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Bishops of The Church of England in Lancashire donned hard hats and hi-vis to join the team at St Luke’s in Blackburn recently as demolition of their old church hall got underway.

Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff, Bishop of Lancaster and Rt Rev. Philip North, Bishop of Burnley, were helping to mark the latest phase of our ‘Lighting Up New Generations’ project in the Diocese.

In the summer, the Diocese announced its plans to renew ministry across the generations following a huge new investment from the national church of £3.5m.

The money awarded to the Diocese is funding the development of two new ‘resourcing churches’, both emerging out of Preston Resourcing Parish, which itself has been revitalised over the past two years following a previous successful Strategic Development Funding application from the national church.

‘Resourcing Churches’ are churches with a brief to catalyse the development of younger and more diverse leadership which in turn lead to the revitalisation of church life.

Young people are at the forefront of St Luke’s, Blackburn which is working towards becoming a multi-generational resourcing church that supports mission with (and investment in) youth ministry across the Diocese. Meanwhile St John’s Blackpool is developing a multi-generational resourcing church with a focus on social outreach and healing.

Rev Jason Gardner is Resourcing Church Leader (Assistant Curate) at St Luke’s and Rachel Gardner is Youth Innovation Lead; while Rev Andy Dykes is the new St John’s Resourcing Church Leader on the Fylde Coast.

The demolition of the old church hall is a key part of the project at St Luke’s.

Jason said today: “We’re thrilled that building work has begun at St Luke’s. We want to see children, young people and families thrive in this area and this building project will really help us do that. Our team have already started work with young people across Galligreaves and Bank Top in the town and in key local schools and so we’re excited that the work is taking a step forward.”

Jason described how they have been talking to community members, teachers, our local PCSOs and councillors who are all in agreement that there is very little happening for youth in their local area.

Jason continued: “Our new centre will be a hub for great youthwork. We’re remodelling the main Church and knocking down the existing hall and building a bigger one, replacing one storey with two. When it’s up and running we’ll be hosting programmes like after-school clubs and we’ll aim to be a centre where the local community can meet to plan for positive change in the area and act on it.

“It’s so good to have the Bishop of Lancaster and the Bishop of Burnley here to see the beginnings of the building work and to get their hands dirty and knock out a brick or two! The Diocese is putting their full weight not just behind sledge hammers but also in wanting to reach and connect with emerging generations!”

Bishop Jill chairs the ‘Lighting Up New Generations’ project and said: “It was great to get stuck in on the first day of demolition today! This practical work is just the latest step towards our much wider aims of normalising church growth and church planting.

“At our most recent Diocesan Synod meeting, members committed to supporting our aim to create 200 new local congregations and 10 strategic church plants in the coming years.

“These will represent all church traditions, demographics and locations. We are excited for all that God has in store for us as we fix our eyes on Him and on 2026, which is the year we have set for achieving our ambitious growth aims.”

Bishop Philip added: “Lighting Up New Generations’ is a daring project that challenges the narrative of decline and says that, with God’s help, we can see a visitation of the Holy Spirit across Lancashire and real numerical growth in our churches.

“Since we launched Vision 2026 back in 2016, our overarching aim of having ‘Healthy Churches Transforming Communities’ has been central to everything we do to make disciples, grow leaders, be witnesses and inspire children and young people for Jesus Christ. St Luke’s and St John’s will, of course, be central to the inspiration of children and young people.

“It has been fantastic to see things moving forward in such a real and tangible way this morning … and it’s been great to have a go at wielding a sledgehammer too!”

The demolition work will continue for now at St Luke’s then work to create a new building will begin in with an aim of completion by early May 2022.

For more information on the ‘Lighting Up New Generations’ project, please click here and here.

Captions below for the above photos::

First photo: The team at St Luke’s, plus representatives from Patrick Wilson Architects and site managers, H.H. Smith, cheer the day this week when the demolition work begins at the old church hall including, front centre, Rev Cath Brooks (Vicar of the whole Benefice of Blackburn St Aiden and Blackburn St Luke, St Mark and St Philip) in orange jacket and white hat; Bishop Philip and Bishop Jill; with Rev. Jason Gardner (Resourcing Church Leader (Assistant Curate) at St Luke’s) front row second left.

Second photo: Bishop Philip symbolically raises the first mallet as demolition work begins at St Luke’s church hall watched by (l-r) Rachel Gardner, Youth Innovation Lead; Rev Jason Gardner; Rev Cath Brooks and Bishop Jill.

Third photo: Everyone in attendance for the start of demolition at St Luke’s church hall takes time to pray in the main church building for the successful project ahead; for the architects and also for the safety of all contractors.