Our Director, Angus Ritchie, blogs about our exciting partnership with a historic east London parish – and what it means for the future…
Last May, CTC embarked on a pioneering partnership with St George-in-the-East – the church in whose crypt we are now based.
The parish was between priests and, owing to its declining congregation, the Bishop of Stepney decided to review its pattern and provision of ministry. St George’s shared some of our passions – being a place of prayer; working with and for its neighbours, and growing numerically – but the challenge of maintenance (of a Grade I listed building with a Sunday congregation sometimes under twenty) made it hard to engage in much mission.
CTC made a proposal to the parish, and to the Bishop – for an experimental partnership, with a community of young people living in the Rectory helping to renew the mission of the church and the two CTC staff who are Anglican priests (The Revd Tim Clapton and me) being licensed to the parish. For the same level of resource as the diocese would usually invest in a parish (through providing a rectory and clergy stipend), St George’s would get a very different pattern of ministry.
The partnership drew on all of CTC’s key areas of work: congregational development; working with young Christian leaders; rooting our work in the practices of theological reflection, prayer and community organising; and harnessing resources more effectively for mission. It was, however, a huge change from “business as usual,” and it is a huge tribute to the imagination of the congregation and Bishop Adrian that they were willing to step out in faith and see if this might bear fruit.
So, how is it going?
With the best will in the world, change is never easy, but with a lot of prayer and give-and-take, the results have been better than we could ever have hoped:
– in less than nine months, the congregation has doubled – with a growing mix of ages, races and backgrounds;
– there is now a daily rhythm of prayer – silence and Eucharist each morning, and Compline by candlelight most nights – and an exciting new course has been developed to teach the riches of Christian spirituality to people inside and out of the Church;
– engagement with the community has included a new pop-up cafe, and the church being at the heart of the campaign for a real East End women’s history museum (after the controversial opening of the “Jack the Ripper museum” in the parish).
At the end of January, the Parochial Church Council voted unanimously to continue the partnership for the next five years. We are now delighted to announce the appointment of The Revd Richard Springer as Assistant Priest, who will work with me both in the parish and as Director of CTC’s Urban Leadership School. Richard brings a wealth of experience of inner-city ministry, both as a lay person and now as Curate of St Peter de Beauvoir in Hackney – and will help develop the partnership, as Tim Clapton has done so successfully in the experimental phase. (Tim will leave, and Richard and his family arrive, over the summer months).
We are all grateful for the prayers which have surrounded our work this far – and ask you to continue to pray for us, as we will continue to pray for you, on the next stage of this exciting journey.