Transforming the communities of Essex & East London through Christ’s presence

Growing New Christian Communities

22nd Jan 2019

Chelmsford Diocese has been awarded £3.8 million to support the next stage of its church planting programme. 

The investment from the Church Commissioners, the body that supports the work and mission of the Church of England, will be spent over the 5 years. In addition, the diocese will fund extra pioneer ministers and curates who are specially trained in planting new churches. This is part of the Diocese mission to plant 101 new Christian communities over the next ten years.

Bishop Peter Hill, Bishop of Barking, who leads on Church Planting in the diocese, commented:

“God calls his church to grow and serve. In the next 10 years the population of East London and Essex will grow by 300,000. So it is a great encouragement to receive this further £3.8m grant from the Church Commissioners for the next phase of our church planting strategy.

“With the addition of dedicated diocesan funding it will resource our exciting and diverse proposals to plant 11 new worshipping communities in many differing contexts across the diocese.

“Each will provide a dynamic Christian outreach with adventurous and pioneering leadership. Alongside our many thriving parishes, they will be a transforming presence, serving the new communities that will arise and calling people to faith in Christ.

“Huge thanks to the Church Commissioners for their generosity and to Joel Gowen, our new Chief Executive, who crafted much of the application when previously Director of Church Planting.”

Eleven church planting projects will be funded, plus a “School for Church Planters” development programme for lay and ordained planters across the diocese.

The eleven projects are:

  • St John’s Church in the town centre of Southend-on-Sea, is close to the University of Essex campus, the seaside pleasure pier and theme park, and main high street retail and shopping malls. In the next 2 years, the existing small congregation at St. John’s will receive a boost from a trained church-planting curate and a team from St. Michael’s, Westcliff-on-Sea. The aim is that St. John’s will grow and, in the future, will be ready to plant another congregation.


  • St. John’s Church in Stratford, East London, has developed links with All Hallows’ Church in Bow (part of the  HTB church network). A new curate from All Hallows’ will move into a large new housing development on the border of Stratford and Bow, with the aim of building church through growing community. 


  • St. Alban and St. Martin are growing churches, with traditional Catholic roots, on the Becontree Estate - the largest public housing development in Europe when first built. They plan to plant into St John’s Church complex in the same parish. They will organise community engagement events and build these into regular worshipping community events with a focus on families and young people.


  • Stanway is a growing suburban area on the West of Colchester. St Albright’s Church wants to reach into the new estates with a children’s and families’ worker, who will be joined by a planting curate in 2020. The aim is to plant a series of worshipping communities in suitable buildings, beginning in the Church hall.


  • Jaywick is the most deprived neighbourhood in England with enormous social issues. St Christopher’s was built as a summer worship centre in the middle of Jaywick and is planned as a base for a planting curate to extend the work of the parish of St James, Clacton.


  • The Debden Estate makes up the vast majority of the parish of St John the Baptist in Loughton. A Pioneer Minister and a part-time youth worker will grow a worshipping community with a focus on young people


  • Halstead is a growing market town in the rural North East of the diocese. The project will develop the church’s ministry to young people and families, particularly on a new housing development close to the existing Church of England school.


  • In Walthamstow and Chingford the aim is to form a lay community, shaped in the Benedictine tradition, serving both parishes.


  • St Matthias Church in Canning Town was a church-plant in 2015. It has grown from 12 to nearly 50, but the building is inadequate. To continue growth over the next five years, and to better serve the local community, the project will contribute to the refurbishment of the building.


  • Witham is a rapidly expanding market town in mid Essex. In October 2017, St Nicolas, Witham, licensed a lay Pioneer to live and serve in the area which has sparked new growth. The aim is to build on this work and start new fresh expression initiatives.


  • Southend is a priority and there will be a second church plant in the centre - at St. Mark’s Church, close to Southend Central Station. This will be Anglo-Catholic in tradition, with a team from St. Clement’s, Leigh-on-Sea. 


More information 

The House of Bishops paper gives a set of principles for church planting.


Chelmsford Diocese is working towards helping successful churches plant new churches in the new housing areas of Barking Riverside, Beam Park in Havering, Beaulieu in Chelmsford, and Colchester North and West in a project supported by the Church Commissioners. 


The mission to plant 101 new Christian communities in the next 10 years was unpacked by Chelmsford’s Director of Church Planting Projects, Joel Gowen, in a presentation to the Chelmsford Diocesan Synod which is available on YouTube.


Pioneer Ministers are ministers who reach out to new communities and other places where the Church might otherwise have little contact with people. Find out more at



Southend Sea front. St John’s Church in the town centre of Southend-on-Sea will have a trained church-planting curate.