The Church of England in Lancashire announces today an important appointment as part of its ambitious outreach programme aimed at deprived urban estates in Lancashire.
Matthew Rowley, 43, (right in picture with Rev. Peter Lillicrap) is originally from Stoke-on-Trent and is currently working at Christ Church with All Saints, Blackpool.
He will begin work as the Lead Evangelist for a Church Army Centre of Mission on Grange Park from June of this year. Matthew will be licensed into the role by Rt Rev Philip North, the Bishop of Burnley, on June 19.
The funding for the role will come out of a £1.54m grant awarded to the Diocese in December last year as part of The Church of England’s ‘Renewal and Reform’ initiative.
The £1.54m will fund three projects over six years – two in Blackpool and one in Blackburn.
Working with the churches of St Mark’s, Layton and St Luke’s, Staining, Matthew and a Pioneer Evangelist (still to be appointed) will continue to expand work already under way on the Grange Park estate.
And as part of a wider element of his role, Matthew will also be involved in setting up a network across Blackpool to help local parishes support each other in mission and evangelism.
Commenting on the announcement Matthew said: “I am delighted and really excited to be taking up this appointment; to be following the great commissioning of Jesus which is to go and make disciples of all peoples.
“The focus is to build a Christian Community of all ages on Grange Park. The hope is that as the work is established we can inspire and encourage churches across Blackpool in their outreach and to see growth and new works started.
“Please pray for this new venture, that God will open doors on Grange Park, that people will come to a living faith in Jesus and that we will be able to train and equip many so that we can make a real impact across Blackpool and throughout the diocese.”
Rev Peter Lillicrap from St Mark’s, Layton and St Luke’s, Staining added: “I am delighted about the appointment of Matthew and very grateful to the Church Commissioners for putting their faith and financial backing into this initiative.
“Matthew has a big task on his hands and I know that he and his family will value our prayers. Our hope, God willing, is that by sharing the Christian Faith with the people of Grange Park, and through the life-giving word and loving action, there will be new disciples of Jesus Christ on the Grange Park Estate.
“As part of Matthew’s work in the longer term we hope there will be a new worshipping congregation on the estate and further mission initiatives across Blackpool.”
Rt Rev Philip North, the Bishop of Burnley, has been closely involved in the work to secure the successful bid and in supporting the plans in Blackpool.
He said today: “This is a hugely exciting time for our Diocese. I am enthused by the news of Matthew’s arrival – his appointment is an excellent one and he will be a huge asset to the team on the ground in Blackpool.
“I believe passionately that if we are serious about the renewal of the Church we must commit ourselves afresh to proclaiming the Good News to the poor.
“In this context the new Church Army Centre of Mission will play a crucial role in transforming the way we spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ on Grange Park and, by extension, on urban estates in Lancashire and across The Church of England.”
Church Army Captain and Regional Development Officer for the North of England, Richard Cooke, added: "Church Army is delighted to be working with Blackburn Diocese to help share the good news of Jesus with the people of Blackpool, in partnership with local churches.
“Our prayer especially is that through this partnership the people of Grange Park will discover more of God's life-changing love, and many lives will be changed for good as a result.”