Empty shops across Sunderland and Hartlepool to be transformed thanks to £4.2m funding

Empty shops in Sunderland, Hartlepool and Easington will be transformed thanks to £4.2million of funding awarded to The Diocese of Durham.

Wednesday, 8th July 2020, 7:00 am
The Rev Canon David Tomlinson with members of the Murton 'Communities of Hope' project examine their planned new location in a disused shop. Photo by Keith Blundy.

The sum awarded by the Church of England will be used for mission and evangelism across the diocese with plans to lease empty high street shops in some cities and towns to create 14 ‘Communities of Hope’ in Sunderland, Hartlepool, Easington (East Durham former coalfields).

It will also provide investment to Stockton All Saints to plant a new church in Wynyard and Stockton St Paul’s; Investment in Cleadon Park with St Peter’s Harton in South Shields to revitalise churches in Jarrow deanery and also to help plant at least six new churches in the diocese over the next five years.

The Communities of Hope will be centres for new forms of Christian gatherings with social projects from food banks to community cafes, budget cookery classes and help with job hunting including CV writing and literacy and numeracy support. Each serving the spiritual needs of the people in that place.

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The Rev Canon David Tomlinson with members of the Murton 'Communities of Hope' project examine their planned new location in a disused shop. Photo by Keith Blundy.

The vision for the project comes from the learning and success of the Shildon Alive project in Shildon, which over the last eight years has gone from zero to a national award-winning beacon project - shining a light on what a thriving Christian community can look like.

The award, which is the third the diocese has received in six years from the national church, brings the total investment in transformational church planting and Communities of Hope to more than £8m.

The Revd Canon David Tomlinson, Programme Director for Strategic Growth in the Diocese, said: “This is an investment in the people of the North East, it is about the church saying to our towns and villages still recovering from pit closures, COVID and more, that we are standing together to make a real difference in the years to come. The North East is our place and we are proud of it, proud of its people, its history, and its future.

“One example of these new communities is in Murton where a small group of faith-filled Murton people got together, prayed together and came up with the vision.

“Shildon Alive has proved that not only can community hubs be sustainable, they empower local people, make faith relevant, and bring new hope to areas that are often written off.

“I am delighted that the learning in Shildon can now be used to benefit others and excited to see just what a difference we will have made in places like Murton and beyond over the years to come.”

The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham said: “This is fantastic news. We have been working on reimagining how we serve our communities and grow the Christian community for a long while. This specific work has taken us a while to develop, it's recognition will help to build the future of the Church and its community in the North East.

“This is vitally important work helping us to bless our communities in Jesus’ name for the transformation of us all.

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