Back in 2013 the diocese launched the Church Planting Fund to reach communities where the traditional model of church no longer works or where there is little Christian witness.
“Church planting is not a new phenomenon,” writes Bishop David. “It goes right back to the New Testament. Indeed, the Church of Ireland in every generation has planted new churches.
“In this generation we want to continue to plant new churches to reach groups of people that we are not currently reaching as well as into communities where we do not have a church presence. We look forward to planting some new congregations in our diocese in the coming months and years.
“Those planted in recent years display how beneficial this is, both to their local communities and to the wider church in the diocese. Read on to see how they have responded to the challenges posed by lockdown.”
The Glen Community Church family has adopted a local prayerful and practical response to the pandemic. Online worship services are posted on our Facebook page, as well as daily Bible encouragements, reading the psalms, small groups via Zoom and an enthusiastic WhatsApp Bible Study Group! Practical support includes delivering food parcels to those in need, collecting prescriptions, getting shopping done and being a presence on the ground with regular prayer walks and continuous check-ins. Rather than cancelling our annual camp, we hosted a CAMP-IN which attracted new families as everyone engaged with online crafts, games, devotions, etc from the comfort of their own homes.
Revd Stephen Doherty (OLM)
As with every ministry, things have been very different for the outreach in Killough. Unable to run our Kids and Youth Clubs, we have been keeping busy with sending postcards, giveaways and engaging with families online through social media. We have also had lots more time to pray for the village and the families that we connect with on a weekly basis. We are really looking forward to engaging more with our children and young people in the village as the restrictions loosen more and more.
In Braniel Community Church we’ve been worshipping together and staying in touch online and by phone. Our theme at the minute is Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples, so we are encouraging our members to get engaged with family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues. On the practical side, being out of the hall is giving us the opportunity to spruce it up and do some maintenance. We have also provided 100 face masks and 1000 pairs of gloves to the NI Ambulance Service. Sadly, one of our older members passed away during lockdown but because we stayed in touch by phone, we know that he gave his life to the Lord and that’s something we’re really thankful for.
From the beginning, The Gathering wanted to be a church plant that mirrored that of the early church - a family of believers devoted to each other and in Christ - and lockdown has provided an unwanted opportunity to be just that. We decided we would journey with individuals face to face as much as we could and be there when things got difficult. I believe we’ve been able to achieve this and, in the process, given some the opportunity to step out and explore their gifts. Having now relocated to St Martin’s on the Newtownards Road and following social distancing guidelines, some of the church have been helping with gardening, cleaning the church building, and maintenance work. All this to achieve our goal to have St Martin’s open for business as soon as possible.
In Moneyreagh Community Church we have been encouraged to find many people engaging with our online services who have never been part of our church or community before and a few local people have been taking part in the Diocesan Alpha course. We are also involved in a collaborative response in our local area as a part of the Moneyreagh Support Hub. Along with other churches, the local primary school and other organisations we are able to offer food parcel delivery, free counselling and support sessions with a certified counsellor, small grants towards heating and other needs as well as pharmacy pick-ups and any help with other issues. This has been a brilliant initiative that has really brought the community together and we have been able to connect with a lot of people who we have not had a connection with before. We were able to run a virtual teddy bears picnic with some of the local parents and toddlers, as well as having free ice cream delivered to all of our isolated, elderly and vulnerable church family.
Revd Rory Blake-Knox (OLM)