An exciting new era for The Church of England in Lancashire began in the City of Preston last night as the opening Civic Service for the new ‘Preston Resourcing Parish’ took place at Preston Minster.
The resourcing parish consists of the congregations of the Minster and St George’s in the city centre who joined together with other invited guests at a new-look Minster building last night at 7pm to mark the occasion.
At the Civic Service Rev. Sam Haigh, the new Vicar of Preston (and the man in overall charge of the resourcing parish) and Father David Craven, Assistant Priest based at St George’s were joined by Diocesan Bishop, Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Blackburn and Rt Rev. Philip North, the Bishop of Burnley and the Dean of Blackburn, The Very Rev. Peter Howell-Jones.
The Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, The Rt Hon. The Lord Shuttleworth, led civic dignitaries who also included the Mayor of Preston, Councillor David Borrow; County Cllr Paul Rigby Chairman of Lancashire County Council and High Sheriff of Lancashire, The Hon. Ralph Assheton.
Lord Shuttleworth said: “This building is now a happy combination of old and new. I am here today because I want to do anything I can to encourage the work of this new Parish. The Church has much to offer our communities and we need to grow congregations.”
The Mayor, Councillor David Borrow, added: “Speaking on behalf of Preston the investment in the Parish is immensely important and a huge sign of commitment, optimism and faith by the Church in our city.”
In January this year it was announced that The Church of England’s national Strategic Investment Board had approved the investment for this Diocese of more than £1.5m of Strategic Development Funding (SDF) towards the creation of a new 'Preston Resourcing Parish' to be based across Preston Minster and St George's Churches.
Bishop Philip led the team that pulled together the SDF bid, which was developed in partnership with Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) home of the well-known ‘Alpha’ Christianity discovery course.
The new resourcing parish of people from two different Anglican traditions will underpin the work of sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the people of Preston through words and deeds and it will also be a resource for churches across the city and County.
The fresh focus includes specific remits for the congregations of the Minster and St George’s to reach out to those with no current church connection, including the local student population, utilising a combination of an outward-looking focus, sacrificial generosity, excellence, boldness, hospitality and creativity.
Some of the national church's financial investment has been used to develop the Minster building as a welcoming multi-purpose space with expanded catering facilities. These building works were completed over the summer months with great collaboration by the contractor, Singleton and Smart Ltd of Blackpool and architects IWA Associates of Clitheroe.
Meanwhile appointments of the senior clerical team (Rev. Sam Haigh and Father David Craven; read a profile of the two men here) also took place over the summer.
New Assistant Vicars, Rev. Tim Roberts and Rev. Jason Gardner, are also now in place and support staff such as a worship leader; children and family worker as well as operational and administrative support have all been appointed since the initial investment announcement.
As the Minster filled up last night for the Civic Service, Rev. Sam Haigh said: “Preston Minster holds a special place in the life of Preston and we are delighted to be able to open the doors to our partners from the city and around the County on this historic occasion.
“As a church we are passionate about seeing Preston continue to develop and prosper. We believe that Jesus is good news for every person in Preston and we are also looking forward to throwing open the doors to the people of Preston this Sunday, September 29, and every Sunday after that, to welcome them.”
Father David Craven added: “I'm really excited about the launch of Preston Resourcing Parish. A lot of hard work has gone into making this a reality and it's fantastic to see something new being birthed in the city centre.
"It's my prayer that, with the Minster in partnership with St George's, we may be able to reach out with the love of Christ and see lives changed and the Preston transformed.”
Meanwhile the Minster’s longstanding Churchwarden, David Harrison, was equally enthusiastic. David, who has been in post since 1992, said: “The work to transform the Minster is an amazing achievement from a great team. Everyone has worked really well together. I am looking forward to being part of Preston Resourcing Parish.”
The Minster was busy last night with people from both congregations mingling with the invited guests.
They were welcomed by Rev. Sam Haigh, accompanied by his wife Hannah. Later, in his sermon, those present heard Sam say: “There is a fresh sense of optimism in Preston; of transformation. That is what Jesus is all about; the Church has always been right at the heart of social transformation.”
Speaking before the service Bishop Julian said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been involved in getting us to this point.
“Above all I give thanks to God for his grace and provision as we stand on the edge of a bold new era; an exciting adventure of faith in this city and beyond.
"It is my prayer that our work at Preston Resourcing Parish in the coming months and years will create a lasting impact here and more widely across the Diocese, as part of our Diocesan Vision 2026.”
Bishop Philip added: “Thanks to the hard work of so many people, in the period prior to the funding announcement and in the months since, we are now standing on the threshold of an even greater period in the history of the Parish of Preston.
“Our resourcing parish in Preston will serve people from across church traditions and people who may currently have no church connection at all.
"The months and years ahead will be exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing where God takes us.”
The Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev. Dr Jill Duff, also sent her best wishes saying: “This is a very exciting moment: the first Resourcing Church partnership with HTB in Lancashire; and the first in the country to partner with a traditional Anglo-Catholic parish. May the Spirit of unity and hope set many hearts on fire.”
As indicated by Rev. Sam Haigh above, everyone is welcome to attend the first Sunday service on September 29 at 11am in the new-look Minster building. For more information about that service and life at the Minster going forward, click here.
Captions ... pictured on this page descending from top to bottom:
Ronnie Semley, September 2019