Changing Market Towns
Significant investment planned for our market towns
Over the next five years, the Diocese of Ely will be investing £4.36 million in the region’s market towns.
The Changing Market Towns project has been awarded £2.13 million of Strategic Development Funding from the Church of England, which is being matched by the Diocese to bring the total investment over the next five years to £4.36 million. The project will be focussed on the seven towns of; Wisbech, March, Chatteris, Littleport, Ramsey, Huntingdon and Downham Market.
The project is an expression of one of the ‘Levers for Change’ within the Diocese of Ely’s Ely2025 Growth Strategy - Targeting Resources to Key Areas. It will focus on enabling and sustaining church growth in small and medium-sized towns and will significantly enhance the Diocese’s ability to realise its commitment to; engage fully and courageously with the needs of our communities, locally and globally, grow God’s church by finding disciples and nurturing leaders, and deepen our commitment to God through word, worship and prayer. It aims to work across whole towns, and not be constrained by some of the ancient parish boundaries.
The Rt Revd Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely, said: “I am delighted that this major project has received support from the Strategic Development Fund. We hope that, through it, very many more people will be enabled to join a journey of faith and share in God’s work of transforming their communities. It is far-reaching, complex and ambitious and an expression of our faith in the power of God”
Canon Matthew Bradbury, the Lead Minister in the Church of England’s Wisbech Market Town Mission, added: “I am absolutely delighted with the news of the grant. After more than a year in the planning, it will be great to start advertising for the additional support workers who together with the members of our congregations will be striving to take the Gospel to the heart of the community”.
The funding will enable the Diocese to transform its engagement with Fenland town communities in the north of the region, bringing in new congregations and fresh expressions of church. It will be supported by the organisational changes necessary to provide our church leaders with the freedom to focus on town ministry. It will also help to pay for a network of community support workers with family, youth and other specialisms - leading the work of our churches in transforming their communities.
Other major elements of the project include the development of a learning community for theology and mission in Wisbech. This will aim to equip and grow a wide-range of lay ministers and other trained volunteers to develop new partnerships between the churches and the wider community.
Over a quarter of the people of the Diocese of Ely live in small towns.
Outside the city of Cambridge, one third of the population live in communities of more than 7,000 people that are neither new towns nor part of the extended suburbs of Cambridge or Peterborough. For convenience, we refer to them as ‘market towns’, since most have historically hosted a market.
In common with small towns across the country, church attendance as a proportion of the total population is often significantly lower than in the surrounding villages. As towns have grown, more and more people live a considerable distance from the church building and relate less naturally to their parish church.
It is not only churches that face significant challenges as market towns change.
High streets are often struggling as shoppers choose to travel to larger centres further afield. Many of the schools achieve examination results that are well below the levels seen in the Cambridge area. In the north of the diocese especially, levels of multiple deprivation are some of the highest in the country. The market towns of our diocese are facing multiple challenges.
As a key part of the Diocesan strategy, Ely2025, the decision has been made to use one of our five Levers for Change, targeting support to key areas and make a major investment to encourage our market towns.
We want to enable churches to flourish and be active partners in changing their towns for the better. The first step in this has been to appoint Mike Booker as Bishop’s Change Officer, with a brief to work with clergy and congregations to transform both churches and communities in small towns across the diocese.
The details of the project will continue to develop, but major elements include:
- Support and training for clergy and congregations in market towns
- The development of a learning centre for theology and mission in Wisbech
- Co-ordinated town-wide approaches for community action and church growth
- Seeking to bring in several waves of major new investment
- Looking to appoint a growing number of highly motivated community workers (“Change Makers”) to provide significant new partnerships between churches and the whole community, working for social transformation
- Churches and schools working closely together to support children and families
- Revitalising existing churches and multiplying fresh expressions of church
- Planning to plant new congregations, drawing on the strengths of larger churches
In June 2018 the Diocese of Ely submitted its 'Changing Market Towns' application for Strategic Development Funding. The application can be viewed by clicking here.
To learn more about the Market Towns contact the Bishop's Change Officer for Market Towns here.