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St Francis, Dalgarno Way

Story

St Francis’ church was commissioned in the 1930s as a mission chapel for the Dalgarno estate. Despite the ministry being effective initially it went into steep decline and the church was closed for many years. The late 1990s parish boundaries were re-drawn that bought St Francis into the same parish as St Helen, North Kensington. In 2004 a small team was sent from St Helen’s to St Francis to try and revitalize the church. A congregation of around 25 was established, however the priest who had led the team left for pastures new in 2009 and an 18 month interregnum saw numbers drop to about 10. Three lay ministers led the congregation in this time but insufficient resource meant that the church could not afford a priest and there was a sense of losing hope in the future.

Following discussions initiated by the Bishop of Kensington with Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) and St Helen’s church, it was agreed that HTB would second one of its curates to plant a new community church at St Francis. Azariah France-Williams and his wife Anna were commissioned in July 2010 with the ministry designated as a fresh expression. The church plant at St Francis consisted of Azariah and Anna and two other couples, which differed from other HTB church plants as a team of around 40 people would normally be sent. In addition Azariah was a deacon, not a priest and also did not have a track record ministering at HTB, again against the norm of a HTB plant.

Since 2010 the congregation has grown from around 12 to 40-50 people, of whom 80% live within walking distance of the church and a third are from the Dalgarno Estate. St Francis’ church is situated in one of the 15% most deprived wards in England, which is densely populated and ethnically diverse. The area suffers high rates of long-term unemployment, with 29% of residents possessing no qualifications and anti-social behaviour by young people is common. Azariah identifies a number of factors that has lead to the church growing; learning about the demographics, making organisational systems fit for purpose, identifying values, developing leadership, community outreach and opportunities to explore faith.