A pioneering café-style church in Cliftonville is to be used as a blueprint for new worshipping communities in the coastal towns of Herne Bay, Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey and St Peter Port in Guernsey.
Further communities will be established in Sittingbourne and Maidstone, with two in Ashford – nine in total.
The £1.4million project will use the format of Ignite, a church gathering which aims to reach marginalised and deprived communities founded in May 2008 at St Paul’s parish in Cliftonville.
Cliftonville is the most deprived parish in the South East of England and the 16th poorest in the country according to the Church Urban Fund poverty indicator.
Ignite offers an unconditional welcome to all who attend. The weekly meetings involve food and a magazine-style service based around short interactive activities and input exploring a Christian theme.
It has since been replicated at St Christopher’s in Ramsgate, using start-up funding from the Church Commissioners.
Revd Canon Patrick Ellisdon and his wife Debbie, who were core members of the Cliftonville team, will be commissioned to oversee the project from July 19.
The Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover, said: “The Gospel is core to everything Ignite is about. It begins with unconditional welcome to all who walk through the door, the assurance that they utterly belong and that Jesus is good news for them too, no matter who they are or where they’ve been.
“We’ve been simply astonished by the success of the first Ignite congregations and we can’t wait to see what happens next. We are delighted to be partnering with a generous God – and with the Church Commissioners – so that lives changed by an encounter with Christ overflow into families, homes and communities changed for the better.”
Rev Ellisdon added:“The vision of the original Ignite remains simple: we intentionally love and befriend people from all walks of life, because God first loved us.
“In this way, we have been privileged to introduce many people to Jesus through Ignite’s interactive teaching style as well as through the authenticity of our relationship with them.
“Debbie and I are thrilled that the Church Commissioners and Canterbury Diocese are investing considerable resources so that other churches can use the Ignite model to engage with their own marginalised communities in a similar way.”
The scheme has been made possible thanks to a grant of £887,015 from the Church Commissioners, a national body that exists to support the work and mission of the Church of England.
Lovely to see how warming and friendly people can still be towards others despite all the pressures of life on them too. It’s refreshing to hear that Christ is still alive today and no matter who you are you are welcome in his church of sanctuary and peace. This Ignite is a beacon of hope, bless all those who use it and help out.