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Justin Welby says church is 'putting money where its mouth is' in £3 billion investment into local parishes

by Donna Birrell

The Church of England is investing £3 billion into parishes across the country over a nine-year period to develop ministry and grow the church.

Announcing the plans, the Archbishop of Canterbury told Premier it will be an example of "the church putting it's money where it's mouth is".

Much of the money will be targeted towards disadvantaged communities and ministry among young people. It will encourage local churches to thrive making significant contributions to their local communities and delivering even more social action work.

Most Rev Justin Welby said the church is well placed to make a big difference in people's lives: “With the general crisis across the country, this is a moment for the church put its money where its mouth is. This is the most important thing, as a church, we feel God is calling us to do. We feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit to get on with it.”

The plans were unveiled at St John The Evangelist Church in Balby, Doncaster. The parish, in the Diocese of Sheffield, runs a lot of social action ministries for the local community.

Archbishop Justin announced the plans alongside the Archbishop of York, Most Rev Stephen Cottrell and the First Estates Commissioner, Alan Smith. They were joined by volunteers and users of some of the services run by the church.

Archbishop Justin continued:“One of the most moving things was listening to the stories in this church as they've talked about the people who've just drifted in and out by word of mouth, or they visited with food gifts, found other needs and responded to. I mean, the great advantage we have is the big banks have about 2,000 branches, we have 12,000 branches across England, we’re in every community. So we're able to get the word out when we’ve got the resources to do so. 

“At its heart is the glory of God. It's not about saying, ‘look at the church’, it's about saying, ’look at Jesus.’ This is who Jesus is - generous, hospitable, welcoming, loving, meeting, expressing love and meeting need. There is no doubt about the life-transforming power of Jesus Christ. The people we spoke to earlier were just normal folk, who ran into trouble because of Covid, or because of personal problems. They’ve come along and found not only food, not only clothes and stuff for the kids but have found above all, the saving love of Jesus Christ and that transformation in their own lives. Which is because the great work of the Spirit is to bring order into places of chaos, and chaotic lives are put in order by the power of the Spirit.”

The Church Commissioners for England intend to distribute £1.2 billion between 2023 and 2025, up 30 per cent from £930 million in the current three-year period and plan to maintain this level of funding in the subsequent six years. In total, this would mean the Church Commissioners plan to distribute £3.6 billion to frontline work of the Church of England between 2023 and 2031, making the Church Commissioners and Archbishops’ Council among the largest grant givers in the country. 

The Church Commissioners’ distributions will account for approximately 20 per cent of church funding, whilst the biggest contribution comes from the faithful and generous giving of churchgoers across the country.

Acknowledging the cost of living crisis, the Archbishop told Premier: “Of course the government needs to do more, needs to enable people to face pressures, but they can't do it by themselves any more than we can. It's going to need partnership. It's God's money. We have got to be a big agent in giving this money for servicing communities across the country. And that's what we're going to do.”

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