Since 1985, HTB has planted teams of 10 to 200 people into a wide variety of churches throughout London and overseas. Historically significant and beautiful Anglican churches – often facing closure – have been restored and are now homes to growing, worshipping communities that have a significant impact within their local areas. Below is a brief history of how it all began:
HTB’s strategy for church planting has been in its DNA, so to speak, since the early 1980s. Vicar John Collins and his curate Sandy Millar first heard the concept of church planting from the American church leader, John Wimber, and they were both quickly convinced that this strategy held real potential for the aid of church growth and expansion.
The first HTB church plant took place in 1985 with the support of the then-Bishop of Kensington, Mark Santer. A team of about 100 HTB congregation members followed curate John Irvine (now the Dean of Coventry) to St Barnabas, Kensington, which was on the verge of redundancy at that time. Within a matter of months, the once dying church was transformed by a congregation brimming with new life. Building projects swiftly followed the opening, the church was soon able to operate on sound financial footing, and the congregation started paying its way within the diocese.
Since the first plant at St Barnabas, many different church planting initiatives have taken place with the help and encouragement of bishops throughout London and Southwark. The road has not always been easy; most church plants require many hours of discussion. Bishops, archdeacons, local parishioners and local clergy are all involved in the process and give their time and resources to see a church have the opportunity of a fresh start. Every plant (or ‘graft,’ as they are sometimes known) has made it a priority to work closely with members of the existing church congregation. Oftentimes, the congregation is nervous about the future of the church, but the evidence shows that few original congregation members leave once the plant has taken place. Instead, their enthusiasm for all that is happening grows over time. Each church plant develops its own structure within the diocese in which it lies, and works closely with its bishop.
Many of the church buildings were in a rundown physical condition before the plant took place, and many millions of pounds have been raised and spent on renovating them. St Stephen’s Westbourne Park had lain derelict for three years when the HTB team arrived. Additionally, many of the original plants in these revived churches have then, in turn, planted more churches. St Paul’s Onslow Square, which lies in Holy Trinity’s parish, was used as a seedbed for a variety of initiatives over the years. The church has been reopened and now functions as a new venue within Holy Trinity Brompton’s structures.
The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres has given his full backing to the church planting initiative, as did his predecessor, David Hope. Bishop Chartres described Sandy Millar (vicar at HTB from 1985-2005), under whose leadership much of the church planting took place, as a ‘professor of church planting.’ Sandy Millar was appointed Assistant Bishop in London in 2006. During the years of rapid planting and growth, the HTB congregation also continued to grow, and the church now has a Sunday congregation of around 4,000 people.