Pilgrimpace's Blog


advent journey – slipping forwards

I spent Thursday in London for a meeting of the Estates Evangelism Task Group.  It is wonderful to see the progress that the Group is making and the enthusiasm for Estate Churches that is welling up in the wider Church.  There was the good news of the new Church Commissioners Strategic Development Funding grants to dioceses, several of which are concentrating on estates or other deprived areas.  You can read about the Blackburn grant here.  I am really looking forward to deepening the Birmingham partnership with this and learning from it.

In the meeting we reflected on the excellent Launde Abbey Conference a couple of months ago.  Bishop Philip will be in touch with the participants about taking the actions forward very soon.

I walked from home to the local railway station gingerly, slipping and sliding on the sheet ice, trying not to fall.  More importantly than my meeting, others were travelling to or across London to St Paul’s for the Grenfell Tower Memorial Service.

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photo from Wikimedia Commons

You can read Bishop Tomlin’s moving Reflection at the Service here and listen to Isabelle Hamley’s Thought for the Day on it here.

There is so much on my heart as I meditate and pray on all this.  It is good to keep silent and still.  But one thing that keeps surfacing in my heart is that, as I reflect on the past year, I am very proud of the positive steps that the Church is taking with estate churches and ministry, but this is overshadowed by the stark fact that life is harder for so many of the people who live on them.  There is much work to do.  The shadow of the Tower hangs over us in judgement.

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necn 2018 conferences

Dear Friends,

You can now book your place on NECN’s April Conferences.

‘Tooled Up: the Craft of Estates Ministry’

Blackburn Cathedral Monday 16th April 2018 10.00am-3.00pm
Click here to book

Birmingham Cathedral Wednesday 18th April 2018 10.00am-3.00pm
Click here to book

At the NECN Conference this year, we will be launching the Estates Church Toolkit, an online range of resources that we know work to help support ministry on social housing estates. We will also be sharing in stories from Estate Churches around the country.

The Conference days will begin with a welcome over tea and coffee as you arrive, followed by a keynote address by Revd Andy Delmege, the new Chair of NECN (Andy has been a parish priest in estate parishes for many years, is a member of the Estates Evangelism Task Group, and Urban Estates Missioner in Birmingham).

There will be presentations from Estate Churches, telling rich stories of their lives and their ministres and looking at what has helped them to flourish (as well as what has been difficult).

There will also be available, throughout the day, a Marketplace of organisations and groups who provide helpful resources for Estate Churches.

Midday Prayer will be followed by a sandwich lunch which is included in the cost of the Conference. The afternoon session will see a panel of estate practitioners, thinkers and influencers present and take questions from the floor.

The cost of the day will be £25 including a simple sandwich lunch – if that charge prevents anyone from attending then please contact NECN using the details below to discuss ways in we might support your attendance.

Both venues are wheelchair accessible on the ground floor, including toilet facilities. Queries, dietary preferences or any other specific requirements should be notified to us via email at lynne.cullens@nationalestatechurches.org or on 07544 350692.

We look forward to seeing you!



estates evangelism podcasts

There are a good set of podcasts about estate churches, ministry and evangelism on the Church of England website here.  They are from October’s Estates Evangelism Conference (report here).  There will be news of the actions coming out of the Conference very soon.



Urban Congress


Final preparations for Saturday’s Urban Congress. Very excited …

Praying for all the parishes from Church of England Birmingham who will be there



into the depth

Perhaps Therese of Lisieux, patroness of all missions, was meant to live out a destiny in which her time was limited to a minimum, her actions were reduced to essentials, her heroism was indiscernible to those who looked for it, and the scope of her mission covered a mere few square meters, in order to teach us that the effectiveness of a mission is not always measurable by the hands of a clock, that actions are not always visible, that missions covering vast distances will be joined by missions that penetrate straight into the depth of the crowds of humanity.  In that abyss, these missions will make contact with the human spirit that questions the world, and oscillates between the mystery of a God who wants it to be small and stripped bare, and the mystery of a world that wants it to be great and powerful. 

from Ville Marxiste, Terre de Mission by Madeleine Delbrel



A Response to the ‘Church of the Poor’ Conference — Lynne Cullens
November 6, 2017, 9:17 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

I have the privilege of serving with Lynne on the National Estate Churches Network Exec.  This blog piece is, I think, essential reading for all those involved with estate churches.

A Response to the Church of the Poor Conference 2nd & 3rd November 2017, Manchester I’ve just returned from an inspiring gathering of 35 individuals, organisations, research bodies and Churches drawn together by CAP in Manchester and described as some of the key influencers on poverty and the Church nationally. The event was convened with […]

via A Response to the ‘Church of the Poor’ Conference — Lynne Cullens



how flourishing churches on estates are a gospel imperative

I’ve written a blogpost on this for the Church of England which you can read in full here

video here

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or here:

I have spent most of my ministry living and serving on estates. One of the best parts of this for me at the moment is travelling across the country to visit groups of estate church clergy in a city or diocese. It’s a great delight to encounter colleagues who are doing faithful and creative ministry, often in very tough areas. I always come away encouraged and energised.
Estate ministry and estate churches have a distinctive nature. The parishes are largely made up of council or ex-council housing, often on the outskirts of urban areas. People living in them often experience high levels of deprivation, although they often meet this with great resilience. There are often issues with education and with self-esteem. Austerity has led to the social fabric of estate life being squeezed and threatened. Many people in these neighbourhoods are struggling with the basic necessities of life, things like a home, food, clothes, warmth, at a time when a lot of the vital support to negotiate the systems is being stripped away. Many estate churches are working out ways of feeding people – especially children – during the summer holidays; the excellent and essential children’s centres here are facing closure due to the cuts; the number of police around has shrunk.
Most estate churches are deeply involved in the fabric and life of their parishes, often through actions and partnerships that seek to serve the community. Over the past couple of weeks I have seen churches engaged in imaginative children and families work, including a Holiday Kitchen; a School Uniform Swap; Places of Welcome allow people to drop in for a cup of tea and a chat. However, many estate churches face problems of capacity and congregation sizes are often small. There is often a feeling of not being understood by the wider Church.
In much of the country, people who live on estates come from a predominantly white working-class background, although in some areas there is fast demographic change. This can result in a damaging gulf between the culture and assumptions of the Church in its national and diocesan forms and how it exists on estates. This can take the form of assumptions that a middle-class lifestyle equals a Christian lifestyle; assumptions that people have spare money or access to computers; to what can be a deep-rooted feeling that you don’t belong.
Renewal and Reform has put a strong emphasis on estates and evangelism; seeing flourishing churches on estates as a Gospel imperative, as a response to under-investment in the past, and because things that work on estates are likely to work anywhere.
I have become Chair of the National Estate Churches Network, which has more than 20 years of experience in the area of ministry and is presently renewing itself as an independent but close partner to the Church of England’s new energy for estates ministry, representing estate churches, ministers and workers. We have a Kairos moment, a moment for urgent gospel action, where we can help our estate churches to flourish.
A key part of this is in forming groups of estate clergy in local or regional areas. There are many ways in which they can function, but they help us thrive and flourish, giving a corporate space to build and articulate vision, overcome isolation, share good practice, identifying particular training needs, reflecting theologically from our contexts, support those new to estates ministry, and offer mutual support and encouragement.
If you would like help in setting up an Estate Church Group, please get in touch at andydelmege@nationalestatechurches.org
Andy Delmege is Vicar of St Bede’s Church in Brandwood, south Birmingham. He is Urban Estates Mission Enabler in the Diocese, and is Chair of NECN.
This blog was produced as part of the Church of England’s Renewal and Reform programme, aimed at helping us become a growing Church for all people and for all places.