After the Lincoln St Swithin’s Church congregation dwindled down to single figures, a national revival team were called in, with the hopes to bring music, interaction and contemporary services to the community.
The initiative by the Diocese of Lincoln and ‘church planting’ operation the HTB network, hopes to bring the forgotten Anglican church back to life.
In just over a year, English Heritage Grants, unique events, and the efforts of hard working volunteers have transformed the church on St Swithin’s Square, and the most recent team to get on board are making some modern changes.
The team from the HTB Network were invited by the Bishop of Lincoln to see what they could do to revive St Swithins.
Vicar Jim Prestwood, youth and students worker Matt Rogers, Dave Black who is the head of music and worship and ministry admissions facilitator Beth Harris have joined volunteers to turn the church around.
They’ve also been working closely with Alive church in the city centre.
In the run up to a special St Swithin’s church recommissioning service, which takes place on Thursday, October 2, the church has been decked out with staging for a band and turned the layout 180 degrees.
The Bishop of Lincoln, the Venerable Christopher Lowson, and the Mayor of Lincoln, Councillor Brent Charlesworth, will help celebrate a new start with an evening reception.
Following Thursday’s launch, Saturday, October 4 will see a more informal service at 6pm followed by music, food and drinks and then two services on Sunday, October 5 at 10.30am and 6pm.
Among changes, the stonework inside the building has also been thoroughly cleaned and decluttered.
The well of the church has been redesigned and space has been cleared in the rear rooms of the building for a day nursery and offices.
Jim Prestwood said: “HTB Church have been ‘church planting’ for about 15 years, which is where they’ve been invited by bishops to come into a church that’s declined a bit, or is low in numbers, or an empty building, to come in and revive it.
“The big thing with the organisation is it is invitation only so it’s not like a big takeover. Once we are invited by a bishop, we then speak to other churches and work with them and compromise on the plans.
“On a Thursday morning we are keeping a more traditional eucharist so people can still engage with their routes. That’s a lot more formal. Then Sunday mornings is a much more contemporary style and is band lead so the music is very different.”
“Being a city centre church and near to a university we are looking to engage with students.
“In the 90s there was a big decline in the church of England but think we are now gradually seeing growth again. Lincoln does come towards the bottom as a diocese in terms of attendance and growth.
“The congregation here was made up of around six or seven elderly people, who have been lovely and recognised that there was no way they could maintain it. They’ve been really gracious all the way along and its a big change for them.”
Unofficial services began at the church on Sunday, September 6, and among the different events on offer to the local community is HTB’s Alpha course.
Jim added: “The worldwide Alpha course, which has been going for about 20 years, is a 10-week look into questions about Christianity and faith, but it’s done over a meal on an interactive base so it’s not like a lesson.”
The group plan to continue growing the church before ‘planting off’ again in five years time. They say the space will also be used for helping the homeless, events and community groups.