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With convent 2New ecumenical community helping young people connect with Jesus 

CTE’s Lucy Olofinjana speaks to Jamie Cutteridge, hearing more about With’s vision to build a Christian community in Norfolk for young people…

‘With’ was recently established by a group of Christian youth workers with a vision to establish the UK’s first bespoke ecumenical Christian community serving young people.

Their vision is to create a space for young people to encounter Jesus, grow in their faith and build resilience. 

They’ve recently been given an incredible, historic convent in rural Norfolk, which has been home to Christian community, prayer and service for more than 150 years. Hundreds of organisations applied for the opportunity to take on the convent buildings and their nine acres of land, and this group were chosen, with their vision to reimagine what prayer and service looks like in this place, focusing on young people.  

Read more about this exciting new venture, and watch their video below...

 

1. Where did this vision come from, and why do you think you were chosen to take over the convent?

It came from a small group of us, from a variety of church backgrounds, who have all been involved in youth work and the wellbeing of youth workers over many years.

We think we were probably chosen because we had a vision to carry on the work of prayer and service which the sisters of All Hallows Ditchingham had been engaged in for more than 150 years, and to reimagine that work among young people in the twenty-first century.

 

2.  Why is it important for you that the centre is ecumenical?

Although All Hallows Ditchingham was an Anglican convent, from the very start we’ve talked about this being an ecumenical centre, open to people from all church traditions. We’re working to make sure our Council of Reference is diverse, and it already includes Catholic, Anglican, Free Church and Pentecostal representation.

As youth workers we’re used to working together with people from a variety of backgrounds, and the fact is that many young people don’t see denominations as important, they just see the Church and Jesus.

 

3.  How are you hoping young people will be impacted by the centre?

Ultimately, we want this to be a place where young people can connect and be with Jesus. But our dream is that this is not just a place where young people can go and have an experience, but that they’re able to take things away with them which become ongoing practices in their everyday lives.

We’re also looking to develop an app to allow young people to journey with what’s going on at the site wherever they are.
 
 

4.  How are you hoping youth leaders will be impacted?

If I’m honest, during my time in youth ministry I was often bad at prioritising prayer, and I think others experience the same struggles. If we can do something towards encouraging youth workers to pray, whether in a traditional or contemporary style, we see that as a good thing.

 

5.  Why would you say it’s so important for Christians from different churches to work together?

Ultimately there is only one Church.

Being diverse and doing things in different ways is beautiful and glorious, and we hope that With will be a place where we can be different and love one another’s differences, while still working together.

Being different shouldn’t mean that we don’t do things together – we need to be able to acknowledge each other’s diversity of traditions and expressions and function together in unity.
 
6.  How do you think we can encourage young people to engage in ecumenism?
 

Young people need to see it modelled, showing them that the Church is not about our separate ghettos, but about opening up to work together.

 
7.  How can churches and individuals get involved with your project?

At the heart of this new idea is the eternal power of prayer, and we hope that you will want to join our journey by bringing With before God in your prayers.

You can also join our mailing list for updates at www.bewith.community

On our website you’ll also find details of how to give towards refurbishing the buildings we’ve been given.

And if you feel strongly about meeting the spiritual needs of young Christians, and are inspired by what you have read so far, why not come and see the site and envision with us the nourishing, life-changing place it could become? If you’d like to arrange a visit or find out how else you can support us or be part of the reimagining of All Hallows, please email hello@bewith.community.

 

 “All the evidence that I have seen indicates there is no renewal in the church apart from a renewal of the Religious Life. Since becoming Archbishop I have worked, prayed and longed to see new forms of prayer communities within the tradition of monasticism. So this project thrills my heart.

“The plans for All Hallows Ditchingham are amongst some of the most exciting proposals I have heard since I have been Archbishop. I commend the faith, the risk, the sacrifice and the tenacity of the team. And I can’t wait to see this community up and praying. I commend this step of faith for the sake of the renewal of the church and the glory of God.”


Archbishop Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and one of CTE’s Presidents.
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