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Report from 16th October 2014 nha survey

This page is a report of a day conference that considered different ways in which the churches in England are engaging with the new housing agenda today. There have been various ways since the 1950s and in the conference we heard of established models being adapted and new models being tried. What is the challenge facing us today? How do the churches work together in this context? What 'assets' do we have to share? How best can we share them?

The day was planned for church leaders eng aged in the background handling some of these questions and we came from a variety of backgrounds and parts of the country. Many of us will have experience to share and one aim of the day was to collate what is available for the wider church and 'Churches Together'. We had some presentations to consider and spent much of the day listening to each other and learning how the issues of one context have been considered and worked through in another.  


Rev Simon Taylor, Moderator of the Churches Group for New Housing Areas and a Baptist Minister in Exeter, introduced the day with a history of the Churches group and an overview of resources collated so far with the quick lin

Cranbrook 2windows

As the County Ecumenical Officer at the time, Simon gave the early history of the Cranbrook development in Devon which was first thought of in 1999. A planning group of the churches began work in 2002 and housing started to be built in 2012, illustrating the long term commitment needed for churches engaging in the new housing agenda.

Simon explained the process of getting key people in place during the planning stage; engaging with the local planners; a commitment for the task which led to a road map of the vision. This was for a Covenant in the first instance, rather than a Local Eceumenical Partnership; building community before necessarilly planting a church; bottom up rather than top down strategy; linked to a school; with a worker rather than building approach. A '106 Agreement' approved a house, church site and primary school, from the development, while from the regional Methodist, URC and CofE church leaders, resurces were agreed for a church worker and 5 year funding, with ongoing support. The Local Authority wanted to see churches workjing together with a lead denomination/person for negotiations. The CofE diocese agreed and provided a part time project officer for this. The whole development stalled in 2008 but restarted again when the financial position was more secure.

Sue Macbeth is the current County Ecumenical Officer and brought the history up to date with the appointment of the Rev Mark Gilborson who described his ministry on behalf of the sponsoring churches on the development of 7-8000 houses.

Mark Gilborson said his approach was based on Gen 12:2 and the text 'blessed to be a blessing'. He asked, ' where being blessed and how can we celebrate the story?' Mark took a goody bag which contained biscuits, a bus timetable, phone numbers and a fridge magnet ('you never throw a fridge maget away do you?'), and found out of 450 homes only 1 refused. The fridge magnet had the contact for a community Facebook group (called 'Belonging to Cranbrook'). The first group to come together was a jogging/running group, then a Toddler group, Coffee Morning, Litter Pick, Car Wash etc as the needs became obvious. Mark's home on a Monday night was Messy Church, initially for a couple of families which grew.There is a question about creating an LEP, but 'we are wanting to avoid it' said Mark.

Sue Macbeth said that there is both a regional churches Management Group and a Local Support Group and funding agreed for 5-10 years. Both are monitoring developments and seek to put supporting structures in place around the work. An estimate of the current network is 300 relationships and up to 50 people in worship. See the research paper from Church Commissioners about the work. 

Aldershot Urban Extension - 'Wellesley'

Rev Graham Horsley is a Methodist Minister and a previous member of the Churches Group for New Housing Areas. Now in local ministry, Graham spoke about the opportunity, the intention, the partnership, the job and the challenges being considered in the planning stage.  

The opportunity. After a ten year delay, building will begin on Wellesley at the end of this year, the first of 4000 new homes will be completed in March 2015. Wellesley is on land formerly occupied by the Aldershot Army Garrison and is on the northern edge of the town of Aldershot. It is surrounded by very large garrison churches (CofE, CofS & RC) and the council and developers are very resistant to the idea of any new church building. They are, however, upgrading some of the existing army buildings for community use and as part of the section 106 agreement require the developers to pay for a community worker who will help develop community.

The intention. Over the last ten years, all the churches in the Aldershot and Farnborough area have been involved in discussion and are supportive of an ecumenical mission to the new community. We are currently drawing up a statement of intention which we hope will be widely endorsed.

The partnership. The Church of England, diocese of Guildford and the Methodist Church, Hants-Surrey Border Circuit in the South East Methodist District. are equal partners in funding a Christian worker and a house on the new development for said worker for an initial 5 year appointment.

The job. This was described as:

  • build community for all residents but also Christian community
  • have an evangelistic heart - the intention is to persuade people to become disciples of Jesus in Christian community who have not hitherto been part of the church.
  • use the workers house and existing community provision as a base - offering to help manage community facilities (church is good at this!)
  • develop appropriate worship reflecting the spiritual needs of the residents first and the traditions of the sending churches second.
  • lead a team of volunteers from local churches as a 'seed' team - encouraging them to buy houses on Wellesley when possible.

The challenges

  • Council and developers are polite but not particularly helpful.
  • No obvious template for writing an agreement between partners and supporters
  • available templates biased towards provision of religious buildings for existing Christians - not very missional.
  • How do you advertise a post open to any CTE member lay or ordained when each denomination has it's own terms and conditions of employment?

Examples of current practice

Various people present in the conference shared examples of current practice about churches working together and engaging with the new housing agenda.

'Mass Centre'. Rev Dr James Cassidy, a Roman Catholic priest from Milton Keynes, described the model of church for a Catholic community where Mass can be celebrated in different contexts. Regarding a new housing area, this could be a school hall or community centre.

Shopping Centre Chaplain. Rev Penny Marsh is a Baptist Regional Minister and spoke of her work which includes a chaplaincy model and getting to know people through the shopping complex. A Cafe Church meets once a month as well as many opportunities for seasonal events.

Bishops Mission Order. Rt Rev James Langstaff is Bishop of Rochester and spoke about a CofE mechanism for mission which recognises projects and people working alongside the parish structure. The BMO can work ecumenically in recognising and supporting ministry. For more infomration see Bishops Mission Order.

LEP Enquiries. Rev Dr Roger Paul is a Nationa Ecumenical Officer and presented a paper about Local Ecumenical Partnership and new arrangements coming in to place, especially as relating to new housing areas. Download the paper LEP Enquiries.

Sharing Agreements. We considsered the CTE resource regarding Sharing Agreements.

Declaration of Ecumenical Welcome and Commitment. We recieved a paper from Christ Church Moreton Hall, Bury St Edmunds, who have been opertaing with their Declaration of Ecumenical Welcome and Commitment on a new housing area since 1985. 

We considered the resource web page about the principle of a Lead Church in relation to negotiating with developers and planners in new housing areas.

Extra resources:

'More than Bricks and Mortar' JPIT report
Neighbourhood Planning
Baptist C31 Creating a new Church or Organisation
Fresh Expression example: The Beacon
CofE GS report re Church and New Housing Areas
LEP Resources and Advice
Report from Pioneer Ministers in New Housing Areas
6 Models of Mission in New Housing Areas PPT
New Housing? Top Ten Tips for Locan Ministers

The chair for the day was Revd Simon Taylor, Moderator of the Churches Group for New Housing Areas.



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