Pilgrimpace's Blog


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.
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estate ministry
August 31, 2017, 12:42 pm
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There’s a little video of me talking about estate ministry here:

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urban estates mission enabler

I’m really happy to announce that I’ve been appointed to the part-time role of Urban Estates Mission Enabler within the Birmingham Diocese.  This will be alongside my ministry as Vicar of St Bede’s, Brandwood.  I will be working as part of Paula Gooder’s Mission and Learning Development Team.

I will be continuing a lot of what I have been doing over the past couple of years, including convening the Estates Group and overseeing Jesus Shaped People in the Diocese.  I will continue to Chair the National Estate Churches Network.

I am excited and humbled by this!  Please keep me in your prayers as this chapter of ministry unfolds.

More details on the diocesan website here



national estate churches network update


the poor communities

“Montalgre: eleven monks.  Only eight, if the sick aren’t counted.  I was Procurator for seventeen years and have been Prior for two.

For a long time there has been talk of closing Montalgre.  There are no vocations.

This has created discouragement, anxiety and a certain guilt.  It is like a sword of Damocles.

We must try to get beyond this situation and give it some meaning.  In the Gospel I have found light.  I do not recall any place where Jesus assures us prosperity and success in this life.  Rather the reverse: the strait gate, the narrow way, contempt, the Cross.  The Gospel asks us to follow Jesus in his poverty.

So I thought about the poverty of our numbers and quality also, the lack of resources and our uncertain future.  And I discovered that our situation was almost ideal for living the Gospel, not in theory or asceticism, but quite simply in living from day to day.  Thus I came to confidence in God, but a confidence that for the most part is blind, without any light or sensible consolation, but accompanied by sorrow.

The words of Jesus have come alive for me: ‘The Father cares for you.’ ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and the rest will be added unto you.’ ‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.’  Above all the passage where the apostles’ boat is foundering in the storm.  A real tempest not an imaginary one.  Jesus is asleep.  And when he wakes he reproaches the apostles for their lack of faith.  Thus we have to have confidence and above all when everything apparent says we shouldn’t.  This is the paradox of the Gospel.

In reality, I am myself of this mind, disposed towards an absolute trust, almost to the point of absurdity, perhaps the absurdity of the Cross.

But can I lead the community in this direction? Perhaps I am trying to justify the situation, or ease my mind, or delude myself.  Anything is possible.  But, even so, I will have confidence in God and I believe this is right.  God deserves this blind trust, and, I repeat, it is almost always sorrowful.

Perhaps the danger for the poor communities is a deeper impoverishment at the level of aspiration (a little like the underdeveloped countries): a certain conformity or resignation in the face of reality; a regret for the past; obsession with vocations.

But we learn to simplify the life, better to seek what is essential: God and our neighbour; to prize fraternal charity more than rules or norms.  And finally, whatever happens, to accept the will of God.  Fiat!”

From The Wound of Love, A Carthusian Miscellany

I will be living out of this during Holy Week and Easter – and I expect beyond.

Prayers for your journey in the coming week.



blessed are – beatitudes litany

A Beatitudes Litany that was formed by Tim Watson listening to Birmingham Estate Church Practitioners talking at our recent residential

Blessed are the misunderstood

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who live with question marks over their existence

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those whose congregations swell by one fifth when a new family arrives

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who see new families arrive just as the service is beginning and leave just as coffee is being announced

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who are working at capacity

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those whose congregations are vulnerable and can do no more

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who find themselves fishing in a declining pool

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those facing tricky handover situations

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who ask, “where is my calling?”

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the people who put the bins out

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the people in need of a new roof

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who ask, “What is God’s heart for this area?”

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who come into church, bringing life, making nice banners, but not doing the core things

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who think, “It would just be nice to have a team”

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the people feeling called to estates ministry

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the ministers who recognize that they are the “other” in their contexts

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who don’t have all the answers

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those whose churches are filled with more vulnerability than capacity

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who make a feature of the pipe work in the gent’s toilets and buy purple standard lamps

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who create beauty where not much beauty is seen – or –Blessed are those who uncover beauty where much beauty remains hidden

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who see generosity and abundance over scarcity

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the ministers who need reminding, “you’re not alone”

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who look at the community for what gifts and skills are already present

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who earnestly ask, “how do we love this place?”

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those trying to work in a blurry way

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who will not keep reinventing the wheel

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the churches who decided to stay put when their 1960s building was burnt down

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who struggle to recognise their own gifts

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who ask “how can we do effective Christian presencing?”

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who dance with their daughters at the civic hall

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who minister at the micro-breweries and snooker clubs

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the church members who leave their seats to go and sit with visitors

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the ministers who know that this act was the best thing about Sunday

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who deliver Fray Bentos pies to Food Banks

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those tired of hearing the word, “capacity”

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who long for Diocesan officials to come and wander around the parish for a day; visiting the local cafes, listening to the local community

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the Diocesan officials who do just that

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who recognise the importance of humility

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who are a covenant to the people

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who need to stop

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those in need of refreshing

For theirs is the kingdom of God



being there

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back from a very good Birmingham Estate Clergy Residential with twenty colleagues who I completely respect.  The excellent Tim Watson listened to us carefully and led our worship.  He crafted this poem from our words.

Being There

Being there

Not just ticking the boxes

But asking,

“Will joy come in the morning?”

.

Owning the mission

Despite capacity

Knowing our communities

Are first to feel the effects

Of austerity policies

.

Embodying generosity

Willing to share skills

And live out extreme generosity