The Diocese of Guildford will set out together to found 100 new worshipping communities over the next ten years, as part of a widespread Diocesan strategy the Bishop of Guildford has announced today.
The target marks the centenary of the Diocese of Guildford in 2027 – and heralds the launch of a widespread strategic programme to improve, celebrate and grow the diverse offering of the Church of England in the region.
In addition to the target of 100 new congregations, the programme, entitled “Transforming Church, Transforming Lives,” sets out goals for the growth of vibrant, healthy and outward-looking churches, with an ambition to transform lives and enrich communities, and to bring more people to faith and Christian commitment.
The launch of the goals follows a year of consultation, wherein the views of more than 1,500 churchgoers across the Surrey and Hampshire region were gathered. The consultation revealed that growth in churches was frequently associated with making provision for children and young families, starting new worship services and engaging in social action projects. Churches also tended to be growing where they were responsive to changes in culture, in the light of so many activities now competing for the traditional Sunday morning ‘church slot’.
Along with the ‘100 new congregations’, another goal is to see 50% more vicars in training by the year 2020 to help meet a national shortage, as well as the training of lay leaders in all disciplines. Education is at the heart of the vision, with the number of Church School Academies set to rise rapidly, and with outreach into schools and further education establishments a priority. Other goals will aim to foster skill sharing, to improve church buildings and to streamline communications in parishes and chaplaincies.
To help enact the plan, parishes will be asked to pray together, then to identify priorities which suit their local context, by focusing on a few of the goals at a time.
This will be supported by central training, mentoring, resources and grant funding through a newly-established growth fund, with plans to top this up with grant applications to the Church Commissioners of the Church of England, particularly to ensure a faith presence is provided in the many new housing developments across the area.
The Diocese of Guildford has, today, also released a film to tell stories of transformative work already in action in the region. The film opens in a building site, where Pioneer Minister Jackie Maw wonders what the future will hold in the Wellesley development, Aldershot, to which she has recently been appointed. It then drops in on a number of worshipping communities where an after-church Prosecco drinks reception and an English language class for the Nepali community demonstrate different ways of building community across the diversity of our parishes.
Video trailer (see the full film)
"Excited by transformation"
The Bishop of Guildford, Andrew Watson, said:
“I’m very excited by the idea of transformation, because wherever I go I meet people whose lives have been transformed through their contact with the church and the God whom we worship.
“Hundreds of church-led community initiatives across the region, from food banks to street pastors, from youth clubs to elderly drop-ins, are also transforming whole communities, bringing hope and help to those who need it most.
“I’m particularly excited by the vision to found 100 new worshipping communities over the next ten years. While many people still appreciate a more traditional approach to church-going, our aim with this initiative is to allow people who may have never been to church to find their place in the Christian family.
“Bringing new people into Church means thinking creatively, thinking differently. In today’s society, people are often so busy that the traditional Sunday morning slot doesn’t work for them, but our experience is that the God-shaped gap in people’s lives is as real as ever.”
“While we can’t ignore the fact that nationally, church attendance has been gradually declining, what we’ve heard is that when we get the ingredients right, attracting new people is very possible.
“Growth isn’t associated with one particular style of worship, and we see it in many areas, from contemporary worship to cathedral services, with national statistics released just yesterday showing cathedral attendances to be consistently on the rise.
"All shapes and sizes"
“So we expect these 100 new congregations will come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it be an established congregation sending some of its members to a new area of need, a week-night service in an existing church, a group meeting in a pub or a skate park, this is about the Church meeting people where they are.
“Transforming Church, Transforming Lives is a framework, designed to encourage all our churches to work towards broader goals, which we pray might create a stronger, fairer and more faithful society. It has been fantastic to have so many people involved in its formation, and the message from the parish leaders who will be launching this vision today is that they can’t wait to get started!”