Ambitious plans to open a new kind of Christian community for young people based at the former Burton’s store in Wrexham, have moved a step closer after the Diocese of St Asaph secured £1.9m from a major new fund aimed at reviving Christian ministry in Wales.
Called Hope Street, the project will see the establishment of a community, centred on outreach to younger people. It will be based at 1, Hope Street, a three-storey 1930s building in the heart of Wrexham which will be transformed into a Christian centre and worship space.
The grant made by the Church in Wales will allow the establishment of a leadership team and core community, as well as changes to equip the building. The project will be run in partnership with existing churches and the Church Revitalisation Trust (CRT) which specialises in church growth.
Hope Street is the first project to bid successfully for funding from the Church in Wales’ Evangelism Fund. The £10m Fund was launched last year for ambitious schemes to engage people with the Christian faith in vibrant and exciting ways.
The Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron, who is leading this initiative said: “Christianity is in danger of becoming a faith for older people in today’s Wales, and this project is designed to show that following Jesus is relevant and exciting for people of all ages and backgrounds. Hope Street will offer a radically different take on what it means to be a Christian and finding new ways to present the Christian belief that true life is found in following Jesus Christ.
“These are exciting times in the Diocese of St Asaph as we pray, plan and develop the vision for a new kind of Christian community which invites people of all backgrounds to learn about worship, faith and service.”
Hope Street, which takes its name from its address at Number 1 Hope Street, is an iconic gateway to the centre of Wrexham, visible from St Giles’, a medieval church, considered one of the Seven Wonders of Wales. St Giles is home to a vibrant, diverse and growing multi-generational congregation and its Vicar, the Revd Dr Jason Bray, welcomed confirmation that Hope Street will go ahead. He said: “This is an exciting, bold and ambitious plan to offer a different kind of Christian space for people of all backgrounds. We look forward to working with Hope Street and with partners across the town and the diocese to ensure we continue to offer a variety of ways for people to engage with Christianity.”
The Church in Wales’ Evangelism Fund is offering grants of between £250,000 and £3m for diocesan projects which crucially, focus on people rather than buildings. It is managed by a committee with expertise in church growth and business ventures. Each of the Church’s six dioceses can submit bids.
The chair of the committee, Sir Paul Silk, said “This is an imaginative project which we hope will appeal to young people and families who are currently under-represented in our churches and lead to real cultural change. We have been impressed by the work that has gone into the bid – it is a well-constructed project and we are confident it will ensure the Church’s money is well spent.”
The Bishop of Bangor, Andy John, who is the lead bishop of evangelism, added, “I’m delighted this radical and visionary project has received the Fund’s support. This kind of investment will lead to transformed lives and communities.”
The Evangelism Fund was launched in June 2018. Its £10m is being released from Church’s investments which are overseen by the its Representative Body.
Notes for editors
The Hope Street project will allow for the establishment of a dedicated team to provide worship and outreach which will appeal to those outside the Church. The base for the Hope Street project is the former Burton’s store opposite St Giles’ Church in the heart of Wrexham. It will undergo substantial renovations to create a worship space, training and meeting rooms, office, kitchen and hospitality areas and a base for social and community engagement.
The centrepiece may be Wrexham, but the benefits of Hope Street will be felt in churches across the diocese. By the end of year four of the project, new church communities will be established elsewhere in the diocese. But from the start, the expectation is that workers in Hope Street will spend time in other churches, sharing their experience and skills.
It is also expected that Hope Street will be a base for community programmes in Wrexham, such as holiday hunger schemes, family care and support for rough sleepers.
The Diocese of St Asaph is already in discussions with Wrexham Council to ensure the renovation of Hope Street enhances the exciting plans for town centre renewal.