Norwich conference tells stories of multiplication
St Thomas Norwich recently had the privilege of hosting the East Anglian hub of Multiply 2022, a national conference on church multiplication.
The Bishop of Lynn, Dr Jane Steen, played a key role in the Norwich event, along with Archdeacon Rhiannon King, who leads Inspiring Ipswich and Archdeacon Sally Gaze, who leads Lightwave, a network of 31 cell churches across Suffolk. They were joined by representatives from The Centre for Church Multiplication (CCX), Stephen Gorton and Dave Vincent.
Rev Tom Eagles and his team from St Thomas’ facilitated the conference with generosity, love and skill and Archdeacon Rhiannon hosted the day along with Rev Dave Lloyd, leader of The Garden, a network of missional communities in Norfolk. Emily Saunders and Baaba Ennin, two of the diocesan church planting interns, led the conference in worship.
Multiply 2022 was part of a national conversation instigated by Bishop Ric Thorpe (head of Church Planting and Revitalisation in the Church of England) and executed by the Centre for Church Multiplication, which was set up to pilot and implement the national vision. “This year was marked by rich, diverse, encouraging and honest conversation across 11 regional hubs in the UK and online,” explains Dave Lloyd. “The regional hubs were great at celebrating local stories and exploring local context.”
The day began with a thought from Archbishop Stephen Cottrell and a call for the church in England to increase the ‘biodiversity’ of its ‘ecosystem’ so that ‘1000 flowers can bloom’. Multiple pathways, he argued, multiple lanes, multiple modes and multiple leaders were needed to reach multiple people groups today.
The idea took visible shape later during the day in a panel which included some vibrant multipliers who are modelling a variety of new ecclesial communities across Norfolk. In Dersingham, in the west of the county, Revs Mark Capron and Dave Cossey have been creating a café community in the village hall and in mid Norfolk youth workers Matt Cook and Martha Rees have been using a football to attract 40 youngsters in the village of Carbrooke. Meanwhile Fr Harri Williams (Walsingham) has been exploring a charismatic anglo-catholic plant to reach a new generation and primary school teacher Charlotte Bayes (Great Melton) has planted a Garden Church missional community that is enjoying new life.
The conference also heard from Rev Helen Shannon who spoke on estate ministry and her picture of Dunkirk, where hundreds of small boats were mobilised to reach and save those in the shallows, a picture for what God is doing today in mission and ecclesiology. Ed Stetzer, a leading thinker on Gospel and culture who teaches at Wheaton College, gave three keynote talks. He helped to make sense of the 'cultural convulsion' that we are living in today, adding practical guidance on mission for churches in the coming year.
“With practitioners form Suffolk diocese, Ely and Norfolk all joined together,” comments Dave Lloyd, “and local stories from lay and ordained leaders, there was a huge sense of hope and unity as we saw what God is doing in East Anglia.
“The spirit of mutual support, collaboration and creativity in reaching new disciples across rural, urban and new housing contexts was very special.”
Pictured are scenes from the Multiply Conference at St Thomas Norwich. Images: Jason Baldry.