It is said that for Wales to reach the DAWN Europe target of having one church for every thousand people would mean the closure of about twenty per cent of our buildings.
So why are we interested in church planting in such a context? Clearly the answer is that we have inherited these buildings in the wrong places. There is massive growth in housing along the M4 corridor, and there are numerous estates throughout the diocese that have very poor access to any living Christian community. The developments at Pontprennau in east Cardiff and the Narth near Monmouth are plants to address this very issue. The first is being established with reference to the wider LEP benefice and is led by a cleric. The second is entirely lay lead, although with the active support of the local churches.
Our aim in Monmouth diocese is to create a culture where local Christians think in terms of church planting as a viable option in mission. We want to resource and foster this culture with the active encouragement and support of Bishop Rowan Williams. We are looking seriously at setting up a diocesan association of church planting for mutual encouragement and learning.
Probably the most exciting development in the diocese is “Living Proof” – see George Lings’ excellent little booklet available from The Sheffield Centre on this subject. It surely is a new way of being church, and the fact that it sits uncomfortably within our diocesan structures is a major challenge if we discern this as God’s work. The central feature of Living Proof is a community of mostly young people who have been brought together to serve young people in some of the most deprived communities in the diocese. The fact that the two leaders are to be ordained deacon by Bishop Rowan on April 12 is a marvellous affirmation of this work and a fine example of some of the risks that need to be taken if church planting is to be a living reality.
One aspect of virtually all our church plants and schemes is that they are ecumenical. This has its own challenges. How can we establish a eucharistic community on the Duffryn estate in Newport when our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters want to be involved in the process of planting? But we are learning that we cannot avoid the difficult questions that arise if we are working with God at the margins.
This article was originally produced for an ACPI circular called “News From”. This paper publication was published and distributed between 1997 and 2001. Please bear in mind that the articles were written several years ago, and circumstances may have changed and people may have moved on.