Transformative plans to invest £1.5m in the future growth of the Parish of Preston are announced today.
The plans will reinvigorate both Preston Minster and St George’s churches in the city centre; encouraging growth across traditions and creating a ‘Resourcing Parish’ to underpin the work of sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the people of Preston through words and deeds.
This fresh focus will include specific remits to reach out to those with no current church connection; people aged under 25 years old and to the local student population, utilising a combination of an outward-looking focus, sacrificial generosity, excellence, boldness, hospitality and creativity.
The ministry team will include clergy who will spend a couple of years in the parish learning about ‘church planting’ techniques (starting new churches) before they will themselves plant a church in one of the new housing developments springing up to the north of the city; on one of the city's social housing estates or even further afield than Preston itself.
A new Vicar of Preston will be announced in the near future. They will have responsibility, with God’s help, of ensuring the plans become reality.
The Resourcing Church project has been developed in partnership with Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) home of the well-known ‘Alpha’ Christianity discovery course.
It was early in December 2018 when The Church of England’s national Strategic Investment Board told Blackburn Diocese (The Church of England in Lancashire) they had approved the investment of more than £1.5m of Strategic Development Funding (SDF) towards the creation of the 'Preston Resourcing Parish' to be based across Preston Minster and St George's Churches.
The concept of a Resourcing Parish in Preston was first proposed in March 2016 following a visit to the county by Rt Rev Ric Thorpe, Bishop of Islington, who also has a national remit for church planting.
Over the next two years a small team led by Rt Rev Philip North, the Bishop of Burnley, developed the concept into a full-blown application for SDF.
Bishop Philip was supported in this work by the Archdeacon of Lancaster and Interim Vicar of Preston, The Venerable Michael Everitt, as well as the Area Dean, Rev Shaun Baldwin and the Deanery Lay Chair, Stephanie Rankin.
They all worked closely with Diocesan Vision Coordinator, Dave Champness who compiled the final bid document. The planning team had additional input from HTB representatives.
The new Resourcing Parish will build on the legacy of Fr Timothy Lipscomb and the interim ministry of Archdeacon Michael in their role as Vicar of Preston. The Diocese will invest in a parish ministry team (including an Anglo-Catholic full-time priest based at St George's).
Some of the national church's financial investment will also be used to further develop the Minster site as a welcoming multi-purpose space with expanded catering facilities.
These building works are expected to be completed (subject to formal building approvals) over the coming months and ahead of a formal launch of the project in late September 2019.
Speaking today the Diocesan Bishop Rt Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn, commented: “Thanks be to God for this next step in a very exciting adventure of faith.
“I pray that the work in the coming months and years will create a lasting impact in Preston and more widely around the diocese. I would like to thank all who have been involved in making this generous provision from the national church possible.”
Bishop Philip, who led the development team, added: “I’m really excited by the prospect of a Resourcing Parish in Preston serving people from across church traditions, as well as people who have no connection to the church at all.
“The hard work to get to this stage has been amazing and we now stand at the threshold of an even greater period in the history of the Parish of Preston. I look forward to seeing what God has in store for us as we prayerfully move forward.”
Archdeacon Michael, who held the reins as Vicar of Preston for a year after the retirement of Fr Timothy Lipscomb, also added his voice to the chorus of approval for the plans saying: “The news that we have secured the funding to begin this revitalisation work is a significant moment for Church in the county of Lancashire, as well as being a huge vote of confidence in the City of Preston.
“Our position at the heart of civic life, as we move forward with these plans across church traditions, make this one of the most exciting projects in the Church of England today.”