The Diocese of York has won a significant grant towards implementing the ambitious vision for growth across the diocese championed by Archbishop Stephen.

The Church Commissioners have awarded £850,000 of ‘Strategic Capacity Funding’ (SCF) to help pull a small team together to work with deaneries, with parishes and with the diocesan office team to put some flesh on the bones of the Living Christ’s Story vision emerging from consultations with deaneries and parishes over the last two years.

Bishop of Whitby, Paul Ferguson said, “It’s very good news that the national church is going to help us in this way. It’s an important step towards having more capacity to support the mission and growth of the church across the diocese over the next ten years.”

Living Christ’s Story is all about investing in people – directly in growing vocations, deepening our understanding of who we are as the body of Christ, and how to reach out to people who currently have little or nothing to do with church. It is also about freeing up more time and energy to pray, to worship and to serve our neighbourhoods by simplifying the work of running our church buildings and church communities as much as we can, taking some of the burden of administration out of the system

Archdeacon Sam Rushton, currently on secondment as Interim Director for Strategic Transformation, said, “This first investment by the national church will help us as our plans develop. By the end of this year, we will have a much clearer idea of where to invest the diocese’s own reserves over the next ten years and will help us to bid for more support from the national church and elsewhere.”

The first new SCF-funded job to be advertised will be for a specialist to help us use technology well across the diocese. This will include exploring where we can use digital technology to communicate more effectively with each other and in reaching out to others, simplifying some of our processes, and supporting parishes in thinking about how to use technology well. They will reshape our website so that information is easily available for clergy, churchwardens and others involved in ministry and in running our churches. Archdeacon Sam comments, “It is part of our aim to be ‘simpler, humbler and bolder’ - with the emphasis being on simpler!”

Other SCF-funded roles to come include someone to take on the leadership of our transformation programme, and a co-ordinator for the many separate projects needed to deliver Living Christ’s Story. Archdeacon Sam says “When there is a lot of change going on, it needs careful management; the last thing we want is for parishes to bear the brunt of lots of unco-ordinated activity over the next five years.” An additional role supporting the work of the Mission and Ministry team will also be advertised.

Archbishop Stephen commented “I am really encouraged that the national church has recognised and affirmed our vision. We have set ourselves a huge challenge – to live Christ’s story in every community across the diocese, to become more like Christ, to reach people we currently don’t and to grow churches of missionary disciples. There will be lots of change ahead – we will only be able to grow if we transform our structures and finances – but I’m confident that, with God’s help, we are up to the challenge.”

* The Church Commissioners set aside millions of pounds every year to be allocated to dioceses that can show that they have a stretching but realistic plan to grow. A recent report commissioned by the Church of England’s national Archbishops’ Council showed how Strategic Development Funding (SDF) is changing the lives of people across the country, often in some of the least well-served towns and cities. Strategic Capacity Funding (SCF) helps dioceses identify opportunities for growth and spend the money available through SDF and through Strategic Transformation Funding (STF) wisely.