Church planting a priority despite pandemic

ADOM to focus on developing new and revitalising old churches in 2021

By Stephen Cauchi

Church planting will continue to be a major focus for the Diocese of Melbourne despite the COVID pandemic, with a focus on both developing new churches and revitalising existing ones.

Bishop Kate Prowd, who manages the church planting portfolio, told TMA that the diocese considered the portfolio “the number one ticket item”.

“It’s what the senior management have identified as of very high importance,” said Bishop Prowd, who oversees the Oodthenong Episcopate.

“People think church planting is for those slightly wacky people who do church in a completely different way to us but it’s actually not.”

According to the recent 2020 Church Planting Portfolio report written by Bishop Prowd, the diocese currently has nine church plants, four pioneer ministries (including a network of micro-churches reaching unchurched people), and six traditional churches that have been “re-planted” (revitalised).

Bishop Prowd has overseen church planting since 2018. She has been assisted by the Church Planting Working Group, which has been meeting with her every six weeks since late 2019.

The diocese has committed $383,286 over three years for church planting.

The Group had identified four major priorities for church planting, said the report. “COVID-19 has meant that progress on these four priorities is not as advanced as was planned.”

The four priorities are:

Encouraging vocations to church planting and pioneer ministry.

“Discussions have been held with both Ridley College and Trinity Theological College about fostering vocations specifically for church planting, including offering ordination candidates field placements with church plants.”

Consolidate a new ministry presence in two-to-three areas of population growth.

Areas that are being investigated include Tarneit, Donnybrook, Clyde and Melton. Other plants planned for 2021 include a Mandarin congregation in Glen Waverley.

Partner with national and international dioceses which are actively engaged in church planting.

“The Bishop of Islington, Ric Thorpe, has episcopal oversight for church planting in London. He has provided official and unofficial support,” said Bishop Prowd.

She added that the diocese was also exploring the Minster model, where large churches with ample congregation sizes, finances and leadership help to resource five or so smaller churches in their local area.

The Diocese was also exploring a partnership with the St Martin-in-the-Fields’ HeartEdge movement in the UK.

“HeartEdge supports a model of mission with a focus on the four Cs: congregation, compassion, culture, and commerce.”

Appoint personnel to assist the Bishop in charge of church planting.

Archbishop-in-Council in September approved two part-time canons to assist Bishop Prowd: the Revd John Sanderson and lay minister Julie-Anne Laird.

Bishop Prowd said Ms Laird would focus on new urban growth areas that didn’t have an Anglican presence. “The diocese is focussing on the greenfields, the new areas, where there’s a lot of new growth and we want to be an Anglican presence.”

Mr Sanderson will be working with traditional parishes in the diocese, using the Minster model approach to revitalisation.

“Regarding the Minster model, discussions have commenced to identify at least one, and possibly two, pilot sites for a roll out in 2021,” said Bishop Prowd.

Bishop Prowd said the initiative for planting churches would usually come from the churches themselves. St Hilary’s in Kew, for example, helped to plant Merri Creek Anglican.

However, she added, “there are so many ways to skin this cat”.

The members of the Church Planting Working Group are the Revds Beck Miller, Bree Mills, Elizabeth Webster, John Sanderson, Neil Taylor, Nick Coombs, Peter Carolane, Victor Fan, Jobby John, Craig Ogden and Peter Greenwood; Bishop Lindsay Urwin; Debra Saffrey-Collins and
Nicola Templeton.