Now to be known as 'Mustard Seed', the Diocese of York’s strategy to reach ‘People in Poverty’ initiative is moving forward following agreement by Archbishop’s Council and Diocesan Synod, the church’s ‘parliament’.

While it is hoped that the Church Commissioners will approve a £1.35m funding application for the ‘People in Poverty’ strand of the diocesan strategy later this year, Council and Synod members have backed plans to go ahead and begin implementing the initiative from November 2019 with the appointment of a Programme Leader who will be based for part of each week at three centres in Hull, Middlesbrough and Scarborough.

More than a quarter of the population of the Diocese of York live in 49 parishes facing very high deprivation. In these places the proportion who attend a Church of England church is around half of that for the rest of the Diocese.

‘Mustard Seed’ is focused on making disciples and growing worshipping communities in our most deprived areas through two key interventions which are intended initially to facilitate one primary outcome:

  • ‘Stepping Up’: A development programme to equip and mobilise lay witnesses, leaders, pastors and planters in our most deprived communities.
  • ‘Ambassadors’: Creating a network of individuals who have a “heart” for a deprived community in which they are or have been deeply involved while living and worshipping elsewhere. They will be envisioned and equipped to build partnerships between the two places.
  • The initial intended primary outcome of these interventions is to enable ‘Community Hubs’ to flourish, locations offering community engagement within which new people will be reached and new forms of worshipping community emerge.

In the paper to Synod members last month, the Revd Richard White, Director of Making and Nurturing Disciples, said that the total investment required to implement all the People in Poverty plans would be around £1.85m over five years. The bid for £1.35m from central Church Commissioner funds would leave a diocesan investment of £500k.

This first, smaller-scale initial phase will not be dependent on funding from the Church Commissioners, but a successful funding bid to the Church Commissioners at the end of 2020 will mean “…the appointment of three Associate Programme Leaders to work with nine fledgling new centres so that the initiative spreads rapidly across the diocese.”

Richard White said, “It’s tremendously exciting to see the hard work of Bishop Alison’s People in Poverty working group and many others being launched as the ‘Mustard Seed’. Please pray for God’s provision of the Programme Leader”.