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An ambitious programme aimed at deprived urban estates in Lancashire has been singled out for funding as part of a multi-million pound drive to renew the Church of England.

It was announced today that the programme in the Diocese of Blackburn (The Church of England in Lancashire) is one of eight across England to receive a share of £24.4 million in funding to support major work on growth and change across the country.

A total of £1.54 million has been allocated for the programme in Blackburn Diocese to fund work in outer urban estates and parishes over six years.

It will focus on training new leaders, both lay and ordained, with a view to providing a model for other dioceses, while also strengthening mission in the areas where the work is located.

The Church of England’s Strategic Investment Board has agreed to make the awards for Lancashire and elsewhere in the Church of England as part of the Church’s Renewal and Reform programme.

The new programme’s three projects

Working with the churches of St Mark’s, Layton and St Luke’s, Staining a lead evangelist and a pioneer evangelist, based at Grange Park Church Army Centre of Mission in Blackpool, will be funded to continue work already under way by clergy and congregation on the estate. A network will also be set up across Blackpool to help parishes support each other in mission and evangelism.

The award will also fund 20 young adults to take part in the ‘Blackpool Ministry Experience’ over the next six years. They will live on the Mereside Estate in Blackpool and work with Freedom Church on the Mereside Estate alongside local residents, as well as in nearby deprived urban parishes in Blackpool.

Finally, a ‘leadership hub’ in outer estates ministry for both lay and ordained training will be created in the parishes of Lower/Over Darwen near Blackburn, led by St James’ Church.

Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev Philip North, said: “I am delighted to hear the news of the success of our application for funding. I believe passionately that if we are serious about the renewal of the Church we must commit ourselves afresh to proclaiming the Good News to the poor.

“This project will share the Good News with people living on our urban estates by planting a number of new congregations. However, it will also ensure that church life is sustainable over the long term in these areas by forming quality lay and ordained leaders both from and for our estates. Our aim is to call and form local leaders who can be good news for their communities.”

The original bid for the new funding was drawn together by the Diocese of Blackburn’s Vision Coordinator, Dave Champness, who lives in Leyland.

Dave said today: "As Vision Coordinator and Programme Manager I'm delighted the Church Commissioners have supported this application. We have three very different, yet linked projects, to be resourced by enthusiastic individuals whose activities should have a lasting impact on the faith of those living in our more financially deprived communities, not only in Blackpool and Blackburn, but across the diocese and beyond.

“We ask people now to please pray that the right applicants will come forward for the project roles and the practicalities of setting up the projects such as appropriate accommodation will be implemented smoothly."

Rev Tim Horobin from St James, Lower Darwen, said today: “I am thrilled at this news! This is great for the local communities here and will enable us to access resources to help in presenting the Gospel in culturally relevant ways. We will do this while working within the Diocese’s Vision 2026 mission to create healthy churches transforming communities.

“We will now move to set up a new training unit to help deliver fresh and innovative training to ordinands, produce urban leaders and develop alternative ways of working in and engaging with our communities to make disciples, be witnesses and grow leaders for Jesus Christ.”

Rev Peter Lillicrap from St Mark’s, Layton and St Luke’s, Staining said: “In our parish we are looking forward to the prospect of continuing our growing work on the Grange Park estate.

“This is an amazing step of faith by the Church Commissioners as we seek to take the Good News of the Gospel to a neglected part of this large parish. Since the Anglican church in the heart of the estate was demolished for housing and the only pub closed there has seemed to be a lack of hope.

“Our hope and prayer is that, building on the great work already happening and through the good working relationships we have with community groups, the Church Army Centre of Mission will flourish.

“Eventually we hope a church will be planted back onto the estate. We also pray that the Centre of Mission will have a much wider impact in renewing and encouraging outreach and mission in Blackpool and beyond so that Jesus is glorified.”

Rev Linda Tomkinson, from the Freedom Church, Mereside added: “The aim of the Blackpool Ministry Experience is to give three young people each year a chance to explore their vocation, whether to lay or ordained ministry, through placements, theological study and reflection.”

Linda added: “We are offering them experiences to try things out, to learn through placement, theological study and reflection with a mentor.

“If these young people do end up working in full-time ministry we believe their year spent with us will give them skills which can be transferred into any social setting but we believe it will also give them courage to apply for ministry in areas of deprivation which are classically hard to attract clergy to work in.”

  • The other seven dioceses to receive funding as part of the latest announcement are Bath and Wells, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Sheffield and Winchester.