The Church of England in Lancashire has taken another important step forward this week alongside the Church Army as part of its ambitious ongoing outreach programme aimed at deprived urban estates in Lancashire.
Church Army evangelist, Captain Matthew Rowley, was licensed by the Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev Philip North, as the Lead Evangelist for the new Church Army Centre of Mission on the Grange Park Estate in Blackpool.
The funding for the role will come out of a £1.54m grant awarded to the Diocese 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 expand on existing work already under way on the Grange Park Estate.
Matt, 43, originally from Stoke-on-Trent, was previously working as a Families and Children’s Worker for Blackpool’s Christ Church with All Saints, where he ran a children’s club, a Messy Church and a café church. He has also been involved in children’s ministry in Liverpool and Northern Ireland.
Speaking after the service Matt said: “I would like to thank Bishop Philip for licensing me. I would also like to thank my family, friends and all those who have welcomed me into this role.
“My prayer is that we will build a Christian community on Grange Park where people can come to a living faith in Jesus. As the work is established we also aim to inspire and encourage churches across Blackpool in their outreach and growth."
Rev Peter Lillicrap from St Mark’s, Layton and St Luke’s, Staining added: "This is an exciting time for us as we establish the Blackpool Centre of Mission initially focussed on Grange Park.
"Matt will be our Lead Evangelist and will be joined in the future by another colleague, a Pioneer Evangelist.
"I am asking everyone in Blackpool and across Lancashire to pray for the success of this initiative. Its success will have positive implications for the wider Diocese and the Church of England."
Bishop Philip added: "It was a real privilege to be able to license Captain Matthew Rowley as he takes up this important new role in Blackpool.
"Our Church Army Centre of Mission will play a crucial role in transforming the way we spread the Gospel on Grange Park initially and, by extension, further afield on other urban estates in Lancashire and across England.
“For too many years we have seen the slow withdrawal of Church life from many of our outer estates. I am thrilled that in Grange Park we are able to demonstrate once again God’s love for all his people through Matt’s presence and the ministry of service and proclamation he will offer.
“I am also grateful to our partners – the Church of England’s Strategic Development Fund and the Church Army – who have made this possible.”
Church Army Captain and Regional Development Officer for the North of England, Richard Cooke, said: "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.”