Davina Tomlinson, David Tomlinson, Frances Cooper,Mike Peacock, Ali Bianchi & Jess Holland

The Diocese of Durham has appointed three new project roles aimed at fast-tracking and embracing growth in a series of projects across the region.

With estimates of the faith sector contributing some 280 million volunteer hours to the national economy, it is no wonder that the Diocese of Durham is embracing growth even during this period of the pandemic. Supporting local projects, training volunteers, and delivering the kind of things that make our communities worth living is what the Diocese prioritises.

Mike Peacock, Ali Bianchi, and Jess Holland complete the formation of The Growth Team, with that express purpose! Their appointment follows on from the recent announcement of funding from the National Church to enable further development of ‘Communities of Hope’, something Jess Holland, Mike and Ali are keen to get stuck into.

‘Communities of Hope’ is being rolled out in some of the former mining and shipbuilding areas of the Diocese. Supported by Mike, shaped by local people, for local people, these communities will develop a range of services and activities to enhance lives at a time when so much is disappearing. From a ‘Beauty For All’ project in Pennywell, to a healthy takeaway in Murton, and kids craft and cooking fun in Hartlepool the possibilities are endless.

Historically projects have a habit of disappearing when the money runs out, but not these! Jess Holland will be working specifically to set up social enterprises, delivering the kinds of hands-on training and upskilling opportunities many of our communities identified in the project planning process. These will create a long-lasting legacy of new local businesses supporting employment and creating opportunities.

But that isn’t the end to the vision of growing ‘Communities of Hope’, new churches are also planned. The first new church is already underway in Wynyard growing community and exploring faith, and more are planned. Matt Bianchi will be responsible for supporting the local leaders and identifying further opportunities for more new churches.

Revd. Canon David Tomlinson, Director of Strategy for Growth for the Diocese and Team Leader said: “Having the growth team in place is a great demonstration of our commitment to local people in local places. The church has always been vital in times of national crisis and this is one of those times. The people of the North East are amazing, kind, committed and resilient and the church of the North East is shaped by those characteristics. Coming together to work for a flourishing future is really exciting and I am just delighted to be able to lead such a talented team!”

The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham added:

“It is a gift to the whole Diocese that the national church has made this new team possible. Over the coming years, the team will be helping growth develop in all parts of our very varied Diocese.”

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