Pilgrimpace's Blog

new necn website

We are proud to announce NECN’s new website:



There’s still a little bit to do, but please share this with anyone involved in estate churches.

Please join in the conversation – we are very happy to publish guest blogs and articles

and please let us have any comments or suggestions

christmas, tiredness, pressure, social media
December 18, 2018, 4:17 pm
Filed under: christmas, estate churches, estate ministry, necn, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,


I am Chair of the National Estate Churches Network.  NECN is committed to flourishing estate churches, and as part of this flourishing we want our estate churches to be bigger and have more people.

But we know that many of our churches are small and that growing them is often hard, slow work.

This is one of the times of year that church leaders and clergy are really tired.

We are also now solidly in the season of social media where colleagues are sharing their successful Christmas services.

How does this all feel?
What does faithfulness and success look like for estate churches?
How do we judge if we are doing it?
Should we all take a social media break for a fortnight?

A load of slightly random thoughts, but would value your take.

Prayers for you all in the business end of Advent


The Built Environment, Churches, Transformation, Spirituality

NECN had this enquiry:

 “I’m interested in how the church can facilitate the transformation of the built environment. I’m interested in the psychological effect of social housing on inhabitants and how good design can facilitate the presence of God in a community.

I’ve done a little reading in this area but I was wondering whether you might be able to direct me to any persons, resources, or organisations that you know of who work in this area or are exploring these issues.”

 There have been a good number of comments in different places.  This post is to gather them together.  Please add to this and keep the conversation going in the comments below.


Gosh … Thamesmead. Yes.
Heard a fascinating R4 programme in the summer which describes Thamesmead South (where I am) as being built by architects according to atheist principles … ie if you meet purely physical needs, you have met all human needs.
Issues like beauty / social spaces / spiritual inspiration were ignored.
The built environment therefore directly militates against everything a church aims for.
Still working out a cohesive approach … other than picking up the spiritual bits which the environment causes.


Headspace – the psychology of city living” by Dr.Paul Keedwell is a helpful read. It deals with aspects of the built environment and how it impacts…


Tim Gorringe The Built Environment


David Walker: “Reading my book, God’s Belongers may be a start. I’m also part of the NHF Great Places Commission and we’ve seen churches in real anchor roles.”


Anne Power Estates on the Edge


“It is also worth following current housing discussions following government releasing cap on council borrowing for new building and following Grenfell wish to avoid some of the errors of the past. How the church can influence these discussions nationally is a challenge as it has not been a major player since days of Faith in the City. However in many local areas housing associations were begunChristians, and still have significant involvement. See recent tributes to Michael Eastman or Richard Farnell.”


Les Crossland: Principalities, Powers and Social Structures



Foxes have holes. Christian reflections on Britain’s housing needs” ed Andrew Francis available through Ekklesia.


“I would suggest looking at work by Stephen Hill and also the latest publication by CSAN (Catholic Social Action Network) called ‘Abide in Me’ http://www.csan.org.uk/…/2018/11/Abide-in-Me-CSAN.pdf. Suggests more Catholic parishes should be exploring this area…”


“I wonder if the communities that engaged with the Grenfell Tower fire 18 months ago have reflections to share.”


“My tuppenny worth is that the key to an environment in which people can thrive, even a not very beautiful (to some eyes) brutalist one, is some sense of collective ownership, neighbourliness, love and attention. Even so called “sink” estates can be great places to live when there is a sense of community safety, good regular maintenance and upkeep, some green planting and well used children’s areas. These things can be helped by design but don’t depend on it. Look at privately run tower blocks like those of the Barbican. The only difference between them and a council run Tower block is a concierge type service and good maintenance. A small but committed Christian presence in a community can be the catalyst for this kind of regeneration.”


“A very practical one is the offer of non commercial meeting / conversation space – in areas of vast “urban sprawl” with no high street etc they are one of the few “public” spaces”


“Minimising sensory hell and adding some ownership.”

after the fire

After the Fire by Alan Everett is a profound meditation on the role of the Church in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster by the parish priest of St Clement’s, Notting Dale.  I would recommend this book as essential reading for all engaged in estates ministry.

Laurie Green has asked that NECN share the review by Hugh Beaven below:


BOOK REVIEW:       AFTER THE FIRE : finding words for Grenfell   by Alan Everett
In this very readable and moving book, Father Alan Everett,  the vicar of St. Clement’s  Notting Dale, the parish  in which Grenfell Tower was situated,
writes about the Grenfell Tower fire and it aftermath.   In the words of the Bishop of Kensington, Graham Tomlin,   ‘the story of that terrible night and its aftermath is combined with profound reflections on the abiding value of faith and the parish system as part of the often  undervalued  bedrock of our social fabric. ‘
The book comprises 31 quite short chapters in 3 sections:  response, reflection, finding words, and concludes with a moving poem written by Fr. Alan.
The first section is in the nature of a diary of the unfolding story,  from the outbreak of the fire in the early hours of 14th June 2017 through the next few days  weeks and months.
Fr. Alan’s involvement began at 3.00am that morning when a neighbouring priest rang his doorbell and alerted him to the fire.  When he reached St. Clement’s, he opened the church,
‘ turned on the lights and lit the altar  candles as a sign of God’s presence and an invitation to prayer ‘. It was not long before other church members turned up and the church became
a place  of sanctuary, refuge and  comfort.
There was a tremendous spontaneous outpouring of donations of clothing, toiletries, water etc. which turned the church into what someone described as ‘the world’s biggest jumble sale’.
Eventually, a sign had to be put up outside the church to say that no more donations could be accepted.  Amongst items donated were  5 second hand fridges, of no use whatever for survivors living in temporary
accommodation, and as a gesture of support, massively inappropriate given it was thought that a fridge had started the fire. Equally insensitive was the callous comment made to him that at least those in the tower and the bereaved were from countries where suffering is endemic : ‘at least they’re used to it ‘.
In the 2nd section, reflection, Fr. Alan reflects theologically on the role of the parish church and the parish system as an expression of the Incarnation of God in Christ. He makes the point that many local people
had a great affection for St. Clement’s through  ‘key moments’ in their lives: at baptisms, weddings and funerals and through having attended the church primary school.
I knew St. Clement’s church over 50 years ago when, as  a newly qualified solicitor working in London, I was a member of the vicarage ‘family ‘ for some 15 months and became very involved in the life of the church and the parish.
St. Clement’s, which celebrated its 150th anniversary last October, was a product of the Oxford movement, that amazing renewal of the Holy Spirit which helped to transform the life and worship of the Church of England in the 2nd half of the 19th century
and inspired dedicated  (and often heroic ) priests to go and work in some of the poorest parts of our big cities.   I rejoice that St.  Clement’s   maintains an outgoing, inclusive anglo – catholic  tradition in worship and mission and is truly a parish church.
Hugh Beavan

necn news


  1. A Worshipping Community on Every Estate

It was great to be part of the NECN London Gathering last week where the Church of England’s Estates Evangelism strategy was launched, and to see so many friends there.

The strategy is ambitious.  This catches a glimpse of the vision:

Imagine a thriving, loving, serving, worshipping Christian community on every significant social housing estate in the country.

 Imagine a church which has really grasped the truth that renewal comes from the margins and is happy to invest imagination, resources and its best leaders there.

 Imagine new leaders, ordained and lay, from and for the estates churches, an army of Caedmons who can speak the Gospel in a language people understand.

 Imagine priests, new and experienced, longing to serve in estates and finding in that ministry inspiration, support and a profound sense that they are changing lives.

 Imagine estates residents, church leaders and theologians in rich dialogue to discern together the Good News of Jesus Christ on our estates.

 Imagine even more people who live on estates finding in their local church a voice for justice, a place of service and a community of love and in so doing discover their true dignity and beauty in Jesus Christ.

There is a great film accompanying this.  Watch it here:

The CofE issued this Press Release:

The Church of England is “coming back” to the estates, reversing a trend where over decades, services like shops and children’s centres have withdrawn, the Bishop of Burnley has said.

In a speech delivered at the National Estate Churches Network, the Rt Revd Philip North spoke of how outer estates are to be a key priority for the Church, with the publication of a new Commitment to Action to share the Christian faith on some of the country’s most deprived estates. He also launched a new film outlining the work.

The plans have been prepared by the Church’s Estates Evangelism Task Group, which is chaired by Bishop Philip, and is part of the Church’s Renewal and Reform programme.

Addressing the conference at St Francis at the Engine Room in Tottenham Hale, London, Bishop Philip said: “We want to have a thriving, growing, loving church on every significant estate in the country.”

The group is also committed to training estates residents to become future church leaders and to supporting existing Christian communities on estates, which may see collaboration with other denominations.

Speaking about the work of existing estate churches across Dioceses, some of which have been supported by the Church’s Strategic Development Funding, Bishop Philip said: “The Church is coming back. The Holy Spirit is doing amazing things on the estates of this nation.”

Birmingham Diocese’s Urban Estates Mission Enabler, Revd Andy Delmege, who is chair of the Estates Network and vicar at St Bede’s, Brandwood in Birmingham, said: “As a priest who ministers on estates, I am very excited about these plans.

“I pray it will continue to stimulate fresh energy, vision, and resources in our existing estate churches, as well as inspiring new initiatives.”

The Revd Helen Shannon, vicar of church@five on the Strawberry Estate in East Finchley, London, said: “The Church of England’s vision is ‘A Christian presence in every community’ that means no forgotten people; no forgotten places, even in some of our toughest estates.

“I’m so excited that the Church has a growing commitment to the revitalisation of estate churches, plans to launch new estate churches where none currently exist, and a vision to raise up local people from the estates to achieve this.”

Debbie Clinton, Director of Renewal and Reform, said: “Estates ministry is vital to the growth of the Church. I am delighted that as well as encapsulating the vision for estates evangelism, these new plans build on the wonderful work already being undertaken on estates churches by clergy and lay people, who are committed to meeting the spiritual and social needs of estate residents.”

and you can read a good article about it in the Church Times here:


There will be more detail about the strategy and how it is being implemented as we go on.  It is an attempt to put into practice the Four Strands (https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2017-11/Estates%20Evangelism%20Commitment%20to%20Action_0.pdf), which come from a great deal of consultation with estate churches and other partners.

I pray that this is something we can all get behind and that it will make the difference on the ground that we are crying out for.

NECN is one of the key partners in this (and members of our Exec are on the Estates Evangelism Group and vice versa).  Our task is to help keep the energy going, to represent estate churches, to ensure things are bottom up, and to keep ecumenical perspectives at the centre.  None of this can happen without your support and prayers.  We will do our best to include you all and to keep you informed as things develop.


  1. London Gathering

One of the things that has come out of the London Gathering is that there are a number of issues that make estates feel a bit different to the rest of the country.  These include

– a marked ethnic mix in populations

– rich and poor living in extremely close proximately

– a complete lack of affordable housing

– an assault on social housing

– particularly sharp issues around gangs and knife crime.

It therefore makes sense to have a Conference especially for the London Region.

If you would like to be part of the group organizing this, or if you are interested in a local NECN Group, please contact Andy.Delmege@estatechurches.org

More news on this soon.


  1. NECN will have a new website very soon.


  1. Don’t forget our National Conferences in Bradford on June 18th and Birmingham on June 20th. More details to follow.


  1. If you want to be on the NECN Mailing List, please contact Andy.Delmege@estatechurches.org


please share this widely!


love and prayers





sharing justly

I was interviewed this morning on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Programme, calling for a just sharing of historic assets between dioceses so that mission and ministry at the sharp end can be supported.  You can hear the interview here (it is towards the end of the segment that begins at 6 minutes).

This is a vital and urgent issue.

Here are some further thoughts to try to take the issue further and deeper.

The situation we are in is that there is a huge disparity in wealth between the different dioceses.  Some (particularly the newer urban dioceses in the north and midlands like Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham) have very little in terms of historic assets and reserves.  Other dioceses are in comparatively very comfortable situations.

Why should ministry be harder in these places because they are newer dioceses, formed without historic assets?

This is not posturing.  My greatest concern as someone who is a parish priest and who visits and supports a lot of housing estate parishes around the country is that this directly affects mission on the ground.  There is clear evidence that dioceses in more economically deprived areas with less historical assets have fewer stipendiary ministers per head of population.

This has a clear effect on our parishes and their ministry. If you have to pay more Parish Share, or your parish is larger, or your diocese is concentrating on reorganization, or you are affected by all the fear and stress that this can bring, this is going to affect your capacity for imaginative and creative mission.

The Church is investing in estate churches and estate evangelism at the moment – something which is wholehearted Good News – but the lack of fair assets in some place endangers this.

What does the Gospel say?  well, it certainly does not advocate a Postcode Lottery where if you live in one place, the historic assets of the Church mean you pay less for more ministry; while if you live in another (which may well be more economically deprived), you pay more for less.

We need urgently to work out ways of justly sharing our historic wealth.  Bishop Philip North reminds us clearly that The first Christians dealt with their wealth in so daring and counter-cultural a way that it proved powerfully attractive (Acts 2.44). Property and income was pooled so that there was no distinction between rich and poor, slave and free. (Read his full Church Times article here).  We can do this for dioceses – we are Christians, we are part of the Church of God, we are generous.

Can we find ways of tackling this in a root and branch way, or – at the very least – with wealthier dioceses funding some things in those with least.  Bishops and Diocesan Secretaries – over to you!

And the rest of us – pray, share this issue, and keep the pressure on.

necn summer news

Dear Friends,

may I wish you all a good summer from National Estate Churches Network.  I hope you get some rest and refreshment.  Please see below for some Estate Churches News:

1. We have dates for our next National Conferences:

they will be at Bradford Cathedral on Tuesday 18th June 2019
and at Birmingham Cathedral on Thursday 20th June 2019

Please save the date!
More information on the content and booking before long.

2. Our London Gathering is on Wednesday 26th September.

3. Leeds Diocesan Estates Network – Hope for the Estates Gathering on Wednesday 10th October
more details and booking here

4. We are really happy to advertise events relevant to Estate Churches here – please send anything in.

5. The Incarnate Pioneers Retreat is from 26 – 27 September.  More information and bookings here

6. NECN will have a new website and twitter presence soon.
In the meantime, please like our facebook page and join our facebook group.
Take a look at the resources on the Estate Church Toolkit

Please ask your Estate Church friends and colleagues to join this list.

with love and prayers