Church of England invests in sports outreach in major drive to attract newcomers to church – Norwich diocese in plan to plant 10 new churches in five years – Priest hits out at ‘appalling’ altar gifts

Church of England invests in sports outreach

The Church of England is launching a major drive to attract new people to church through sporting activities.

In a major boost to churches across the country, parishes are benefitting from a £12m fund to help finance activities like five-a-side football, running groups, after-school sports and boxing clubs.

The Church has launched the scheme as part of its ambitious mission programme, Renewal and Reform, in the hopes of reaching people who may never have been to church before.

A grant of £1.98m has been allocated to fund a new church training hub in the Diocese of Norwich in partnership with St Thomas Church, Norwich, which already has an established sports ministry.

The church’s ‘Sports Factory’ has dedicated ‘sports ministers’ who work alongside children and adults in the parish, and offers a programme of weekly sporting activities, including netball, football and a ‘Couch to 5K’ running group.

The ministry serves all ages, from a special summer holiday programme of sports for children during the school break, to a weekly Fab and Fit for the over 50s. More at –

Norwich diocese in plan to plant 10 new churches in five years

An ambitious programme to plant 10 new churches or revitalise existing ones over the next five years has been announced by the Diocese of Norwich, backed by a £2m grant from the Church of England. Keith Morris reports for Network Norwich & Norfolk.

Beginning in September, teams of church and worship leaders, sports ministers and others will be appointed to areas across Norfolk & Waveney, where research shows there are local needs the church can help meet and communities that can be better supported with additional resources.

The £1.98m programme seeks to reach both rural and urban areas, engaging with young people and families by focusing on areas of population around secondary school catchment areas. It builds on the Diocese’s Undergraduate Training Scheme in Youth Ministry and expands and combines that with the work of St Thomas Norwich (STN), a City Centre Resource Church in Norwich, which has experience of planting new congregations and churches.

Sports ministries form an important part of the programme, taking inspiration from STN’s Sports Factory which has been highly successful in running holiday clubs, community events, sports coaching academies, social sport and work with disengaged young people. Mobile skate parks and mobile football cages will form part of the programme to bridge the church and community through sport.

A new church training hub will also be formed, based at St Barnabas Church in Norwich, to attract and develop future leaders – both ordained and those not ordained. The Diocese’s vision is that the training hub will be an ongoing legacy of this programme to equip future church planting initiatives and support wider church revitalisation projects. More at –

Priest hits out at ‘appalling’ altar gifts – booze and cigarettes are Inappropriate funeral gifts

A priest has urged families not to bring “appalling” items like cigarettes or beer up to the altar during funeral Masses.

Fr Tomás Walsh, of Gurranabraher parish on the northside of Cork, wrote in his weekly parish newsletter about what he considers to be unsuitable items being brought to the altar as offertory gifts.

“Bringing things such as a can of beer, a packet of cigarettes, a remote control, a mobile phone or a football jersey does not tell us anything uplifting about the person who has died,” he wrote.

“Surely items such as a flower, a family photograph, a prayer book or rosary reveals far more about the person who has died – and the loss he/she is to the family who grieve.”

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Fr Walsh said the majority of people who offer “inappropriate gifts” are from families of little or no faith.

“A can of beer or a carton of cigarettes tells nothing beautiful about a person’s life,” he said.

“I find when there’s not much faith present you can get appalling things really. One day I saw a massive box of washing detergent being brought up to the altar.

“Very often it might have been the drink or smokes that had killed the person in the first place. It’s like saying ‘Mary was a chain smoker so let’s bring up a packet of cigarettes’ or ‘Jimmy was an alcoholic so let’s offer up a can of beer’. More at –