In a move which has garnered a large amount of media interest, St Michael’s Church in Bournemouth is changing its name to St Mike’s. Reverend Sarah Yetman says the decision is part of a number of changes which are all designed to attract more young people
The church was built in 1875 to seat 1,000 people, alongside many other Victorian churches in Bournemouth. But gradually the building has fallen into a poor state. It has been difficult to keep it watertight and warm. And gradually, as the pressure on finances grew, the congregation size started to dwindle. The current congregation that we have is about 20 people.
We have also lost people during Covid, but those who are still with us are excited about our new revitalisation project.
Thanks to a gift from the Church of England’s Strategic Development Funding, we now have the opportunity to start something new, and to rebuild, and to live out our calling. And to do something different from before. We’ve got more accessible toilets, and a space in the building that can be used as a children’s room. We’ve put carpet down throughout the whole church, and we’ve got some new chairs.
We were thinking and planning through ways that we could help the church seem more welcoming, friendly and accessible to the vast majority of people in our community who walk straight past and don’t have any meaningful interaction with the church. We hope that by being creative, something more informal and friendly would encourage people to start asking questions and think maybe I could belong here? Maybe this doesn’t represent a barrier for me to either come to church or to discover more about Jesus for myself? So we’re changing the name from St Michael’s to St Mike’s.
How do we proclaim the gospel afresh to this generation?
We are placed in a very diverse community. Our local church primary school has 55 different languages spoken. But at the same time, like many churches, we do face this challenge of how to attract young families and young people to what we’re doing. How do we proclaim the gospel afresh to this generation? How do we do that in a world that is changing, and yet keep everyone else on board?
We aren’t trying to alienate anyone by changing the name. But I do feel that if we don’t take steps now to draw in people from those younger generations, we will be lamenting what we have missed in the years to come.
if we don’t take steps now to draw in people from those younger generations, we will be lamenting what we have missed in the years to come
Yes, we’ve changed the name. But that’s just a reflection of who we’ve always been. We have always been an informal congregation. We’ve always sung modern worship songs, we’ve always had a screen, and things like that. So none of this is a drastic change.
Our vision is to be a beacon of light and hope in the west of Bournemouth and to shine the light of Christ into our community.
Rev Sarah Yetman was speaking to Premier’s Kelly Valencia.