Investment set to grow new disciples in Southall, Hounslow & Tower Hamlets
Two projects within the Diocese of London have been awarded a total of £4.5 million in Strategic Development Funding from the Church Commissioners, with the aim of growing new disciples through a combination of intercultural and youth-focused work, church planting and revitalisation.
The funding is set to be split across the geographical areas of Southall & Hounslow, and Tower Hamlets, regions that feature a significant population of youth and young adults, economic deprivation, within a context of ethnic and religious diversity.
Together, the projects plan to:
- Grow over 1,000 new Christian disciples through 21 new worshipping communities/congregations and several cross-area ministries and projects
- Build appropriate and representative leadership capacity (by ethnicity and age) through the training of emerging leaders of the New Worshipping Communities, and to generate more intercultural and youth-focused work
- See parishes, deaneries and Areas work closely in partnership with one another to deepen missional impact
- Build on the Diocese of London’s experiences of planting, and best practice from across the Diocese and nation
Three Episcopal Areas will be impacted by the work of the projects; Willesden and Kensington will benefit from the work of the Southall & Hounslow project, with a strong intercultural and youth mission focus, while Stepney will benefit from the Tower Hamlets project, with its strong focus on youth, young families and young people.
Key aims of the Southall & Hounslow project include:
- Planting 15 mixed-ecology town centre, language, estate, creative and youth congregations through our parish churches, serving up to 500 new Christian disciples
- Equipping, enabling and supporting 60 emerging young leaders of predominantly African, African-Caribbean and South Asian heritage backgrounds
- Making a significant quantifiable social impact in complex, economically deprived communities by developing eco-churches, social enterprises and youth hubs which seek to equip and resource teenagers and young adults for life in all its fullness
- Galvanising intercultural discipleship across its 13 parish churches, through training 500 people in intercultural mission
Mark Poulson, Minister for Church and Community Development across North Hounslow and Southall, is excited to see the funds invested in developing local leaders across the area.
“It’s been really exciting to see how the Holy Spirit of God is working in our local parish churches and especially amongst its emerging young leaders,” said Mark. “Despite the very real challenges of poverty and deprivation, we’ve seen lives changed through encounter with Jesus Christ and significant growth here in the church. This is an opportunity for the Church of England to invest in discipleship in a complex and dynamic area where a missional group of parish churches are committed to growth, intercultural ministry and the holistic transformation that is at the heart of the kingdom of God.”
A key focus of the project will be investment in young people, with youth discipleship courses, a leadership programme and the launch of a youth congregation in Southall. There is an expectation that the award of significant funding from the Strategic Development Fund will also enable additional match-funding for a youth centre and training hub to be based at St John’s Old Church in King Street Southall, formerly a church plant for railway workers and their families in 1838.
Over in East London, the Key aims of the Tower Hamlets include a focus on Growing Younger by:
- Developing three missional workstreams – youth, young adults, and young families – each contributing to the growth of six new worshipping communities
- Establishing six New Worshipping Communities (as part of a part of a deanery-wide BMO), generating over 500 new Christian disciples over five years
- Providing borough-wide coordination of digital work and social transformation
- Exploring innovative approaches to reach diverse communities
Currently, only 0.4% of the population of Tower Hamlets are connected to a church community, despite having experienced the biggest population increase of any borough in the country, according to the latest census figures. While the numbers are low, Darren Wolf, Rector of Christ Church Spitalfields who has helped oversee the Tower Hamlets project work, is excited by the increased openness to the gospel he and his team have witnessed in the area in recent years.
“There’s a definite hunger for spiritual community – especially among young people, and parents of young children, from all sorts of cultural and ethnic backgrounds,” said Darren. “The work funded by this Strategic Development Funding will help to bring young Christians together to grow in their discipleship, as well as equipping them to tell their peers about their experiences following Jesus. We hope that church family will be a space for parents with children under five, where they can grow and flourish spiritually as they explore the spiritual framework for parenting we find in scripture.”
“This funding will augment, multiply and help us to network mission with those groups, and help catalyse six new worshipping communities across the deanery. We would love to see local leaders raised up over the course of this project to lead groups and churches in future.”
Experience in the Diocese of London shows that church planting and revitalisation are some of the most effective ways to grow new disciples. These projects will build on the insights and successes of resource churches and new church plants across both Southall & Hounslow and Tower Hamlets, furthering the collaboration of churches across both regions to pool resources and thus make a bigger impact.
“Connecting with other churches and making missional plans in your area is a great way to bring together people who have a heart to see people welcomed into God’s family as widely and effectively as possible,” said Darren.
The projects will contribute to the Diocese of London’s vision for the next 10 years; ‘For every Londoner to encounter the love of God in Christ’, partially through planting 400 new worshipping communities by 2030, and supporting parishes to grow the size of C of E congregations in London from 1.6% of the population to 4%.