Myriad, which is a central part of the work of The Gregory Centre for Church Multiplication and led by Bishop Ric Thorpe, has a vision to serve the mixed ecology vision and strategy of the Church of England by resourcing the planting of thousands of different churches by 2030. This work has been able to start because of the support of £350,000 match funding from Benefact Trust. And one of the exciting discoveries of this research is that parishes in every different context and area of the country have already begun to support lay people in planting new churches to love and serve different people.
As the Church of England began its renewal and reform process, priorities of a simpler, bolder, younger and more diverse church emerged and this is exactly what Myriad’s research has uncovered is happening through these lay-led communities. Myriad aims to shine a light on what is already happening and provide guidance and resources to dioceses, church planters, and churches to help parishes establish new worshipping communities.
This latest research from the Myriad team has unlocked many great stories of new churches being planted creatively. From people who have grown up on estates and planted churches to reach their community, to churches planted online during the Covid-19 lockdowns, and others on new housing developments. The research is made up of a series of interviews with lay leaders to listen to their experiences and understand what training and support has enabled them to plant a church, what challenges and barriers they have had to overcome, and what additional support they would have benefitted from.
One of the key learnings was the significance of a lay person having someone to champion them. This ‘champion’ helped them step forward in leadership and gave them the support and oversight they needed to plant the new church community. This reveals how important the partnership is between the parish priest and the lay leader and the parish church and the new congregation, because so often that champion came from the parish.
This was true for Emma Miles
, the lay leader of a wonderful church community in the West Hill estate in Bridlington. When the Myriad team talked to her about her journey as a lay church planter, she referred again and again to the support Revd. Mark Carey gave her as the Parish Priest of Christchurch Bridlington, and the support she received from the diocese.
Myriad wants to help see these partnerships and stories multiplied thousands of times in parishes in every diocese. From this research, the Myriad team is developing a well-rounded bank of recommendations and resources for churches and dioceses to use to effectively train and support lay people to plant churches. The research report will be available mid January.
Jeremy Noles, Head of Grants and Relationships for Benefact Trust, said: “We are delighted that our funding can support this exciting new movement which will grow and revitalise churches throughout the Church of England and see increasing numbers of worshippers from diverse backgrounds, including younger people. This fresh, creative approach is just what is needed after a challenging period, with many people looking to explore faith in different ways.”