As the country weathers a period of Brexit-related turmoil, a Dutch church minister and his Zimbabwean wife have returned to the UK to begin a new pioneering ministry among those in their 20s, 30s and 40s in the North Yorkshire market town of Malton.

At a welcome service held this week at St Michael’s Church in Malton’s historic market square, Hendrik Klaver from the Netherlands was licensed by the Bishop of Selby, Dr John Thomson, as a ‘Multiply’ minister with a focus on reaching those who currently have little or no connection with the church. Joining Hendrik at the service were his wife, Mavis and their three children together with family, friends and supporters from churches throughout the town and area.

Hendrik and Mavis are no strangers to the UK. They met while both were studying theology in Gloucestershire in 2003, and after graduating worked in churches in the south west of England, and, for six years, in the Sheffield area where Hendrik was Youth and Families Worker at Christ Church, Pitsmoor.

Now they are returning to England to take up the new pioneering role in the Diocese of York. Hendrick admits that Brexit was something of a discouragement to return from Rotterdam. “The present situation was not really encouraging us to come here, if I’m honest! But in the end it was also quite clear that as Kingdom people we shouldn’t think along these lines. We love the UK and we love the Anglican church as a really good place which is deeply rooted in tradition, in the early church and in scripture while at the same time having space for new things to happen. That’s something which really attracted us.”

Hendrik brings more than a dozen years of experience in pioneering youth and families ministry with churches both in Britain and Holland. After his ministry Pitsmoor, he and his family moved in 2012 to Rotterdam where he took up the post of Pioneering Lay Minister and Mission Enabler planting a new church, ‘Kerk op de Kop’.

“Churches in the Netherlands, just as in the UK are looking at how we can reach people we are currently not reaching . In Rotterdam we were in a very new area with lots of young professionals living and working. We didn’t have a church building ourselves but used local buildings and our focus was to help people explore faith. We would meet together on the first Sunday of the month, but it wasn’t very ‘churchy’ in the way people might expect. We had a regular pattern of meetings with silence, workshops, reflective and creative worship and opportunities to discuss faith in groups.”

Hendrik is the latest ‘Multiply’ minister to be appointed by the Diocese of York to develop new worshipping communities for those in their 20s to 40s. Fourteen ordained or lay specialist ministers will be commissioned in thirteen locations as part of the church’s strategy.

“What’s exciting about coming here is the way this work with the 20s to 40s is being approached,” says Hendrik. “It is a real movement rather than isolated initiative, part of a wider vision for the whole diocese to inspire more peopleā€¦ I like the idea of doing this work not in isolation but as part of a bigger movement. I am sure I can learn from the experiences of others in the team and also share some of my experiences.

Another attraction of coming to Malton has been the welcome of the church. “What I like about this church is that is really in the market place. That’s where church should be: in the middle of the lives of people.”