Hundreds of new worshippers are coming to a church in Lancashire after it changed its style of worship.
The new Sunday services are proving so popular at Preston Minster that it's hoping to expand into a new annexe to accommodate them all.
Sam Haigh, the new vicar, arrived at the Minster two years ago and he’s been speaking to Premier:
“The Minster, which is right in the heart of Preston, is the Civic Church of Preston. And it's existed here for a long, long time in different forms. The congregation had dwindled, sadly down to somewhere between 12 and 20. So we were invited by the Bishop of Blackburn and, in partnership with Holy Trinity Brompton, to come with a team of people and to sort of relaunch Preston Minster in a different style.
“It had been very, very traditional, very formal, and there's nothing wrong with that. But the Bishop wanted to try something different, so we relaunched in 2019. A team of about 25 of us came up from different parts of the country to relaunch the Minster and it's gone well.”
Two years ago the Church of England in Preston received £1.5m of funding to re-invigorate the Minster. Rev Sam says the new mission has a focus on students and young people and Sunday services now feature more contemporary worship music with drums, guitars and keyboards:
“The style is different in terms of the services, it's much more contemporary. We’ve got that focus on reaching particularly students and young people, which is our primary kind of audience. Preston has a huge university and we really want to see people come to know Jesus from the university.
“The biggest group of people we've picked up are people who would call themselves Christians, but weren't in a church previously. For various reasons, they had slipped out of church attendance, or stopped going to church, or were very loosely connected with the church. But we also have lots of new people coming to faith as well, which is really exciting.
“We run Alpha every term, and we have done through the whole of the pandemic, and we've seen lots of people come to faith in Jesus, which has been the most exciting thing that we've done. It’s so exciting to see what God's up to.”
Rev Sam says that last Sunday, around 191 people attended Sunday worship, with 45 of those under the age of 16. He is now applying for permission for a temporary cabin beside the Minster, because the current marquee isn’t robust enough for the cold Preston winters.
“I’m sure many people will recognise that it rains a lot in Preston and it’s cold, so we've had to abandon the marquee now. So we are looking at a temporary space to use urgently which will be a stepping stone to a much bigger building project to accommodate the rate of growth that we're seeing at the Minster at the moment.
“The door that God seems to be opening is to be planting into key cities and towns across the country, and for them to really serve as a resource, a blessing to the wider church. The Church of England has really got behind church planting and it’s exciting to see that breathing new life into places that have not had a thriving church for many years."