Young people are at the heart of the first project in Wales to win a share of a major new fund aimed at reviving Christian ministry in Wales.
The £1.9m project will see the creation of a new kind of church community aimed specifically at the ‘missing generations’ who have little or no experience of church life.
Called Hope Street, the project comes from the Diocese of St Asaph. It will see the establishment of a community centred on outreach to younger people, based at 1, Hope Street, a three-storey 1930s building in the heart of Wrexham which will be transformed into a Christian centre and worship space. The grant will enable a leadership team and core community, as well as changes to equip the building.
It is the first project to bid successfully for funding from the Church in Wales’ Evangelism Fund. The £10m Fund was launched last year for ambitious schemes to engage people with the Christian faith in vibrant and exciting ways.
Hope Street will be run in partnership with existing churches and the Church Revitalisation Trust (CRT) which specialises in church growth. It will train leaders and youth workers and in time establish new Christian communities across the diocese. The project aims to open in September 2020.
The Church in Wales’ Evangelism Fund is offering grants of between £250,000 and £3m for diocesan projects which crucially, focus on people rather than buildings. It is managed by a committee with expertise in church growth and business ventures. Each of the Church’s six dioceses can submit bids.
The chair of the committee, Sir Paul Silk, said “This is an imaginative project which we hope will appeal to young people and families who are currently under-represented in our churches and lead to real cultural change. We have been impressed by the work that has gone into the bid – it is a well-constructed project and we are confident it will ensure the Church’s money is well spent.”
The Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron, who is leading the Hope Street project, said, “Christianity is in danger of becoming a faith for older people in today’s Wales, and this project is designed to show that following Jesus is relevant and exciting for people of all ages and backgrounds. Hope Street will offer a radically different take on what it means to be a Christian and finding new ways to present the Christian belief that true life is found in following Jesus Christ.
“These are exciting times in the Diocese of St Asaph as we pray, plan and develop the vision for a new kind of Christian community which invites people of all backgrounds to learn about worship, faith and service.”
The Bishop of Bangor, Andy John, who is the lead bishop of evangelism, added, “I’m delighted this radical and visionary project has received the Fund’s support. This kind of investment will lead to transformed lives and communities.”
The Evangelism Fund was launched last June. Its £10m is being released from Church’s investments which are overseen by the its Representative Body.
The Hope Street project will set up a dedicated team to provide worship and outreach to those outside church. The base is the former Burton’s store, opposite St Giles’ Church in the heart of Wrexham. It will undergo substantial renovations to create a worship space, training and meeting rooms, office, kitchen and hospitality areas and a base for social and community engagement.
The centrepiece may be Wrexham, but the benefits of Hope Street will be felt in churches across the diocese. By the end of year four of the project, new church communities will be established elsewhere in the diocese. But from the start, the expectation is that workers in Hope Street will spend time in other churches, sharing their experience and skills.
It is also expected that Hope Street will be a base for community programmes in Wrexham, such as holiday hunger schemes, family care and support for rough sleepers.
The Diocese of St Asaph is already in discussions with Wrexham Council to ensure the renovation of Hope Street enhances the exciting plans for town centre renewal.