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 Diocese worked with our partner denominations to provide the Church of Christ the Cornerstone as a City Church for Milton Keynes. It is an iconic building that is genuinely valued, but there is huge potential to grow our relationship with the emerging community.
  • 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 2021…

This focus area has links to other strands of our common vision such as poverty, discipleship, growing new congregations and our children, young people and schools work.

It’s clear that we need to invest in new worshipping communities and new ways of being church. There has been a recent resurgence in church planting, which began with Church without Walls as part of the Fresh Expressions movement. This project was jointly funded by the URC and Anglican Church, and has grown to become a worshipping community of 50-60 people.

We are looking to build on these initiatives in 2021. This will include two Resourcing Hubs as part of the new congregations focus area.

Prayer will be an important key to unlock what happens next, and a prayer coordinator has been appointed. Although the COVID-19 pandemic prevented us from meeting in person, the project has moved online and has developed in new and exciting ways. Visit PrayMK.com to find out more.

Our partnership with Citizens MK has grown during 2020 as we have continued to explore the practice of community organising. This has included new work with refugees, a community alliance in a disadvantaged area, support for congregational development and the nurture of missional leaders – and all this against the backdrop of lockdown. We look forward to seeing how this work will develop over the coming year.

We have also begun to use rooms at the Church of Christ the Cornerstone as a base for mission. This is a powerful indication of the way we want to celebrate and bless the city – working with other denominations, faith communities and a range of partners.

Although the “town” of Milton Keynes is now 50 years old, we are still at the beginning of a much bigger story. As a diocese, we look forward to seeing what God will do in this emerging city. Watch this space!

An update on PrayMK

“Wherever you have come here from and whoever you are, you were born ready to pray. You have got all you need already built in. It’s as simple and as huge as sharing all of yourself with God.”

Prayer is an important key in unlocking what happens next in Milton Keynes. Delivered by St Mark’s MK and supported by the diocese and Milton Keynes Churches, PrayMK was established five years ago and works hard to resource and encourage prayer in and for Milton Keynes. Although the Covid-19 pandemic prevented them from rolling out in person events, the project moved online and has developed in new and exciting ways.

“There are lots of people who want to direct their inner yearnings, thoughts and worries somewhere but don’t know how to – if we can give word to that then we can help. We have people from all over the city, of different backgrounds, ethnicity, gender and ages – they may be old hands at praying who need a bit of encouragement, or maybe someone for whom prayer is new and feels a little scary or uncomfortable. We welcome all and are delighted to support you – we’re cheering you on, are so grateful for your faithfulness and want you to know that in prayer, you can be 100% honest, open and free.”

Revd Paul Oxley, St Mark’s Milton Keynes.

Despite the challenges of multiple lockdowns, during 2020 Pray MK hosted a number of online events including a live prayer gathering for Pentecost which attracted hundreds of people from across Milton Keynes, a 24/7 prayer week which saw individuals and groups commit over 200 hours of prayer, collaborating with two other local churches and one national network to help create online prayer rooms and developing audio meditations for download. They also managed to host outdoor, socially distanced events as well including working with a local artist to create prayer walks around the green spaces of Milton Keynes.