The bishop who chairs the Church of England’s Estates Evangelism Task Group has said that the church is returning to the country’s inner-city housing estates. In doing so, it is reversing a trend that has seen other services, like shops and children’s centres, moving out from these areas. Bishop of Burnley Philip North made his comments at a conference of the National Estate Churches Network, where he said that outer estates are to be a key priority for the church, which has published a new Commitment to Action to share the Christian faith on some of the country’s most deprived estates.
The conference was held at St Francis at the Engine Room in Tottenham Hale—one of 100 new churches being opened by the Diocese of London before 2020. North told those attending that “we want to have a thriving, growing, loving church on every significant estate in the country.”
The National Estate Churches Network says it is committed to training estates residents to become future church leaders and to supporting existing Christian communities on estates, which may see collaboration with other denominations.
“The church is coming back,” North said. “The Holy Spirit is doing amazing things on the estates of this nation.”
The vicar of church@five, on the Strawberry Estate in East Finchley, London, Helen Shannon, said: “The Church of England’s vision is ‘A Christian presence in every community’: that means no forgotten people, no forgotten places, even in some of our toughest estates.
“I’m so excited that the church has a growing commitment to the revitalization of estate churches, plans to launch new estate churches where none currently exist, and a vision to raise up local people from the estates to achieve this.”
The chair of the network, Andy Delmege, vicar at St Bede’s Church in Brandwood, Birmingham, said: “As a priest who ministers on estates, I am very excited about these plans.
“I pray it will continue to stimulate fresh energy, vision and resources in our existing estate churches, as well as inspiring new initiatives.”
The church’s Estates Evangelism Task Group is part of the C of E’s Renewal and Reform program.