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As our Diocese moves forward with our ‘Vision 2026 Healthy Churches Transforming Communities’ and goes for growth, we have seen the launch of our latest new congregation … at a local high school.

Around 75 young people gathered at St Christopher’s CofE High School, Accrington, recently for the launch of a new Youth Church there; with a service led by Rt Rev Philip North, Bishop of Burnley. 

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

This is the latest of those new local congregations which has been two years in the planning with local Vicar (and Area Dean for Accrington Deanery) Father David Arnold closely involved.

Father David said: “This is an exciting new congregation which we hope will be transformative in the lives of those young people we reach out to; whilst also reaching out to the wider community beyond the school doors.

“The principle behind this congregation is it will be ‘by youth for youth’; developing the leadership skills of the young Christians who are part of it and equipping them to lead worship and share their faith.

“It will be outward-facing, seeking to proclaim the Christian faith to new people; and it will seek to nurture followers; inspiring them in order that they might become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. In these ways, we are really excited to be linking with the Diocesan Vision 2026.”

Bishop Philip attended the launch Eucharist, preaching on the Beatitudes of Matthew’s Gospel reminding the new congregation of the need for Christians to be pure in heart — or to ‘know our need of God’.

Father David added: “This is something which has been very much on the hearts of those who have been planning this new congregation, and Bishop Philip’s message was very well received on the day.”

Meanwhile, the plan going forward is for the congregation to meet twice per month, for a Eucharist on the first Thursday and for a Worship service, led entirely by the young people, on the third Thursday. 

Some of the young people from the school got together after the service to produce a collective quote reflecting on the service. They said: “We felt the whole service went really well; the presence of God was tangible. The fellowship we prayed for prior to the start of the launch was definitely achieved, with lots of community spirit both before and after the service.

“We felt there was a welcoming atmosphere and the space to be free. Bishop Phillip did an amazing job at leading the service and the message he gave was very fitting for this exciting new adventure. We look forward to seeing all that God has in store for the young people of this church through both the Eucharist service and the youth service coming soon.”

The Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff, leads for the Diocese on new local congregations and church planting and is excited by the launch at St Christopher’s.

Bishop Jill said today: “This Youth Church taking its first steps together is just the latest stage towards our much wider aim of normalising church growth and church planting across our Diocese, setting beacons ablaze for Jesus Christ as we go, in all corners of the County of Lancashire.

“These will represent all church traditions, demographics, locations and ages. I am grateful to St Christopher’s and Fr David for their faith and courage in pioneering this. May it be the first of many across our amazing C of E High Schools, as we reach down the generations in Lancashire.

Captions below for the above photos:

  • Pictured before the service are l-r Christian Pountain, (Director of Spirituality at St Christopher’s); Grace Hands (Senior Worship Co-ordinator); the Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev Philip North; Father David Arnold, Vicar of the Parish; Jessica Bridge (Senior Worship Co-ordinator) and Daniel Ley.
  • Grace Hands (Senior Worship Co-ordinator) speaks during the service
  • The Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev Philip North, delivers the sermon during the service
  • Jessica Bridge (Senior Worship Co-ordinator) pictured during the service
  • Daniel Ley, from St Christopher’s, pictured during the service
  • Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff, Bishop of Lancaster, who leads for the Diocese on new local congregations and church planting