Exciting and rewarding times lie ahead for the Church of England in the city of Preston.Advertisement
That’s the opinion of the two new clergymen who are working side by side to deliver a huge new ‘resourcing parish’ project over the next few years.
The project will put the churches of Preston Minster and St George’s, which make up the historic Parish of Preston, at the heart of a drive to bring the Christian faith to the 98% of Prestonians who don’t worship regularly in a church.
The £1.5m project forms part of The Church of England in Lancashire’s work to achieve its ‘Vision 2026 Healthy Churches Transforming Communities’.
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Rev. Sam Haigh, who hails from Keighley is the new Vicar of Preston while Father David Craven, who is Assistant Priest and is based at St George’s was brought up near Selby. He has recently moved from Tarleton to take up his post in the city.
Sam says: “A substantial part of the vision for Preston is around engagement with the many students who come to Preston to attend the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).
“We want to have a strong expression of the Christian faith available to our young people as they seek to explore the big questions of life in their student years here.
“We will be making sure that the Church is alongside them to support them in what is a very significant part of their life’s journey and both churches will stand together at the Freshers’ Fair in the University.”
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While Sam is from the evangelical tradition, David is an Anglo-Catholic and the pair plan to work together to forge a strong relationship between the two traditions and deliver the ambitious project.
David says: “At our first staff meeting, we were talking about the use of labels like evangelical and Anglo-Catholic.
“They are so layered with baggage and to people out there in the city these terms mean absolutely nothing.
“We may well approach spirituality and worship in slightly different ways, but the whole point is that we enjoy a living relationship with God through the person of Jesus Christ.
“At the same time, we recognise that people of the city will connect with the basic message of our faith in different ways.
“Those that like a more expressive and exuberant style of worship will find themselves very much at home at the Minster; whereas for those who are comfortable with being more contemplative, reflective and rooted in the deep traditions of the church then St George’s will be a comfortable place for them to connect.”
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Sam adds: “We will also be making sure that there is plenty of ‘crossover’ between the two churches and their congregations.
“In most towns and cities there are Christian churches of all denominations
which are very different in their expressions of faith and worship.
“The key difference here in Preston is that we have decided that the best way forward is to do this together.
“We’re not trying to blend the traditions together but are working alongside each other for the benefit of the people of this wonderful city.”
The project involves a £700,000 refurbishment of the Minster, with upgrades to the building, which includes the installation of large screens, a new stage and contemporary music facilities.
There will be additional staff brought in to include a children and family worker, administrative support and new curates.
In addition to the work taking place in the city centre, the project also sets out to plant new congregations on the estates outside the city.
Preston Resourcing Parish will officially launch on September 26. Leave your welcome messages to Sam and David in the comments section.