This weekend sees the official launch of Gas Street Church, a multi million pound project which will be based in a converted gas works which has been turned into a church centre. This is a joint venture between Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) and the Diocese of Birmingham. It has been developed on the premise that Birmingham has one of the youngest populations in the UK. Essentially Gas Street is a resourcing church which it is hoped will build a base of young disciples who will be equipped to enable mission in our parishes. In addition a team of youth workers or missioners have been employed to help support a select group of parishes who can afford them.
Nobody could disagree that it is important that our Diocese has a mission strategy, and engaging with our young people seems to be an excellent approach to mission on many different levels.
Growing Younger / Gas Street Church has not been universally popular amongst the clergy, with some being concerned that young people will be attracted away from their churches and towards the fantastic facilities, music and well resourced social activities that are sure to be rolled out. Constructive criticism is largely made behind closed doors.
In truth this project isn’t going touch us here in Handsworth. It is unlikely that anybody from the resourcing church is going to want to come here, and we can’t afford to pay the expenses of one of the youth workers on offer. A percentage of our common fund contributions will fund the project, even though we can’t access any of the benefits. You can understand why this is just a little perplexing.
A senior colleague from another Diocese suggested some time ago that the development of the HTB model of church in Birmingham will eventually mean that there is no place for those of us from the Catholic tradition. I hope this is not true, although the HTB model seems to be white, middle class and affluent, nothing like ‘doing church’ in Handsworth.
We are developing our own mission strategy at the moment. This place is ripe for community engagement because of its location. I was promised a great deal of resources and support when I first arrived, alas they have never materialised. When I have occasionally asked for support, I have been very politely reminded that it’s ultimately my responsibility, if indeed a response has been forthcoming at all. Get on with it. This is fair enough on one level, but really frustrating when you have a vision, but none of the resources to make it happen, when you know a small catalyst could make the difference between success and failure.
Thankfully my vocation has never been dented, but it’s been a lonely and disempowering journey, and just occasionally soul destroying, probably because I care. But I still do believe in what I am doing, for the time being at least.
No, I’m afraid that we don’t tick many boxes, ‘inner city’ ‘catholic tradition’ ‘deprivation index’ etc etc. Only time will tell if there is any future.