The Church of England has announced grants of £24.4 million in the latest tranche of its Renewal and Reform program funding. The money is being provided by the C of E’s Strategic Investment Board, which was created as part of a change in the way national funding from the Church Commissioners is provided to dioceses and parishes. Previously, the commissioners provided support to dioceses on the basis of a national formula. But after a review looking into “Resourcing the Future” of the church, the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops agreed instead that all of the national funding should be distributed for investment in the spiritual and numerical growth of the church.
The diocese of London, which plans to open 100 new churches in Britain’s capital, will receive the biggest grant, valued at £4.8 million, to revitalize churches and develop “Church Growth Learning Communities.” It will also receive an additional £3.89 million to help train curates to be deployed across the country to support the national church.
In 2015, then-Bishop of London Richard Chartres was given the go-ahead to revive the See of Islington as a suffragan bishopric with responsibility for church planting in the capital and elsewhere in the C of E, at the invitation of the relevant diocesan bishop.
“I love the intention of the national church to support church growth and new ministry across England,” the bishop of Islington, Ric Thorpe, said. “We are excited to receive this strategic development grant that will help us to support churches across the traditions and in every kind of parish to grow and flourish in London and beyond.”
The grants to the diocese of London “will enable churches of every tradition to join learning communities that help them grow in depth, impact and number,” the diocese said. “It will also help churches to train curates who will pay dividends back to the diocese by revitalising existing churches and promoting further mission.
“As a diocese with 4.2 million people, this grant will help the Church in London to reach communities across the capital. It will also have a national focus, reflecting the Bishop of Islington’s wider role in supporting church plants across England where invited by diocesan bishops. It will enable the training of curates who will be deployed in strategic locations outside London, supporting demand in other dioceses for trained church leaders.”
Responding to the grant, the acting bishop of London, Pete Broadbent (who is also bishop of Willesden) commented: “Planting and learning communities complement the inherited parish and chaplaincy model. The church of the future needs vision, depth and new resourcing. I’m delighted that the national church is investing in London in this way.”
The second-largest grant of £4.23 million will be spent helping the diocese of Winchester to “engage with the ‘missing generations’ of young people across Hampshire and East Dorset.” The diocese, which is investing £4 million of its own funds on the scheme, dubbed Winchester Mission Action, “will bring the Christian message to people who have not previously interacted with the Church of England. Through new projects designed to reach people in every location within the community, the Diocese of Winchester intends to re-establish the Church as a partner with other organisations in tackling challenges in society.
“The projects which the new funding will facilitate include reinvigorating the Christian presence in large urban centres and smaller villages, establishing new Christian communities in places where there are new housing developments and reaching out to students in further and higher education.”
The bishop of Winchester, Tim Dakin, said: “Society is changing rapidly, and traditional institutions are adapting. Winchester diocese is committed to the sustainable growth of the church for the common good. We have taken time to identify the challenges which face the people of Hampshire and East Dorset, whether they be in our rural villages or urban centres, seeing those challenges as opportunities for mission action. We are a growing Christian community with an increasing emphasis on young people. Shaped by the life and work of Jesus, we aim to be an active participant in helping to renew our society and address the concerns of our cities, towns and villages.”
The diocese of Blackburn will receive £1.54 million to help fund “an ambitious project aimed at opening new churches in deprived urban estates.” The grant will be focused on “training new leaders, both lay and ordained, with a view to providing a model for other dioceses, while also strengthening mission in the areas where the work is located,” the C of E said.
The grant will support the appointments of a lead evangelist and pioneer evangelist at Grange Park Church Army Centre of Mission in Blackpool, to develop work already started by the clergy and congregation on the estate. It will also fund 20 young adults to take part in the Blackpool Ministry Experience over the next six years, living on the Mereside estate in Blackpool and working with local residents, as well as in nearby deprived urban parishes in Blackpool.
“I believe passionately that if we are serious about the renewal of the church, we must commit ourselves afresh to proclaiming Good News to the poor,” the bishop of Blackburn, Philip North, said. “This project will share the Good News with people living on our urban estates by planting a number of new congregations.
“However, it will also ensure that church life is sustainable over the long term in these areas by forming quality lay and ordained leaders both from and for our estates. Our aim is to call and form local leaders who can be good news for their communities.”
North said that he was “delighted” with the award.
Other grants announced by the Church of England, as part of this £24 million round, include £3.09 million for church planting and to strengthen mission across the City of Leeds in the diocese of Leeds; £1.88 million to develop mission in St Helens, Warrington and Widnes in the diocese of Liverpool; £1.84 million to develop mission and ministry to children, young people and families in the diocese of Sheffield; £1.61 million for nine new pioneer posts to be created as catalysts for pioneering activity across Somerset in the diocese of Bath and Wells; and £1.45 million to resource evangelism with younger generations, social action and church planting in the city of Bristol in the diocese of Bristol.
The Church of England is inviting further applications from its dioceses for future strategic investment funding.