Bishop wants to take ‘battle for Christian soul’ to deprived estates

The Rt Rev. Philip North speaking at the Synod
The Rt Rev. Philip North speaking at the Synod

The Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Rev. Philip North, has spoken about his hope that the Church of England should ‘rediscover’ its passion for deprived estates across the country.

His latest comments follow his agenda-setting speech to the General Synod where he challenged the Church to consider that it needs take the ‘battle for the Christian soul of this nation to urban housing estates.’

There are some great examples across the country of good work going on in difficult inner city areas and we should celebrate and learn from those examples

Bishop

During a debate on evangelism, Bishop Philip said the church must step up its presence among poor communities. He said closing struggling churches that were not able to pay for themselves was a ‘betrayal of the Gospel’ and he called on the national Church to put more resources into council estates that had been neglected.

Bishop Philip is a member of the Archbishops’ Evangelical Taskforce which has a one-day conference in York in March to look at a number of priority areas – one of which will be estates’ evangelism.

Bishop Philip said: “There are some great examples across the country of good work going on in difficult inner city areas and we should celebrate and learn from those examples. One example is Rev. Canon Peter Hapgood-Strickland who has been doing fantastic work in his parish of St Andrew’s in Burnley.

“Despite the good work, we can also identify a lot of parishes struggling to keep going. We need to better support them and their clergy because parishes on tough estates can be exhausting to work in.

“At the same time, these estates can be amazingly rewarding places for clergy to work. We just need to ensure the Church as a whole has the right help in place and is passionate about spreading the Gospel on our estates in modern ways that are tried and tested.

“Our March conference is about identifying current best practice and saying: ‘what can we learn; how can we benefit and what do we need to do to change and adapt?’

“It’s not by design that we have lost our focus in this area but there is a need to acknowledge the requirement to change direction.”