A £3m project which aims to make the Christian faith exciting, accessible and relevant across North Wales is to go ahead.
The “Llan” project will focus on people who have little or no experience of the Christian faith. It will nurture excellence in leading pilgrimages and welcoming pilgrims, grow a new Welsh language church community, and set up four pioneering social enterprises.
The name “Llan” comes from the Welsh for “holy place”. The project will create 21st Century ‘llans’ – places where people can encounter God and where lives can be transformed in today’s world.
The project, from the Diocese of Bangor, is the second to win a share of 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.
The Bishop of Bangor, Andy John, said Llan would build on the diocese’s priorities to nurture new disciples, grow new ministries and welcome children, families and young people.
He said, “We believe these priorities provide an excellent basis for developing Llan’s new streams of pilgrimage, Welsh-language evangelism and pioneer social enterprise projects. Through new work and through building on our strengths, Llan will enable us to become more confident in the gospel across the whole diocese. I want to thank the committee members for their confidence in our plans, as well as those colleagues whose vision and courage is leading us forward in new ways.”
The Church in Wales’ Evangelism Fund is offering grants of between £250,000 and £3m for diocesan projects which focus on growing the church.
The Fund’s committee is chaired by Sir Paul Silk. Announcing Bangor Diocese’s successful bid, he said, “Llan is an exciting and diverse project designed to stimulate new forms of ministry, to encounter people in different contexts and to nurture faith through cultural and social boundaries and in our two national languages. The bid was well thought-out and constructed, and we are confident that the project will be a sound use of the Evangelism Fund.”
A dedicated team will be established to lead the diocesan-wide project and develop the priorities of each stream. The team will be overseen by the Diocesan Council and will consult closely with clerical and lay leaders across the diocese to develop learning resources and identify key sites.
The Archdeacon of Bangor, Mary Stallard, said the social enterprises would be hubs for community activity, connecting with children, families and young people who were often on the margins of the church.
She said, “Our intention is to build on and extend the exciting pioneer work which has already begun in several places in the diocese. It’s our hope that we can develop new social enterprise projects: these would be ways of serving the needs of our local communities, modelling Jesus’ way of loving service.”
The Archdeacon of Meirionydd, Andrew Jones, said pilgrimage was a key way of inspiring and nurturing spirituality. He said, “For generations pilgrims have come to our diocese to visit the many ‘holy pilgrim places’ we have on our doorstep. Over the years I have observed with excitement the increasing pilgrimage traffic to Bardsey Island at a time when regular church congregations are weakening. All of our pilgrimage sites are places of silence, beauty, light and even of imaginative transition from this world to the next – spaces of precious and irreplaceable gifts.”
Paul Roberts, the diocesan Communications Officer, said Welsh language mission was critical in the largely Welsh-speaking diocese. The project would include a gap-year scheme for five young people interested in Welsh language ministry. He said, “The evangelism resources available in Welsh are very limited and we have faced challenges in nurturing Welsh-speaking vocations. By an injection of new energy into this important area, Llan will provide a constant Welsh-language base to nurture and support evangelism throughout the entire diocese.”
The Evangelism Fund was launched last June. Its £10m is being released from Church’s investments which are overseen by its Representative Body.
The three streams of the Llan project are:
Pilgrimage –to celebrate places, buildings and landmarks that hold the breadth of Christian heritage. The project will look at how these places can be shaped to tell the story of faith and to inspire evangelism. It will establish six new centres of excellence around the diocese and invest in new and old pilgrim pathways criss-crossing the diocese. People will be trained as welcomers and guides to tell the Christian story and invite visitors to become true pilgrims by interweaving their own story with the living story of faith.
Language – to grow a new Welsh-language church community, supported by a gap-year scheme that will allow up to five young people each year to get a taste of Welsh-speaking Christian ministry. In addition, a range of Welsh-language resources will be developed to support learning, worship and innovation.
Enterprise – to establish four new hubs of community activity. Be it a café, a pub, arts space or a workshop for local emerging small businesses, a hostel for hill-walking school parties or a newsagent in a village where services are scarce, justice-oriented enterprises will be launched to help to bring life to local communities, as well as providing an opportunity for a new type of church to gather.