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Wisbech is at the forefront of a drive to increase churchgoers in Diocese of Ely's Market Town's Mission

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The Church of England is on a mission in Wisbech and other local towns to try to increase congregation numbers and encourage more people to have faith.

Sue Squires-Dutton who runs an after school religious club at the Orchards School. (4895638)
Sue Squires-Dutton who runs an after school religious club at the Orchards School. (4895638)

The Diocese of Ely succeeded in a Church of England bid and has £1.23 million of funding for its Market Towns Mission, part of the Bishop of Ely’s People Fully Alive; Ely 2025 campaign, which is focussing on communities like Wisbech, March and Chatteris.

The Rev Canon Matthew Bradbury. (4956711)
The Rev Canon Matthew Bradbury. (4956711)

Leading the Mission Team in Wisbech is the Rev Canon Matthew Bradbury, of St Peter and St Paul’s Church.

The mission’s aim is to take the Church to the people rather than expecting people to turn up for Sunday services. It is looking at what Canon Matthew describes, as “Fresh Expressions of Church”.

Wisbech is at the forefront of the Ely Dioceses’ Market Towns Mission because of work already successfully being undertaken.

Canon Matthew said: “We can all stand at our church doors on a Sunday ringing our hands that few people are coming to our services, or we can do something about it.

“We have to accept times have changed, Sundays are now days when families want to do things together – it’s perhaps the only day off people have and understandably they don’t want to spend it in church. For many it is another work day, so we have to look at ways of taking the Church to the people.

“We are creating ‘Fresh Expressions of Church’ – for instance the monthly Messy Church at Walsoken is very successful in encouraging children and families into church.

“It is things like that we hope will encourage more people back into Church, to take an interest in Christian teachings and come to a life of faith.”

Wisbech’s share of the £1.23 million is being used to appoint lay workers who can work to bring a freshness to the way the Church works in Wisbech by, for instance, holding prayer meetings during the week and in venues away from the churches.

Canon Matthew explained the main reason Wisbech is at the forefront of the mission is because of work it is already doing at the Orchards Church of England Academy – a member of the Diocese of Ely Multi-Academy Trust (DEMAT) – where they appointed a family support worker with help from the Mother’s Union. The appointment was made thanks to a bequest from long-standing member of St Augustine’s Church, Freda Hemmaway.

Susan Squires-Dutton is that worker, and Canon Matthew says she has been very successful befriending families, who need support, and has also launched a popular after school club.

Meeting on Thursdays the club is overtly Christian, run along the lines of a traditional Sunday school.

Canon Matthew said: “Because the Orchards is a Church school there is not an issue with teaching Christianity. It is explicitly a Christian after-school club, there are prayers and Bible readings.

“The aim is to employ a similar worker at St Peter’s School, which is also part of DEMAT, and they will operate along the same lines as Sue at the Orchards.

“We also want to offer a support worker to the Thomas Clarkson Academy, although this is still under negotiation because we understand that a secular school has very clear guidelines about religious teaching which we respect absolutely. We would simply aim to serve the school and its many needs. Anything connected to Christian mission would be done away from the school.”

Canon Matthew explained the mission will also offer a varied range of courses through the Wisbech Learning Community, based in and around St Augustine’s Church, on subjects as diverse as living on a budget to becoming a licensed lay minister.

He concluded: “At the moment St Peter’s has a regular congregation of around 50. If, when I am finished, we have a congregation on a Sunday of 150 at St Peter’s I will consider that a success.”

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