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Norwich diocese in plan to plant 10 new churches in five years

An ambitious programme to plant 10 new churches or revitalise existing ones over the next five years has been announced by the Diocese of Norwich, backed by a £2m grant from the Church of England. Keith Morris reports for Network Norwich & Norfolk.

Beginning in September, teams of church and worship leaders, sports ministers and others will be appointed to areas across Norfolk & Waveney, where research shows there are local needs the church can help meet and communities that can be better supported with additional resources.

The £1.98m programme seeks to reach both rural and urban areas, engaging with young people and families by focusing on areas of population around secondary school catchment areas. It builds on the Diocese’s Undergraduate Training Scheme in Youth Ministry and expands and combines that with the work of St Thomas Norwich (STN), a City Centre Resource Church in Norwich, which has experience of planting new congregations and churches.

Sports ministries form an important part of the programme, taking inspiration from STN’s Sports Factory which has been highly successful in running holiday clubs, community events, sports coaching academies, social sport and work with disengaged young people. Mobile skate parks and mobile football cages will form part of the programme to bridge the church and community through sport.

A new church training hub will also be formed, based at St Barnabas Church in Norwich, to attract and develop future leaders – both ordained and those not ordained. The Diocese’s vision is that the training hub will be an ongoing legacy of this programme to equip future church planting initiatives and support wider church revitalisation projects.

Speaking about the announcement, the Venerable Ian Bentley, Archdeacon of Lynn, who is chair of the programme board, said: “This is an exciting and fresh opportunity to develop new areas of work and help people in sharing faith with our communities. It builds upon the successful experience of STN’s work in growing a disciple-making church and is targeted to help communities where there is need. Churches are at the heart of community life and a growing church means we can offer more support to local communities. 

“We want to empower churches to exist for their local community, and so each church may have a different focus, style or support depending on local needs.”

Existing buildings will be used to deliver the programme and it’s envisioned that some new churches will meet in schools or village halls and some in existing church buildings.  Several churches being supported are existing church congregations whilst others will be new congregations.

Tim Henery, who leads sports ministry at St Thomas’s Church in Norwich, said: “I’m passionate about sharing sport with people. We want to see lives changed as a result of engagement with sport, faith and the church, and it’s really encouraging to see the vision of our work being embraced and replicated to areas of Norfolk which will benefit so much from it.”

Rev Ian Dyble, Vicar of the Mitre Benefice group of churches in Norwich, will additionally be appointed the Diocese’s first Director of Church Planting & Revitalisation.

Speaking about his appointment and the project, Ian said: “I’m delighted to have been appointed to lead this programme. Planting new churches and disciple-making is part of the DNA of the Church.  Jesus said: ‘I have come to give life in all of its fullness’, and we want to enable people to experience that together through the local church. 

"The new training hub is particularly important in enabling us to recruit and train individuals to be part of the new teams who will make such a difference, and I’m looking forward to others to catch the vision of the church in action.”

The money comes from the Archbishops’ Council Strategic Development Funding which supports transformational work programmes. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “From congregations in cafés and community centres to sports ministry and social action, these projects are moving the heart of our mission to where it should be, recognising Jesus beyond the borders of the institutional Church. The good news of Jesus Christ cannot be contained within existing worshipping communities. We want everyone to know how much they are loved by God.”

Work on the programme has already started with two church ministers recently appointed to work alongside existing leaders and churches in Costessey and Sprowston and familiarise themselves with aspects of STN and how their Sports Factory operates.

The first undergraduate student in the Diocese’ Undergraduate Training Scheme in Youth Ministry will start in September, and will be based in the Lowestoft area.

In Brundall and Thetford, the programme will start by seeking to employ youth ministers to help churches connect with young people.

The Diocese will also be recruiting staff to set up the programme’s sports ministry team and purchasing equipment.

Find out more on the Sports Factory at www.sportsfactory.org.uk

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