The Church of England awarded a major national Strategic Development Fund (SDF) grant of £2.57m to help the Diocese of Leicester better serve people from our diverse communities.
Our plans include creating five new Intercultural Worshipping Communities (IWC), with the aim of serving and enabling more participation and leadership in church life by black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) worshippers.
The scheme is among projects across the country being supported by more than £12m Strategic Development Funding, a key part of the Church of England’s programme of Renewal and Reform.
The project aims to encourage more BAME heritage Christians to get involved and lead in a range of areas in Anglican parish and diocesan life, including lay leadership and ordained ministry.
Working with some of our existing churches, and new church plants, we hope by 2026 to welcome up to 900 people of BAME heritage to be active worshippers who are encouraged to explore opportunities in their local Church of England church.
An IWC is a church community where people from different cultural and ethnic heritage deliberately interact with one another in order to deepen their understanding and experience of God and of each other. They learn and grow together to build communities which are transformed, shaped, and moulded from each other’s experiences.
Speaking about all the SDF projects, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “These projects are moving the heart of our mission to where it should be, recognising Jesus beyond the borders of the institutional church. The Good News of Jesus Christ cannot be contained within existing worshipping communities. We want everyone to know how much they are loved by God.”
Why the project is needed and what it will involve
Our SDF-funded research on the status of BAME mission and ministry within the diocese highlighted the following key insights which have shaped the project:
- Active presence and participation of people of BAME heritage is limited within Anglican worshipping communities, and at all levels of leadership within the current governance structures of the diocese
- Very few Anglican churches in the diocese consider BAME mission and ministry as a priority or have a clear understanding/experience of what specific resources and strategies are available/required
- Cultural and ethnic homogeneity is the current strategy for church growth
- Cultural assimilation, not integration is the leading assumption in BAME mission
- Limited resources (people, time, finances) are allocated to BAME mission 3
- Immigration and ‘transfer’ were the main sources of BAME growth in churches across denominations. There is low engagement with established BAME communities
-BAME leadership gifts do not seem to be effectively harnessed, developed, and released in our churches
- No systematic and consistent measuring and monitoring of ethnicity
Building on our research findings, we want the IWC project to:
- Develop two different models of church that will be intentional in fostering cultural and ethnic integration. These models of church will be known as Intercultural Worshipping Communities (IWCs) - Build on the opportunities for effective BAME mission and ministry within the Diocese of Leicester as a whole, focussing our energy in those contexts where we have discerned significant missional energy
- Effectively set a process towards a long-term diocesan culture shift in respect to ethnic and cultural integration
Words of welcome for IWC
Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, said:
“This is a priority for me and the whole diocese and it is exciting to see the national Church getting behind what we want to do here.
“From its inception in 1926, the Diocese of Leicester has witnessed a radical transformation to the context in which it is called to minister the gospel. Today it is serving a cosmopolitan population with people from diverse geographic, cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds.
“Alongside what we are learning from our Rural Commission work, building upon our fresh expressions of Church projects and aligning aspects of this strategy to our Resourcing Church strategy, we have embarked upon a long term project that has the potential to fundamentally transform our ability for mission and ministry.”
One church worshipper, interviewed as part of the research for the SDF bid, said:
“I had never expected the BAME programme to be relevant to what I thought was my mostly white parish but having engaged with it I realised that there were many ways in which I could build bridges within my local parish.”
Vicar of Church of the Martyrs in Leicester, Bertin Hermo, said:
“I believe Intercultural Worshipping Communities, when invested into with intentionality, humility and much prayer, will create a space which will enable more people of diverse backgrounds to thrive and to exercise their God-given gifts in the life of the church.
“I believe what needs to be changed in many of our existing church communities is an increasing self-awareness to recognise where and when we are not being as inclusive as we think we are, and then to initiate changes in the way we ‘do church’."