Planting new congregations in High Wycombe

In 2018, after much prayer and lamenting about where God might be leading St Andrew’s Church, Hatters Lane, a small team of people gathered from the church and began a new journey of church planting in the nearby dwindling congregation of St Mary and St George.

St Mary and St George Church, High Wycombe, is part of the diocese’s new congregations initiative which seeks to establish new missional communities and congregations to see more people from every part of the diverse diocese to come to know Jesus.

With funding from the Diocese of Oxford, Wycombe Deanery, New Wine and Love Wycombe a Pioneer Minister, the Revd Jonny Dade, was appointed and began leading the church planting team. Fairly quickly a process of casting vision, adapting the church building for modern worship and calling people into specific roles developed.

By January 2019, a team of 35 people had moved to SMG to help grow the congregation and engage with the local communities of the socio-economically diverse areas of Sands and Castlefield, with extremes of wealth and poverty.

Since starting the plant the congregation has grown from 25 to 60 regular Sunday attendees. This includes new families who have moved into the area and those who have been on the edge of church and reconnected by finding a home in the SMG church community.

The Revd Jonny Dade, Pioneer Minister shared:

“Being part of SMG is so exciting. There’s a real sense that God’s isn’t done with SMG and there is still much life here.”

“One of the most amazing things I have seen is the congregation really taking on the challenge of stewardship as congregational giving has gone up. It’s a real encouragement to know that we are on the way to getting the church to a point where it can support its own parish share and be sustainable in the long term. Despite being a plant from another church, it is still so important that as a church we contribute to parish share and support the mission and ministry of the overall diocese to build the Kingdom of God.”

In recent months, the church team has been discerning where there is most need in their local communities and where there are opportunities for outreach which has led to developing new missional communities.

“Our missional communities are a crucial part of church life offering us opportunities to reach people where they are, build relationships with our neighbours and do life together. The identity of each group is shaped around who they are called to reach and are rooted in prayer.”

One of these Missional Communities has run a monthly lunch club for children and parents. Prior to the pandemic, 30 to 40 were joining each month for food, games and craft. With several primary schools and nurseries on the local estates, the Missional Community is now planning to form a new group for parents and toddlers in the New Year which may feed into the newly establish Sunday ministry for preschool aged children which was launched this term.

SMG is one of the few local churches that have partnered with their local YMCA group and Youth for Christ. Volunteers from the church regularly help to resource the organisations.

The Revd Jonny Dade reflected on what the future holds for SMG:

“Within the Wycombe Deanery, there is a real appetite to do more, to reach out to more people in the community who don’t know Jesus Christ.

“In 2021 we partnered again with St Andrew’s Hatters Lane in recruiting a Pioneer Curate, the Revd Simon Russell. Over the next few years, we hope to be able to send Simon out to church plant again, with support from SMG and the wider Deanery. This is an exciting possibility to, once, again, share the life changing news of the gospel.”

“Our missional communities are a crucial part of church life offering us opportunities to reach people where they are, build relationships with our neighbours and do life together. The identity of each group is shaped around who they are called to reach and are rooted in prayer.”

The New Congregations initiative is one of the five key areas of our Common Vision in the diocese.  We long to see more people from every part of our diverse diocese come to know Jesus, through fresh expressions of church, revitalisations, new church plants, language fellowships, the faithful work that currently exists and new opportunities within our parishes.