From Blackpool to Birmingham, supporters of Jesus Shaped People(JSP) came to Bradford Cathedral at the weekend to celebrate its expansion across eight dioceses and to witness the launch of the next stage, a new charitable trust to develop it further.
JSP began in the parish of Tong and Holme Wood in Bradford in 2005 and it has now been adopted by some 70 churches from Birmingham to Blackpool and primarily helps communities in deprived areas. Large social housing estates are a special priority for JSP, but it has also proved to be effective with churches in more prosperous areas.
Supported by the diocese and the Church Commissioners, it is now a charitable trust in a move which will aid future development.
Many of those who came and filled the cathedral were able to share how JSP has become embedded and church and community, transforming a one day a week church into a seven day a week community of faith. All ages were represented with JSP embracing everyone from the youngest to the oldest in the community.
Bishop Toby Howarth, the Bishop of Bradford (pictured above left) introduced the event. “This is a very special occasion because this is a moment when we acknowledge a work of God. God has done something extraordinary. It began in Holme Wood (Bradford) it began with Gordon (Dey), but it has grown, it has been blessed, it has grown wider and wider until it ‘got out of hand’!
“This is a moment when we celebrate that. If Jesus Shaped People is to continue to get bigger and wider and keep growing it has got to become a Trust.. it is recognising just what a wonderful it is , how it has transformed churches , how it has transformed people’s lives and how it has transformed parishes and neighbourhoods as well.”
The new trustees of the JSP Charitable Trust, led by Bishop Paul Slater, the Trust’s Chair, were dedicated during the celebration (pictured left). Bishop Paul, who has followed the story of JSPs development over recent years, said, “"The Church of England is committed to staying and working in some of our toughest communities.
“Jesus Shaped People is an ongoing programme which gives churches, particularly in these areas, an exciting way of developing, growing and engaging.
“I look forward to the next phase of its development – we’ve even had interest from as far away as Nova Scotia!"
Illustrating how far JSP has spread, the Revd Andy Delmege (pictured left), one of the new Trustees spoke about how effective it has been in his home city of Birmingham. “We have been running JSP for about five years in churches around Birmingham. We now have some 19 parishes which have either done the fifteen week course or are doing it at the moment, all either outer estate parishes or inner city ones.”
Canon Gordon Dey (pictured above left), who has overseen the development of JSP from its beginning said: “The event is an important landmark in JSP’s progress as it expands its horizons and develops new capacity to meet growing interest from the wider church.” Gordon’s family led the worship, and at the end of the service a special JSP Cake was cut to mark the celebration.
JSP describes itself as a ’whole church discipleship adventure’. It offers churches a vision and a method that enables them to see more clearly the ‘Jesus Way’, so that they can adopt his mission priorities.