Parish churches - Return, rebuild, re-imagine

Return, Rebuild, Renew


This is the place to come for lay and ordained church leaders who are seeking to chart a course to a better future as the pandemic restrictions are eased.


In the short video that follows Tim Mitchell explains what you can expect to find:- 


There has never been a bigger disruption to church in our life-time, nor a greater opportunity to reset and renew the way we engage in mission and ministry to discover our ‘new normal’. There are no experts in this field as no one has led a church, or indeed a diocese, through a pandemic before, nor are there any manuals with step-by-step guidance to follow but there is plenty of wisdom in our parishes and among our senior leaders. Whilst our hesitation to act, or uncertainty about the future direction of our churches, may contribute to feelings of anxiety, we can draw strength from God who at a key time of transition in the history of Israel said to Joshua “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1.9). The book of Nehemiah contains many lessons for us, too: the importance of prayer (1.4), confession (1.6,7) and remembering God's promises (1.9) which are as pertinent today during the pandemic as they were 2500 years ago. In the book of Colossians, we are minded that the church is God's "And he is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church" (1.17) so we can trust Him to be with us as we navigate a way forward.    

In recent weeks Bishop Christopher has spoken about the journey our churches are embarking on as they seek to find their ‘new normal’. He outlined three phases that churches are likely to experience: Return, Rebuild and Re-imagine.   From time-to-time, we will offer some insights under each of these headings which we hope leaders will find useful.


Return Phase 


5 Questions for leaders (PCCs) during the return phase:

1. How has the landscape of a) your parish, and b) your church changed in the last twelve months?

2. Which of these changes do you consider to be a) long-lasting b) temporary?

3.  One of the biggest impacts on church health during the pandemic has been on Loving Relationships and more particularly, one-to-one conversations. Can you think of ways to address this during the ‘return’ phase? (It might be good to show Rev Steve Hood’s presentation to your church leaders).  

4. The Reverends Hugh Priestner, Greg Bartlem and Andy March describe their journey through the pandemic and what their current thinking is about creating a balance between ‘in-person’ and digital church. How do you intend to balance these two important dimensions of church life to ensure they are sustainable? (It might be good to show one or more of these videos to your church leaders).

5. Fr Gary Ecclestone raised a couple of good questions at the end of his presentation: Thinking of both digital and 'in-person' dimensions of church, What do you intend to do, a) pastorally b) missionally in the return phase? (It might be good to show Fr Gary’s video to your church leaders).

Here are some links to various articles, tool kits, frameworks, guides and videos that you may find useful when planning your return to public worship and managing the challenges of handling both digital and 'in-person' worship.


Church of England

Message of hope to General Synod by the Archbishops of York and Canterbury.

An article on Opening the Doors, the name of a set of resources that churches can take and make their own. They include: template posters and invitations, digital and hard copies, liturgical resources, and guidance to churches.

Opening the Doors downloads page

Digital Labs - a hub of resources, news and events to support digital evangelism and digital discipleship in the Church of England. 

Encouragement for rural churches 5 lessons from lockdown offered by a rural church.  

Guidance on financial giving. 

Encouraging people to give by direct debit. The diocese of Coventry is part of the Parish Giving Scheme.


Other sources 

Podcast ‘Leading during a time of change’ by  Mark Sayers an expert in the church and culture and author of ‘Disappearing church’ and ‘Reappearing church’.  

Guidance from our friends in the Methodist church on managing change.  

A framework for leading churches through each phase of the pandemic crisis

An article by Carey Nieuwhof on the 7 disruptive trends caused by the pandemic    

A toolkit for re-opening church produced by the Evangelical Alliance

Five questions for church leaders as they prepare to return to their buildings, published by the Evangelical Alliance.

Links to resources on how to lead churches through the return and rebuild phases, provided by CPAS.

‘Everyone Welcome’ is a comprehensive guide authored by Bob Jackson and George Fisher on behalf of the Durham University Centre for Digital Theology. It has plenty of good ideas and tools for leaders who are managing change, including two useful congregational surveys at the end to assess what is needed by ‘digital only’ and returners to ‘in-person’ worship.

‘Together and Apart’ resources for rural churches published by the Arthur Rank Centre.   

An excellent list of questions to help individual church members and small groups (PCCs) process the impact of lockdown.


We have interviewed several church leaders in the diocese to glean their thoughts on handling the transition from digital/online content to 'in-person' worship/activities. 


Returning to public worship - matters to consider (Fr Gary Ecclestone, Ebbsfleet healthy churches mentor) 



The impact of Covid-19 on the health of digital and in-person congregations (Rev Steve Hood, Healthy Churches Mentor)



Interview with Rev Ali Massey, Priest-in-Charge of Corley with Fillongley (rural churches) Balancing digital with 'in-person' church.




Interview with Rev Hugh Priestner, Priest-in-Charge of the Offchurch Group (rural group of churches). Balancing digital with 'in-person' church. 



Interview with Rev Greg Bartlem, Priest-in-Charge of St Peter's, Wellesbourne (large rural church). Balancing digital with 'in-person' church.



Interview with Rev Andy March, Priest-in-Charge of St Christopher's. Allesley (suburban church) Balancing digital with 'in-person' church.  



Further Support

If you require advice or guidance on the easing of restrictions and the impact on public gatherings, especially corporate worship, weddings and funerals then please contact Archdeacon Sue Field:

If you would like to have a conversation with an experienced church leader then please contact:

Rev Tim Mitchell (Healthy Churches)

Fr Gary Ecclestone (Ebbsfleet Healthy Churches Mentor)   

Rev Steve Hood (Healthy Churches Mentor)