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Bristol: church closed since WWII to reopen, led by HTB vicar

A church in the centre of Bristol, which closed 65 years ago, is to reopen later this year with the aim of engaging young people and those who don't currently go to church in the city.

St Nicholas Church, which lies on the corner of Baldwin Street and High Street, will open its doors to a new congregation in the autumn. As a Resourcing church, its focus will be to serve the wider city, by reaching out to people currently unconnected to the Church and by assisting future church plants.

With 60 per cent of people in the city centre aged between 15 and 29, the new church’s particular focus will be on younger generations. The team at St Nicholas will be led by Revd Toby Flint, who is currently the Lead Pastor at Holy Trinity Brompton in London.

As well as focusing on exploring the three priorities laid out by the Diocese of Bristol in its vision – making disciples, growing leaders and engaging younger generations – St Nicholas will also partner with other churches and organisations as it gets involved in social action, including looking at ways to tackle homelessness, food poverty and youth unemployment.

Rt Revd Dr Lee Rayfield, acting Diocesan Bishop, said: “As Bristol becomes younger and more diverse, we want to make an impact on the city.

“We are excited about how St Nicholas will grow the Church and bring about social transformation.

“This is one way in which we will be developing our commitment to making more disciples, engaging younger generations and connecting with our communities in our changing city.”

Toby worked in youth and adult education in London and France before training for ordination in Oxford. He served his curacy at Holy Trinity Brompton, where he has continued in an associate role for the last six years. He is currently Lead Pastor with responsibility for Alpha and Sunday services.

Toby, who is married to Gill, said: “We're really excited about our move to Bristol, getting to know the city and working out how we can join in with all that is already going on.”

St Nicholas closed as a church following bomb damage during the Second World War. It was leased to Bristol City Council and was rebuilt as a museum telling the story of Bristol and making reference to the church setting.

A central feature of the church is a large altar triptych piece by William Hogarth originally commissioned for St Mary Redcliffe and subsequently bequeathed to the city.

Since the museum closed, the Council has used the space for firstly the Tourist Information Centre and then latterly offices. An agreement has been reached to continue to house the painting in the church when it reopens with allocated days when it will be made visible for the public to see.

The overall cost of refurbishing the church and funding its local and city-wide work over six years is £3.8m. As part of this, the Diocese of Bristol has been awarded £1.5m of Strategic Development Funding by the Church of England to support the costs across the first four years.

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