HOPE 23-24: Setting out on a national year of mission

In Lambeth Palace in London on a sunny afternoon in May, HOPE 23-24 - a united year of mission across the UK - was launched. A large and diverse group of leaders from across the denominations of the British Church and many Christian organisations gathered together to talk, listen and plan.

The energy in the room was telling – there was a real, heartfelt unity and excitement as we prayed together and dreamt about what could be. We were united in one heart and by one vision to reach out with the amazing, good news of Jesus Christ again in this nation.

A united year of mission is not a new idea. It was first launched in 2008 by Roy Crowne, Andy Hawthorne and Mike Pilavachi as HOPE 08. This saw denominations and streams unite to share the hope of Jesus Christ in villages, towns and cities. It was out of HOPE 08 that momentum grew and HOPE Together as a movement was born. There are great stories from areas all around the country that embraced HOPE's united mission then and over the years since, and they inspire us for HOPE 23-24.

In the city of Nottingham, the churches are now networked together in mission as a result of small beginnings in 2008. Nigel Adams, who leads this growing work, told the inspiring story of how it all began. Working as an evangelist and community worker in the city in 2008, he drew together a coalition of churches for HOPE 08. They planned and worked together to put on a series of outreach activities during the year which culminated in an inter-denominational and citywide summer festival in a city centre park.

Over 2,000 people came to the event and as a result a new charity was born – HOPE Nottingham, to lead citywide, united outreach. They were given a disused church building to start the work in and they ran local events, a soup kitchen and GP surgery. Next, they started a healing on the streets team and over 100 people turned up for the first training event. Nigel noticed that when they collaborated, they saw God blessing what they did – as he put it: "God loves it when we work together."

This work led to the opening of a food bank which then led to a network of 15 food banks across the city. Each has grown into a hub for outreach and mission where local Christians from various churches share God's love in words and actions. When the pandemic hit, HOPE Nottingham was ready and able to deliver food across the whole city to all who needed it.

Nigel reflects that "the key thing [is that] unity was central – all of the churches working together. That is HOPE Nottingham's success."

The unified work under the HOPE banner has also borne fruit outside of towns. In 2014 another area joined in HOPE, gathering in a small deanery in a market town in Southam with 17 surrounding villages. Together they ran a mission which included high quality performances, pamper afternoons, coffee mornings and children's events across the whole area. The team has continued to work across the deanery and group of churches in the area to run Alpha courses and other events.

Rev Vikki Bisiker, co-chair of the deanery mission team says, "Capturing the vision of HOPE 2014 in a rural context has made a significant difference in how we work together as a deanery and in outreach – the fact that the mission week was successful and that we still have events running years later (Covid permitting) is the legacy of HOPE."

Now, starting in September 2023, we dream of 1,500 areas getting involved and putting on outreach events and serving their communities together in HOPE 23-24, and reaching out with the good news of Jesus Christ.

We are launching this year of mission now because we have seen a new openness to the gospel in the wake of the pandemic. At the beginning of this year, the Talking Jesus research was commissioned by HOPE Together and other Christian charities to measure the state of faith in the UK. The research, completed by Savanta ComRes, showed that non-Christians are more open to finding out about Jesus Christ in 2022 than they were in 2015 - the last time we did the research.

One series of questions illustrates this new openness. They were addressed to non-Christians who had had faith conversations with Christians that they knew. When asked about these faith conversations three-quarters of the non-Christians said they were comfortable having the conversations, whereas in 2015 only half were comfortable. After the conversation, one in three wanted to find out more about Jesus Christ - great news, and so many more than the one in five who wanted to know more in 2015.

The pandemic has made a big impact in people's lives and has shaken many. In the research, people in the UK resonated most with the following question "Will everything be ok?", showing that now is an important time for the Church to come together for a year of mission and evangelism to help answer that question.

It is the time when we most need to reach out to a population searching for answers, security and hope, and offer the hope of Jesus Christ.

Dr Rachel Jordan-Wolf is Executive Director of Hope Together. Register your interested in HOPE 23-24 here.