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This is Not a Project


The Church Commissioners have funded 28 very different approaches to mission in deprived areas, and their hope is that learning from these can contribute to shaping the mission of the Church of England. Some of this funding has come to Hull, through Andy Dorton (a YFC trustee) and “This is Not a Project” began – with a requirement for an External evaluator. Andy knew I was working free-lance, looking to see where my experience and background may be useful, he got in touch and the rest, as they say, is history!

I have lived in inner city Sheffield for over 30 years, where my 2 sons have grown up and where I continue to live with my husband. I’m a Christian, from a youth work and training background, and have a passion for finding ways in which people can grow in their faith and discover their God given talents!

I have had the privilege of being involved with an inspiring initiative in Hull, over the last 2 years or so. My role has been to journey with those involved, helping work out the important things that are of value that are being learned. So HYFC’s experience, including that of JP, are contributing to the wider learning in the Church of England.

The title “This is Not a Project” summarises what it is – and isn’t! It’s based in five local church connected organisations in Hull, who have a track record in enabling local people to become disciples. Funding from the Church Commissioners (Church of England) has released five of these local people for two years. There have been opportunities to learn together and discover God at work. They are termed Mission Apprentices, although they are actually the experts in knowing the best ways to share Good News with those around them! And one of the things that has been striking is how their mission roles blend seamlessly with day to day life, as they bump into people at the shops or on the football field. So this is not a project that has been planted into a community – it’s natural!

It’s been a delight to have JP as part of the group of Mission Apprentices. Each is different, and brings a different contribution to the group. JP has been the youngest, and it has been great to see him grow from a young lad to a mature and sensitive young man, with a strong faith and a real sense of integrity. In the learning sets, as Mission apprentices have been doing, JP has amazed us with the wide array of activities and relationships – although he has at times taken some convincing that what he’s been doing is special. He’s clearly had an impact in HYFC, and his peers have a great respect for him. “He’s easy to talk to. He helped me to become a better Christian – his faith has helped my faith. It’s infectious.” Most of the staff team have moved into the area from outside, and they have welcomed JP’s presence and questioning as a catalyst for exploring “what it means for someone local to shape our mission.”

The final overall evaluation is still to be written, but at this stage it is clear that the Mission Apprentices, in different ways, have continued to build relationships of trust within their organisation and with those they encounter, journeying alongside others on their faith journeys. Consistently traditional church formats are not easy for those from more deprived areas, and locally rooted Christian organisations appear to be more natural homes for discipleship, community and sometimes worship. This warrants further exploration. The Mission Apprentices have grown in faith, in confidence, in skills, without leaving and losing their background. JP sums it up well: “I can have my faith, have fun, talk to people about faith. But I can still be me.”

Jenny Richardson