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Pioneer Minister joins Diocese of Carlisle’s charity OpShops network

A Pioneer Minister has been appointed to draw alongside people involved with the Diocese of Carlisle’s charity OpShops network.

The Rev Chris Harwood, 34, moved to Cumbria from Dorset and is based in a vicarage in Carlisle city centre, with his wife and children.

Chris trained in Pioneer Ministry at Trinity College, Bristol, where the newly appointed Bishop of Penrith, the Rev Dr Emma Ineson, is currently Principal.

After ordination he spent four years as a Pioneer Curate in the Diocese of Salisbury, splitting his time between a traditional church setting in Poole and a café-based Fresh Expression of church.

Chris said: “My wife and I prepared a letter which explained more about our work and ministry with people who would be considered to be on the margins and then we sent it out to various dioceses. We explained how passionate we are to follow in Jesus’ way of hospitality, simplicity, peace, resistance and prayer.

“It meant that we could then enter into conversations around the country to work out what the best fit would be for us in terms of our ministry. This has brought us to Cumbria and my role as a Pioneer Minister with the OpShops.”

The first OpShop was set up in 1991 by St James Church in Carlisle before the diocese – the Church of England in Cumbria – set up further OpShops from 2009. The network currently has six shops, five in Carlisle plus a Penrith shop which opened in March, 2016.

They sell good quality second-hand goods and provide a Christian presence and opportunities for people to volunteer and find a pathway back to employment as well as providing environments to combat loneliness and isolation.

Donations can be dropped off in-store or larger items can be collected by a dedicated household collection team which works out of the OpShops’ warehouse based in Carlisle, which Chris will also now manage.

Prior to ordination, Chris worked as a detached youth worker, supporting young people on the streets of Bournemouth. During theological training he worked with the homeless in inner city estates in Bristol, and continued that ministry when he moved to Poole.

The Church of England defines ‘pioneers’ as ‘people called by God who are the first to see and respond to the Holy Spirit’s initiatives with those outside the church within a particular context, around which others will gather with them and together establish new Christian community.’

Some pioneers may be church based, working within the parish system to pioneer within an established church base. Others may be ‘fresh start’ pioneers, who work closely connected with a diocese but outside the conventional parish system in areas or networks with no present church connection.

Chris is married to Emma and the couple have two children, seven-year-old Ava and Jake, four. Chris added: “We’re now looking to build community within the OpShops setting and based around the values that we laid out in our letter.

“For me my work is about sharing life with people and being open. It’s not about me ‘doing good’ to others, it’s about the building of relationships. Part of the process means that I bring along my faith to those relationships and I’m more than willing to share that.

“There’s a beautiful verse in the book of Acts describing the early Church and which says ‘there were no needy people among them’. I’m inspired by that vision of the church, where a community shares things in common and people have each other so are not in need.”

Chris is also overseeing the launch of a new Men’s Shed project based at the OpShops warehouse off Caldewgate. Part of a national project, it enables men to join together to pursue practical skills such as mending and making.

“It’s a space where men are able to come together to make and mend things but it’s also a place where they can feel part of a group and community, rather than be alone,” Chris explained. “It provides a safe place for people to talk and to be themselves.”

The Men’s Shed group meets twice a week from 11am to 1pm on Mondays and Fridays.

Jon Greenwood, OpShops Business Development Manager, said: “It’s a blessing to welcome Chris to our team. His ministry will further strengthen the Christian ethos which is at the heart of what we do in the service of God’s people in our local communities.”

Chris will be officially licensed as a Pioneer Minister by the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev James Newcome, on Monday 17 September, at Bishop’s House in Keswick.


For further information please contact Dave Roberts, Diocesan Communications Manager, on 07469 153658, 01768 807764 or at


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