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'An incredible mission' Church of England invests £9m in the young

by Donna Birrell

The Church of England is investing £9 million into mission projects aimed at encouraging young people to engage with the Christian faith.

Congregations are being set up around the country which hope to reach tens of thousands of students and young people who have never been to church before.

Leeds and Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, Blackburn in Lancashire, coastal areas of Paignton in Devon and Brighton and Hove in East Sussex are among the areas awarded funding.

Debbie Clinton is the Church of England's director of Renewal and Reform which is leading the initiative. She told Premier why investing the money in reaching out to young people is so important:
"Young people are an absolute priority in this investment. We've been aware that in many places, we have not been engaging with young people as much as we'd like to and we're looking particularly at places with young populations. Leeds, as an example, has 70,000 students and we know from our research that we believe that less than 1 per cent of those are involved in a church in Leeds. So, that is an incredible mission for the church. Blackburn as well, one of the youngest towns in England. So, again, a real opportunity to invest in young people."

Debbie Clinton says that while many young people don't go to church, it doesn't mean they aren't interested in the Gospel: "What we see is that young people are really interested to discuss issues, the faith of life, the meaning of life. So, the church really needs to take that seriously, to listen to young people, to engage with them and to talk about the topics that matter to them. 

"We want to have a conversation with young people about the Christian faith because we believe that when they explore it, they will discover for themselves how amazing it is and [it will] lead for many to a life of faith."

Leeds is among the dioceses receiving funding. Its £1.5 million will create a new Sunday afternoon church based in the student area of Hyde Park and St Augustine's Church, which will expand its outreach through social media and other activities and events for students in the city.

Diocesan Secretary, Jonathan Wood told Premier it is an exciting time for the region:

"This is a real opportunity to reach those students who are unchurched at the moment, who don't have a connection with other Christians and this will be really about engaging with them, bringing them into church and sharing the Gospel with them." 

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