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Grafting for the future: St Thomas Crookes to St John’s Park

St John's Park

A church graft is raring to go in Sheffield, with a team from St Thomas Crookes soon to be joining the leaders and congregation at St John’s Park. .

The plans have been worked on over the last few years and will see Revd Luke Graham, currently a second-year curate at St Thomas Crookes, take up the post of Curate in Charge at St John’s Park towards the end of June this year.

Having originally trained as an Ordinand in the Diocese of London, Luke moved up to Sheffield with his wife, who is originally from the city. He was ordained as a Deacon at Sheffield Cathedral in 2022 and as a Priest last Summer.

When looking at where he wanted to carry out ministry, Luke says he felt a calling to church planting and social justice:

“We really felt called to the margins and called to serve where the need is greatest. It reminded me of the story of Jonah being sent to Nineveh; sent to the hard places.

“We felt like we wanted to go to the north of the country and saw that Sheffield is a very divided city in terms of numbers, demographics and wealth. There’s, a bus route from the west to the east where the life expectancy goes down ten years from one side to the other.

“This approach really kind of fitted the mould of what I think effective planting and grafting can be: where you take from a place with lots of resource and you go somewhere where there’s less investment. That story in Sheffield was really inviting for us.”

St Thomas Crookes had been looking for a plant in the city, with Luke and the team able to have good conversations with the Rector, Tom Finnemore, about the vision for the church graft.

When the opportunity came about for Luke to make the move, it was an idea he was keen to explore:

“We were looking at how can we love the people in this city, in this area. There are buildings like the Hyde Park Flats (Castle Court and Harold Lambert Court), where thousands of people live in this tightly knit area. The church green is one of the only green spaces in the middle of that urban area.

“In my mind’s eye, I can just see this place where people can find a sense of home, a place where they can feel loved and a place where they can feel like they’re seen. As we started to see and understand more of the big picture, the more it felt like a real gift.”

Priest in Charge at St John’s Park, the Revd David Eastwood, has been building small groups to do mission in the area, with the process growing over the last year.

This means the graft from STC is looking more at what the group can do to help support the promising signs of growth, as opposed to filling a church up with numbers.

The current plan is for less than 10 adults and children to move across from STC to worship and pray alongside the St John’s Park team. Once the move is done in June there’ll be touchpoints throughout 2024 and 2025 where anyone else thinking of joining in the move can come and see the church for themselves.

A welcome service is planned for Sunday 23rd June, where Bishop Sophie and others will be in attendance.

Luke says his prayer for the graft is that St John’s Park will be a church rooted in prayer and worship:

“I hope it’ll be a place where we proclaim the kingdom of God. The image I have in my mind is bringing light to the darkness. I have this idea of homecoming in my mind that people will come, some from broken places and situations, and feel a sense of home, of being loved and welcomed into a family.

“St John’s is so beautifully situated overlooking the centre of Sheffield and I really see there’s an opportunity to be an outpost for prayer and worship, like covering the city in prayer. My hope is we can then go out into the east to plant and graft more out towards the other parts of Sheffield, where there hasn’t been as much investment in the past.”

Rev David Eastwood says:

“I have been at St John’s Park for over four years and will be retiring in April. It has been a privilege to serve with this wonderful church family. God is growing His church here and in recent years we have become truly diverse in terms of ethnicity, age and background. I am delighted that Rev Luke and the team from STC will be joining with the leaders and congregation at St John’s Park to share the good news of Jesus in this part of the city and beyond. I am confident this is the beginning of a new and very exciting chapter for St John’s Park.”