The Warrington Deanery has created a new role to help local church communities strengthen and grow.
Howard Leatherbarrow will become the first Church Growth Facilitator for the Deanery of Warrington, and possibly the first in the Church of England.
Howard will support the fifteen parishes in the Warrington Deanery, helping them to achieve their own church growth action plans and engage with the local community. This will involve working with the clergy and other leaders to develop the laity (the non-ordained church members) in leadership and ministry in their church communities. This will be done by directing churches towards training courses, advice and initiatives suitable for their own needs and aims.
Howard will be based at St James Westbrook, and will work across the Deanery.
Howard, 43 and originally from St. Helens, is a microbiologist by training, having completed both a bachelor's degree and a PhD in Bacterial Genetics at Sheffield University in the 1990s. He has worked in academic research and was a post-doctoral research assistant at Dundee, Liverpool and Manchester Universities, with a stint at North West Water in the laboratories at Great Sankey.
However, over the last few years, Howard has explored his Christian vocation and developed an interest in church growth, undertaking a Foundation Course in Christian Belief. Howard says that he feels his time in Science and Education has prepared him well for his new role, which involves helping churches educate the laity in the roles that they can take in their church, whether that is taking a role in leading worship or even running a Bible study group. He will also be encouraging parishes to work together.
Howard said, “Warrington is an exciting place to be. Congregations in Warrington feature people with a wealth of talent and skills. My job is to help them recognise how they can use their talents within their community, not just by coming to church every Sunday, but by looking how they can use them in the leadership and life of their church community. You don’t need an official ‘job title’ to be involved in your church, or even to help lead a church service.
"I am sure that our Warrington churches will use any support or training they undertake to their advantage, empowering their community to be engaged in their church. In doing this they can strengthen not just the individual church, but the whole community. My role is not to tell churches what to do, but simply to say ‘you can’; you can try new things. Church is not just about Sunday mornings.”