Where did it all begin for All Saints?
What was the original vision for this new Anglican Church?
Read on, with these words from the chaplain at Holy Trinity Utrecht, Revd David Phillips.
At the Wednesday January 21st 2015 meeting of the Holy Trinity Utrecht Chaplaincy Church Council members present (one absent) voted unanimously in favour of the proposal to establish a new church plant in the neighbouring city of Amersfoort. A Selection Committee has been formed, and a position profile approved soon to be advertised to find, God willing, a full time chaplain to establish and build a new Anglican congregation in Amersfoort.
Utrecht has been blessed in the past four years with steep growth in attendance, mainly, but not exclusively, from people in the Amersfoort region, a city about 20 minutes to the East of Utrecht with a population of about 150,000. Two years ago Utrecht chaplaincy began to seriously consider expanding its ministry and has since included more services, which has again increased average Sunday attendance. But we are also limited in Utrecht by our church building size. So we have concluded that the time has come to establish a more permanent Anglican presence in Amersfoort.
Both our chaplain and Bishop Robert have had discussions with Archbishop Joris Vercammen of the Old Catholic Church. We have agreed to some practical conditions which will help to ensure that the new plant demonstrates our unity in Christ, and we will keep the Archbishop abreast of developments with the new plant to help ensure that our commitment to Christian unity is demonstrated.
May God lead us in this new venture both for Amersfoort and for the changes it will make to the congregation that remains in Utrecht.
A Vision for a Church Plant in Amersfoort
The past 4 years Holy Trinity has experienced steep growth in its attendance, mainly but not only from people from the Amersfoort region. Our church is currently blessed with abundant resources, human as well as financial, leading us to seek out how we could expand our ministry. On the other hand we are stretching the capacity of our buildings and exceeding the possible workload for our chaplain. In this document we set out what the vision is for a church plant in Amersfoort.
Expanding the ministry
In 2012 the church council began thinking about the expansion of our ministry. Our then chaplain and archdeacon John de Wit challenged us to do something with our abundant resources. This lead to a short-term scheme of giving. It also lead to the general conclusion that God is inviting us to expand our ministry. On January 2013 the council approved a proposal with the following text:
“Expanding our ministry can entail many things. It ranges from doing more services and employing extra clergy to setting up projects requiring an extra giving fund. With a new chaplain beginning in May, Holy Trinity is going into a new phase. Our proposal is to start work as soon as the new chaplain has arrived on the expansion of our ministry. The surplus funds that will be budgeted for 2013 can then be earmarked for the expansion of our ministry. This of course will be proposed by council and decided at the 2013 AGM.
The future expansion of our ministry will certainly influence our expenditure as well as our income. In due course, our current yearly surpluses will be earmarked for activities to do with expanding our ministry. It will change our yearly budget.“
In the meantime we have significantly expanded the number of services with 2 or 3 services every Sunday, a said communion service on Wednesday and a monthly Prayer & Praise service on Saturday-evening. We have employed an administrative assistant, appointed a student ministry coordinator, ran an alpha course and organised a highly attended away day. There are several regular studygroups. The state and usability of the building have been considerably improved, but are obviously approaching their maximum capacity. We also tried to recruit an assistant chaplain (twice), but failed to find a suitable candidate to assist David.
Our commitment to Mission
Holy Trinity chooses to be a church committed to mission and the building up of the church in the Netherlands, as expressed within the Anglican tradition. Holy Trinity supports Zwolle and Groningen. This mission driven attitude was a key subject at the Congregation Away Day in May 2014, where our Area Dean Mark Collinson spoke about the vision of the Diocese for a bilingual Anglican church. Also, at the Archdeaconry Synods of the past few years the process of working towards more bilingual Anglican churches has been discussed. A committee of the Archdeaconry has been preparing authorised Dutch translations of Common Worship Holy Communion services.
Our building capacity in Utrecht is about 100, but the average Sunday attendance (ASA) was about 130. For that reason, since Advent 2013 there have been 2 communion services each Sunday. This has led to a further increase of our average attendance to between 170-200 on a Sunday, but has done little to decrease the attendance on the 2nd service at 11am.
It is a principle of church growth that there ought to be available seating capacity. Church should avoid filling up beyond the 80% seating capacity. That would mean the ideal attendance at Holy Trinity is about 80 souls at a service.
Therefore, one of the topics at our Council retreat at the beginning of September 2014, was how to deal with this continuing growth. The Council considered three possible options. Extending facilities in Utrecht was deemed almost impossible and impossibly expensive. Moving the whole church somewhere else would mean leaving our characteristic and historic buildings behind. Thus there was general consensus that the best viable option for growth was a church plant. The whole council agreed that, seeing the various developments, God seems to be leading us to plant an Anglican church in Amersfoort.
The Amersfoort context for an Anglican Church Plant
There are a variety of reasons why Amersfoort is the natural location for this church plant project.
The Church would be situated in between Utrecht and Zwolle and thus serve an area not previously served by other chaplaincies or congregations. About 60 people from Amersfoort and its region are on the Electoral Roll of Holy Trinity. A general rule of church planting is that church goers do not wish to travel more than 20 minutes to a church. Amersfoort exceeds those 20 minutes for most part of the city. Only those living on the west-side will travel to Utrecht in 20 minutes. Amersfoort is also an area with a history of Anglicanism. There used to be an Anglican congregation worshipping in Amersfoort till the end of the 1970’s. In that sense we are only re-establishing our presence.
There is only one English-speaking church in Amersfoort, which is a non-Eucharist based Reformed church. It is founded by the International Christian Fellowship Amersfoort (ICF Amersfoort) which is a missionary project founded by the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerk (Christian Reformed Church) and the Gereformeerde Kerken vrijgemaakt (Reformed Churches liberated) in Amersfoort. ICF Amersfoort is affiliated with the ICP Network (International Church Planting). ICF also has a church in French and Italian, and Dutch and Arabic. We conclude there is clear room for setting up an Anglican church.
Target groups for the Amersfoort Anglican Church Plant
There are three possible target groups for an Anglican church in Amersfoort.
The expat community is historically the natural target group for Anglican Churches on the continent. Over time the focus on English expats has decreased making way for people from all parts of the globe, who feel at home with the English language and with liturgical forms of worship. Amersfoort is a city with 151.000 citizens and has a large immigrant community. 13.000 people come from other EU-countries, including the UK. There are also immigrants from African countries with an Anglican background. The total of immigrant population is more than 30.000 (which will include many Muslims). Percentage wise there must be a number of residential Anglicans within Amersfoort. There is an Asylum centre nearby. From our experience, we know people in Asylum centres have an interest in an Anglican church they recognise. Part of the University for Applied Science of Utrecht is established in Amersfoort, and various larger international companies reside in Amersfoort. Many expats come to Amersfoort. And there are numerous Hotels and Holiday resorts for the occasional visitor.
For this group the new plant needs to be open and welcoming as a congregation, with an accessible liturgy. There needs to be enough opportunity to take part in fellowship. Challenge for the new church is to persuade expats and migrants to contribute to the church despite the limited period they stay.
Dutch Christians with a desire for liturgical worship
According to some sources there is an increasing number of Christians adrift. Protestant and evangelical churches have a lot to offer in teaching and sometimes congregational life. But there is also profoundly little understanding of the sacraments and especially among evangelical churches a structure which can provide guidance and continuity.
For this group Dutch would probably be the preferred language. For them also the new plant needs to be open and welcoming as a congregation, with a Eucharist-based but also accessible liturgy. They may also be seeking a church which provides a platform for experiencing, sharing and practicing the faith on a day to day basis.
For about 60 years the Anglican Church has provided a Dutch communion services for the Catholic Apostolic communities of Utrecht and Amersfoort. The 9:00 am service on Sunday 4 of the month is aimed at Amersfoort and attract an average of about 120 people. Many have been baptized, confirmed and married and have their children baptized at Holy Trinity. Part of this group continue to choose to attend only one monthly communion service and attend other churches during the rest of the month. They may contribute financially but are not on the electoral role. A large part however, many of whom are young people and with young families, have come to see the Anglican Church as their new home and attend most Sundays of the month, either Dutch or English services. Some are in the process of discernment for vocation to the priesthood in the Anglican Church. Part of this group may choose to become active members of an Anglican church in Amersfoort.
The CA’s form a close knit community, combining evangelical faith with a love for liturgical worship and the Eucharist. Almost all will be traditionalist on ethical subjects as same sex marriage and women’s ordination. But it is difficult to tie them to typical Anglican churchmanships such as evangelical, Anglo-Catholic, liberal catholic etc. Some like more free worship with bands, others a catholic liturgy with Gregorian chant. Most value both. They are mainly Dutch speaking.
For this group the church plant could provide for those who see their future within the Anglican Church. A challenge would be to create open and welcoming conditions for new members from other backgrounds. There is also a risk that further development within the Church of England on ethical issues would estrange part of the CAs.
The vision for an Anglican Church Plant in Amersfoort
Anglicanism, with a combination of breadth, openness, liturgy, sacraments, tradition, scripture and its strong evangelical, catholic and reformed character has a lot to offer to Dutch society and to the wider Dutch Church through our ecumenical encounters. We can play a unique part in winning and keeping people for Christ by building up Christians and making new ones and by working with other churches from the strength of our own Anglican tradition.
Character and Churchmanship
A church plant would be first and foremost an Anglican church within the Diocese in Europe. Services and church life are clearly Anglican and should be welcoming and attractive to all who seek a church that is catholic as well as reformed. Preferably the church should reflect the breath of what Anglicanism has to offer. We should give the plant the space to develop it’s own combination of liturgy, teaching and Christian life within the space and limitations of the Church of England. The appropriate combination can be developed by the members of the church plant and the future chaplain.
A church for all ages and Christian fellowship
The new Anglican Church Amersfoort aims to attract people of all ages. By bringing the church close to the members the church can play an active part in the lives of its members and attendants. The church is not only to provide services on Sundays but also pastoral care, study-groups and teaching for the young and other activities that enhance the faith and provide ample opportunity for fellowship.
The church plant should preferably be bilingual offering weekly English as well as Dutch services. The church in Amersfoort would be part of an English speaking Diocese and Archdeaconry with strong ties to Holy Trinity Utrecht. Also in order to welcome expats and immigrants the language should be English. A large part of current members of HTC from Amersfoort are of Dutch origin and value the Dutch services at Holy Trinity. Should a choice be necessary the Amersfoort Taskforce advises the plant should start in English and branch out into Dutch when required and possible.
Aiming to become a self-supporting congregation and connection to Holy Trinity Church
Where Amersfoort starts off as a daughter-church our aim is that it becomes a sister church.
At first the new church in Amersfoort will start as a pioneer church supported from Holy Trinity Utrecht. Technically it will be a congregation within Holy Trinity led by a working team under the leadership of the Assistant Chaplain for Amersfoort.
The hope and aim is that in time Amersfoort will flourish into a strong self-supporting Anglican church within our Diocese. However we hope that both congregations can remain connected and give each other mutual support. There are many personal bonds and the close distance between Utrecht and Amersfoort give ample opportunity for close relationships. Continued fellowship can be fostered through holding joint services, sharing activities and teaching, joint projects etc.
Staffing and Organisation
Becoming a pioneer church and establishing an Anglican identity
Both the Church Council of Holy Trinity and Bishop Robert will formally need to approve the setting up of the new worship congregation. In accordance with the paper presented at the Deanery meeting on establishing Anglican identity, the Amersfoort plant is to be declared a pioneer Anglican church. In order that legal recognition can be accorded, and to develop fiscal and promotional recognition, the new church will:
- seek oversight from the priest who is licensed as chaplain of the nearest chaplaincy, the Rev. David Phillips.
- issue a declaration of intent and identify Amersfoort to the current Area Dean and current Archdeacon, who will consult with all interested parties and direct a priest to provide oversight.
- appoint the functions of a chair, secretary and treasurer and any other members who provide lay oversight of the congregation to be recognised as such at a general meeting.