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evangelism on urban estates – report

Evangelism on Urban Estates Conference

York 1st March, 2016 – Report by Andy Delmege

I attended and spoke at this excellent consultation day, which was attended by estate clergy from most CoE dioceses, plus representatives from the Archbishops Evangelism Task Force.


The Conference came out of work by the Taskforce on Evangelism and the recent Synod Debate.  Estate churches are declining faster than other churches but are grossly underfunded compared to other churches.  As Bishop Philip North says, this is a betrayal of the Gospel; a church which abandons the poor, abandons God.

The Conference:

It was an extremely good day.  There was a lot of energy and enthusiasm, while remembering the toughness of estates ministry.  It is vital that this is not lost but that it is taken forward.  Six estate clergy were asked to give short talks reflecting on what they are currently learning about estate evangelism.  These were Kate Wharton from Everton, me (Andy Delmege, Birmingham), Abi Thompson from Rotherham, Jane Winter from Orpington, Gary Hodgson from Bradford, and Peter Hapgood-Strickland from Burnley. Bishop Philip North gave a keynote address, David Jennings from the Church Commissioners outlined the statistical background to all this, and Malcolm Brown helped us with theological reflection.  The day contained good and focussed group work, asking what do we need to do to renew church life in estates, and what are the three steps the Church needs to take as a result of this conference.

Philip North’s Keynote Address is available here: http://www.blackburn.anglican.org/images/News/Estates%20Keynote.pdf

There will be a full report on the Archbishop of York’s website by the end of March.

Key Issues Arising from the Conference:

  • – This is a kairos moment for the Church of England and it is important that we seize it.

There is prophetic anger that the Church is letting estates and the people who live on them down.  If we are to be true to the Gospel and true to Jesus we need to be a Church of the poor.  If we abandon estates, we are abandoning God.


  • – Seeing estates and estate churches as blessing and gift rather than as problem.

We have much to teach and give the wider Church.


  • – Estate ministry shows us that evangelism in this context is organic – it cannot be separated from service, prophetic action, building up people, praying and the like.  But it is and must be a priority.  We cannot neglect it.


  • – The need for pathways for estates people to grow into leaders, evangelists, be empowered and the like.  They will be the best people to do this.


  • – However, realising that there is a great gulf between Church culture and estate culture.  How do we bridge it?


  • – How can the voices of estate folk be heard in and by the Church?


  • – What can the Church do at a national level and at diocesan level to support us?


  • – Estate ministry is hard.  It is often exhausting and draining.  Lay teams and the like are often extremely vulnerable.  It is essential that the wider Church properly supports estate clergy and churches.


  • – Numerical growth in estate churches is often slow and difficult.  How do we best support it?  There are often times when things go backwards.


  • – Estates clergy and churches have moved on from where the rest of the Church is stuck.  There is great respect and support for one another’s ministry whatever part of the Church we come from and inhabit.  Churchmanship and re-fighting the Reformation do not matter.  We are not interested in using money as a weapon.


  • – We are used to doing things with very little money and resources


  • – Getting away from the language of being subsidised by wealthier parishes


  • – What resources work in estate parishes?  Jesus Shaped People was mentioned several times.  How can we develop new ones?

So many of the courses and initiatives are suburban and don’t work well in our context


  • – We are at a crisis point nationally (it would be really useful to reflect with estate clergy, the hierarchy and the mission team as to exactly where we are in Birmingham in terms of this, and in what we are being called to do as a result of this)


  • – Offering to the Church ways of seeing that are not based around money and numbers but try to go instead to the Gospel


  • – Getting away from the rich doing to the poor


  • – Need to take risks, be creative, be imaginative, use what works, dream up new things  – new and culturally appropriate models of church life



I have a longer version of this available.  Please ask if you would like it.


1 Comment so far
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Hi Andy- thanks for this. I wasn’t able to make the day. Looking forward to seeing how I can learn to share the gospel with the kids on the roof:) Can you send me the longer version please

Comment by Kathryn Fitzsimons

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