Celebrate and bless Milton Keynes

A missional opportunity

Milton Keynes is a huge and rapidly growing city that’s reaching a significant turning point. The Church has a strategic opportunity to influence what happens next.

On celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017, Milton Keynes was clearly on the map with a population of nearly 300,000 people and growing. It’s now set to become an important new regional centre for the UK.

Right at the heart of the new Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge arc, by 2030 Milton Keynes will be home to a new university and a population of 500,000. The city will be larger than some dioceses in the Church of England.

Milton Keynes enjoys strong economic growth and a wonderfully diverse community. 40% of primary school children are now of Black, Asian and minority ethnic heritage. But that growth is masking some important societal issues and the Church has struggled to keep pace: church attendance is now around 0.6% with just one incumbent (the vicar in charge of a parish) for every 22,000 people.

The Area Dean on Milton Keynes

Filmed at the 2019 common vision conference at High Leigh, this film sets out why celebrating and blessing Milton Keynes is an important focus area for the whole of this Diocese.

Key facts

  • Milton Keynes officially became a new town on January 23, 1967. It was the last and the largest of the new towns.
  • No-one in Milton Keynes is ever more than half a mile from a park, but the city has a high level of urban deprivation with one in four children living in poverty.
  • There are more show homes in Milton Keynes than any other UK city but house prices are out of reach for many local people and homelessness is increasing
  • There are 124 roundabouts in Milton Keynes. The grid system has created a surrounding network of distinctly different suburbs of 2,000 to 3,000 people.
  • The Church of Christ the Cornerstone was the first purpose-built ecumenical church in the UK. The Church of England invested heavily in new congregations and church buildings during the early days of the city, but investment in church growth did not keep pace with population.
  • Our community engagement work (see the Making a Bigger Difference focus area) is modelled on the success of MK Citizens.

Questions we are exploring

  • Church Growth
    we have planted eighteen congregations in Milton Keynes since 1967, but need to plant more. How can we learn from the experience of church planting in Milton Keynes?
  • Flourishing Churches
    many churches were launched around twenty to thirty years ago and need refreshing. We need to think about how we support these existing communities so that they can flourish.
  • Ecumenical partnership
    Milton Keynes was founded in an era when structural ecumenism (a focus on buildings and leadership) was encouraged. What can we celebrate and learn from this as our emphasis changes to partnership in mission?
  • Continual innovation
    Milton Keynes has always been a place to nurture innovation: ecumenism, collaborative ministry, fresh expressions and community organising. How do we ensure that this continues and what will we try next?

In 2020…

It’s clear that we need to invest in new worshipping communities and new ways of being church, and that this focus area relies heavily on other strands of our common vision such as discipleship, growing new congregations and our children, youth and schools work.

There has been a recent resurgence in church planting, which began with Church without Walls as part of the Fresh Expressions movement. An estates pioneer ministry, jointly funded by the URC and Anglican church, has grown to becoming a worshipping community of 50-60 people. We will look to build on these initiatives in the year ahead.

Recognising prayer across the city will be an important key to unlock what happens next, a prayer coordinator is about to start work. God is clearly at work in and through the people of Milton Keynes and we are excited that national funding agreed in principle will include the further development of one of the church communities.

During 2020 there will be lots of engagement through Citizens UK and with civic and other stakeholders across Milton Keynes. Working with ecumenical partners where appropriate, a dedicated group will provide support, challenge and encouragement as, together, we discern how to stimulate the thriving church community that the city deserves. Watch this space.