The Diocese of Southwark is set to receive £29 million over nine years from the Church of England – the largest sum ever approved for a single diocese.

The Church’s Strategic Mission and Ministry Investment Board has approved the funding for Southwark’s whole-diocese transformation programme, which will facilitate mission and growth projects throughout South London and East Surrey. £21.63m has been approved for the first phase of this programme, to be awarded immediately, with an additional £7.44m to fund hub and resourcing churches*, with locations for these to be identified in 2027 and beyond. The programme will enable the Diocese to invest in extra projects to meet the missional challenges of our time, none of which will be at the expense of core funding for our parishes.

“I am delighted at this outcome, bringing to fruition our overriding commitment to all our parishes,” said The Bishop of Southwark, The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun. “I am grateful to the National Church for investing in our potential and endorsing our renewed Southwark Vision to be Christ centred and Outward focused in all we do. In this Diocese, resources always follow vision – and not the other way around. The Southwark Diocesan Investment Programme has emerged thanks to a great deal of team work and consultation with our parishes, and this very significant level of funding will enable us to move forward in faith, hope and love, the Lord being our helper.”

“It’s immensely encouraging that our colleagues in the National Church have supported our determination to enable and serve our diverse communities, and awarded this funding – without which we could not proceed with these Southwark Vision projects,” added Bishop’s Lead for Strategic Development, Ruth Martin, who has led the team which has worked together on the bid. “Through a range of integrated initiatives that reflect the generosity, contexts and gifts of our parishes, we will seek to grow our congregations, our diversity and our leadership over the coming decade.”

The application made by Southwark Diocese seeks to address four main missional challenges in partnership with the National Church:

  • Growing church attendance
  • Doubling the number of churches with more than 25 children and young people
  • Reaching and resourcing estates parishes
  • Growing pathways to ministry that increase the diversity of leadership and are more accessible to young people

The Diocese will respond to these challenges through creating a number of integrated initiatives designed to resource and enable churches of varying sizes and kinds to flourish and grow, and then share the learning to benefit every parish in the Diocese. This will include Fresh Expressions and innovation grants, as well as support for bilingual congregations and estates ministry. There will also be a new Parish Development and Renewal Programme, which invites teams from parishes to engage in a two-year learning initiative addressing the real challenges of parish life and exploring missional change in their local context. An apprenticeship-style scheme will address the need for more children and young people’s workers, offering young people a qualification and a path to paid employment. To further develop diversity amongst lay and ordained leaders in the Diocese, a research project will explore the barriers to ministry for people of all backgrounds – with the expectation that this will offer insights for the wider Church.

Welcoming the news, Diocesan Secretary Nicola Thomas, said: “We are grateful to parishes for their faithful generosity through the Parish Support Fund which allows us to provide essential services to our parishes. This funding partnership will be in addition to our core costs and will enable us to achieve so much more than numerical growth across our Diocese. It will greatly enhance our resources and ability to build on strategies that we have already seen work, putting parishes at the heart of our work and valuing them in all their diversity.”

Canon Will Cookson, Director of Mission and Dean of Pioneering Ministry and Fresh Expressions, said: “We know that there is no one-size-fits-all solution that will enable our churches to flourish. Mission will always be driven by the needs and character of the local community. That’s why we’ve created a programme that parishes of all kinds – from urban to rural, anglo-catholic to evangelical and everything in between – can get involved with and benefit from. These are exciting times and we look forward to sharing with our churches the ways in which they can get involved.”

* Hub churches create models that can be used in other parishes, offering support to those parishes in implementing change. Resourcing churches have the capacity and generosity to revitalise other parishes – often through planting and grafting into congregations.