CHURCH leaders in the North-East have found 72 reasons why the Church of England is growing, despite congregations shrinking nationally.

Within the Diocese of Durham, five new churches are planned for 2020 which follows on from 72 other places of worship springing up across the country.

Church leaders from the Diocese of Durham gathered at Stockton Parish Church to hear about the national picture from the Rt Reverend Rick Thorpe, Bishop of Islington, and Phillip James, the Church of England’s national director of strategy.

Bishop Thorpe said: “The Church of England is a church that can grow and so we want to be encouraging churches to think about how they can grow.

"This whole program is about taking a step back, working with church leaders to see how can we be part of a strategy in the Diocese to begin to invest in growth, rather than in some of the decline that we’ve seen, and that’s a challenge. But there are churches that are good at growing and we want to get right behind that and see it happen more and more."

Mr James added: "Success, of course, we’ll leave to God, we can never guarantee it, but it seems to me that this is a good investment and we pray it leads to great results.”