Recently Rt Rev. Philip North, Bishop of Burnley, led a 24-hour residential retreat at Whalley Abbey with the teams delivering the nationally funded Outer Estates Leadership projects in the diocese (pictured).
They are M:Power (operating in Blackpool, Darwen and Burnley), The Blackpool Centre of Mission and Freedom Church/Blackpool Ministry Experience together with Jacqueline Stamper, Ruth McGaughey, Carolyn Barton and Dave Champness from the Programme Board.
The teams had an opportunity to share with each other how their projects are progressing; especially through and after the pandemic lockdowns with many encouraging stories of people coming to faith and deepening their relationship with God, particularly through M:Power.
Rev Sam Cheesman, Bishop's Chaplain, led a time of reflection and the team shared the Eucharist at which the Gospel reading was from Luke 21:1-4 - the widow’s mite – a timely reminder of the generosity so often seen in estate parishes from those who have relatively little to give.
Pete and Linda Tomkinson provided the evening entertainment; a Freedom Centre styled ‘quiz-ingo’. The Tuesday morning was spent as individual teams looking ahead to 2024 when the national funding ends and what would financially sustainable activities look like.
The following week, Bishop Philip led a 24-hour residential retreat at Swanwick (the venue for our Diocesan conference in 2018 and 2022) with members of the national Church of England Estates Evangelism Task Group (EETG) that the Bishop chairs and is facilitated by Dave Champness (pictured).
The EETG were joined by over 50 representatives of national para-church organisations and estates/deprived context focal leads from dioceses across the country. There were three keynote speakers; Archbishop Stephen Cottrell, Rosie Hopley and Chris Lane whose talks were livestreamed and are available from the National Estate Churches Network YouTube Channel here.
Rev Linda Tomkinson shared the Freedom Church, Mereside story in the church planting workshop and Pete, her husband, shared the Freedom Centre journey in the workshop entitled ‘Church buildings on estates – a blessing or a burden?’; along with Becky Clark the Church of England’s Director of Churches and Cathedrals.
The EETG are developing a manifesto of actions aligned with the new national Church of England’s national strategy to be young, humbler and more diverse.
It was encouraging to hear Archbishop Stephen in particular picking up on the desire to see at least 2,000 of the 10,000 new worshipping communities located on/in estates and income deprived communities as reported in The Church Times here.
The Task Group was also encouraged during the event as one of the team, Rev Lynne Cullens who is chair of the National Estate Churches Network and Rector of Stockport and Brinnington, was announced as the next Area Bishop of Barking in the Diocese of Chelmsford on the final morning.