Hughes, who is the author of popular worship songs such as ‘Light of the World’ and ‘Happy Day’, will take a team from HTB and work in partnership with the existing leadership at St Luke’s. The 36-yearold will stand down as director of worship at HTB but will continue to lead Worship Central, an international worship training and resource centre.
He told Premier Christianity: ‘My wife and I have felt excited and called for a while now to lead a church where we could build a community, see people discipled, leaders being mobilised and released, and to try to invest in a city; to see God’s kingdom come.’
The parish will have two churches, which Hughes will oversee alongside a full-time ordained colleague, who is yet to be appointed. The Church of England in Birmingham recently bought a large warehouse just off Broad Street, the city’s nightlife hub, which will become the second church venue. ‘We bought this building and the idea is that we’re going to start services with a real vision to engage with young people, students, families; to see a congregation that will really resource and bless – and hopefully light up – the city of Birmingham again,’ he says. Hughes will make the move around Easter time, along with his wife, Rachel, and their four children.
How do you feel about leaving HTB?
It’s been ten of the most amazing years of our lives: incredible church, incredible community, working under Nicky Gumbel, and all that’s happened there has been amazing. They’ve been incredibly releasing, incredibly encouraging and have massively invested into what we’re doing and what we’re planning to do in Birmingham.
Are you putting down your guitar and picking up your Bible for this new role?
This feels like very much a natural extension of what I’ve always been doing. My heart is worship: to see people encounter God; to see people experience and spend time in the presence of God. I think leading a church becomes more of an opportunity for me to raise up worship leaders, to create a community where we can take risks; where I can encourage musicians, songwriters and artists to grow in their gifts.
I read a really interesting book over the summer called Chasing Francis [Zondervan]. It’s about an American church leader who gets slightly burnt out and goes on a retreat to Rome, and spends time with some Franciscan monks. At one point he’s talking about this idea of a new kind of pastor emerging – the ‘artist pastor’ – where actually we’d see the amazing blessing and benefit of art and creativity to really communicate the gospel, to really reach out to people.
Do you see yourself as an ‘artist pastor’?
Yes, to a degree. Certainly, I think that’s part of who I am. You lead as who you are. For me, the big thing is leading with a team and a community. I’m not gifted at everything, so I need people who can help supplement that.
Is someone replacing you at HTB?
There’s an amazing team at HTB. They’ve got some fantastic worship leaders. The worship at HTB will absolutely fly.