existing congregations in that ministry area”. There had been “amazing support and enthusiasm from across the ministry area congregations for this project”.

The diocese is currently advertising for the “hub leader” and children’s and families’ pioneer posts. Applications from both lay and ordained candidates are welcomed, it says.

“In a society which can now be described as pre-Christian, we acknowledge that the jump from being unchurched into a eucharistic tradition is a barrier which can inhibit people’s abilities to hear the good news and hope of the gospel,” Archdeacon Bailey said.

“We are seeking to strengthen a culture where we take risks for God in a way that enables us to live out the great commission and to preach the gospel afresh for this generation. As such, the project has targets around numerical and spiritual growth, as well as accountability and good stewardship. We expect that lessons learned from the project can be replicated in other contexts across the diocese.”

Evangelism grants to date have included funding for two plants in partnership with the Church Revitalisation Trust established by Holy Trinity, Brompton: Hope Street, Wrexham; and Citizen Church, Cardiff, where attendance is now in excess of 500 people (News, 22 March 2019, 16 September 2022).

In 2021, funding was allocated to the £3-million Llan project to re-establish and found new pilgrimage routes in north Wales, and turn six churches into “pilgrim churches” (News, 9 April 2021).

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