Jonathan Pryke, Senior Minister of Jesmond Parish Church in Newcastle, writes about why his church wanted to host a Union Learning Community for the North East.

"At Jesmond Parish Church (JPC) we are excited that we have entered into partnership with Union School of Theology to form the new Union Learning Community for Newcastle. This is an answer to years of prayer.

JPC is a city-centre evangelical Anglican church in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. We thank God for the faith of those who planted the church more than 150 years ago, at a time of spiritual drift, to be a church “in which evangelical truth shall be declared”, and which would “form a central point for the maintenance and promulgation of sound scriptural and evangelical truth in a large and populous town”.

That double calling both to defend and also to spread gospel truth is more vital than ever today. When much of the mainstream church in England is succumbing to a destructive revisionist liberalism, we must remain faithful to biblical, apostolic revelation. At the same time, we need to be as effective as possible in communicating the glorious, liberating, life-giving good news of Jesus by engaging with our culture, building bridges into our community, and evangelising the crowd of people with whom we have contact.

We have a vision for church growth through a large central ‘resource hub’ and also through church planting. In the last ten years we have launched two new churches on Tyneside. But so far neither we nor the other evangelical churches in the region are doing more than scratch the surface of the need. Recent research showed that ours is the least believing area in the UK.  

I was excited about Union's combination of evangelical commitment, theological depth and missional urgency with flexible delivery of training, accredited qualifications, and local groups that enable students to study in the context of their existing ministries.

There is therefore a massive need to train up a new generation of well-informed, thought-through Christian leaders with a deep commitment to our reformed catholic faith and an urgent desire to reach our nation for Christ, whether they are working on the staff teams of churches or in other spheres of influence. This is where Union's vision chimes in with ours. I first became aware of Union School of Theology’s development of local Learning Communities when I heard Mike Reeves speak about Union and its growing work at the European Leadership Forum in Poland in 2016. I was excited about the combination of evangelical commitment, theological depth and missional urgency with flexible delivery of training, accredited qualifications, and local groups that enable students to study in the context of their existing ministries.

We are in the very early stages of establishing a Union Learning Community in Newcastle. We are delighted that Vernon Wilkins has joined us on Tyneside to be our Lead Mentor. Our intention is to start with a small ‘pilot’ group studying the GDip: students could be from the Jesmond partnership of churches or from further afield. Please pray that God will be calling the men and women who he wants to be a part of this, and that we will be able to make a good start. Pray too that the Lord will use this Learning Community in Newcastle to be a powerhouse of theological and ministry training in the North East of England in the years ahead."

Find out more about our Newcastle Learning Community.