Reverend Dr Nigel Griffiths, rector at Merstham and Gatton Team Ministry shares on the story so far from the Merstham and Gatton Team SDF project.

Merstham and Gatton Team Ministry (MGTM) were part the cocktail of projects making up Southwark’s bid for SDF (Strategic Development Fund) funding, coming in a year ago, just before the proposal went out. Our involvement began through a phone call from St Mary’s Reigate to Ven. Moira Astin, who offered resources and support for local churches and communities in the Reigate Archdeaconry which came in at the exact moment that she was about to pray ‘where next?’ for Merstham as they entered interregnum.

Merstham’s contribution to Southwark’s SDF bid was born out of the need for investment to address the decline in resources  and a diminished church presence in the Merstham council estate. The team also aspired to have a 4th church  planting; a new worshipping community in a  local school or community hub in the heart of the estate itself.

Church planting can be variously described as anything from grafting into a congregation, initiating a new worshipping community within an existing church or planting a worshipping community into an entirely new setting.  So as church planting projects go this one is undoubtedly ambitious, comprising as it does all three of these in succession; grafting in, growing out and reaching out.

The project began with the grafting in of worshippers from St Mary’s Reigate and now there are already many encouragements to note. A Team Administrator/ Ops Manager was appointed and up and running in the first 90 days  of the projects launch. The search for a Youth Worker and a Pioneer Curate has begun and the conversion of the vestry into ‘Mission Control’ began in January.  Most encouragingly it is exciting to see numbers edge upwards in both All Saints and St Katharine’s churches.

This project is not only about growing Christ-centred churches but is also outward-focused in mission, as they reach out through community engagement. All Saints has successfully taken over the hosting of the weekly ‘Easter project’ community lunch following the closure of the community café in September.

The October Dog Show on the green outside All Saints was a resounding success drawing in Mersthamites from all walks of life.  The night before All Saints’ patronal feast our ‘Treats with no Tricks’ Light Fantastic display made a tangibly positive connection with the many families out on their Halloween crawl.

Planning a renewal project can sometimes feel a little bit like ‘seeing what we think needs doing and hoping God joins in’. But as the old Proverb puts it: ‘Many are the plans of a person’s heart but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails’  and our prayer is, now that the initial plans have been put in place, Christ’s Kingdom work can really flourish.