Mark BerryDoing mission and ministry in the context of fresh expressions of church, requires creative imagination and an incarnational approach to evangelism. Mark Berry, a Lay Pioneer Minister, tells the emerging story of safe space, a fresh expression of church that draws on celtic spirituality, radical hospitality and a form of new monasticism.

Safespace was born in 2005 from a converging of a small group of diverse people (about 10 of us), people who had a yearning to serve and to transform the place we find ourselves in. I came to Telford as a Lay Pioneer Minister, challenged to do something new by the diocese in a town where the vast majority of it’s youthful population had or seemed to desire no contact with Church. Others already living in the town drew together with a desire to step outside of their comfort zones and to connect with new people and new challenges, to engage. So we found ourselves jumping into a boat together – inspired by the local leather fishing boat of St Brendan the Navigator – turning our backs on the comforts of "home" and pushing out into the chaos and danger of the ocean of culture. We have only the Trinity as our model, the Creator as our provider, the Spirit as the wind in our sails and the Christ as our navigator.

In the boat

Safespafe - exhibitWe see the community as itself an embodiment of the Kingdom inwardly and outwardly. The community is a small but rich tapestry of Christian expression seeking to live in shalom and self-surrender. We actively allow space for different views and interpretations of the Christian faith in the context of relationship and community.

We believe that a big part of our living is to celebrate unity in diversity, to model community rather than being a club or niche expression, in a culture where family and community are strained and struggling we believe a major part of a missional response is to model real community and love. Becoming family is hard, but wonderful, committing to share such intimacy with each other raises all sorts of issues and hang-ups which we cannot hide or ignore. Doing it in a way which is deliberately exposed makes it even harder.

Safespace crossIt has been important for us to develop a rhythm of living which ripples out from our main gathering – The Table, where we have a meal, spend time in prayer/reflection and share communion – so we have  developed a weekly rhythm which has seven aspects:

  • See and appreciate something new in Creation;
  • Explore something about Jesus;
  • Listen in silence to the Spirit;
  • Bless and be blessed by someone;
  • Listen to and share a God story with someone;
  • Pray for and ask for prayer from someone;
  • Rest.

Amongst the islands

Safespace candlesPerhaps the best way to describe who we are is as a new-monastic community, a community of followers who are seeking first and foremost to be equipped, resourced and supported in living a life that exudes mission, to reflect a mission and holistic spirituality and to live that life alongside those for whom church has no meaning or real life connection and to be focussed on being agents of transformation in the world in which we find ourselves.

Safespace - shoesWe took to heart the instructions in Luke Chapter 10, to step out, to go lightly and to offer peace where we meet community. So we began to get involved in community: in AFC Telford United Football Club – where we help sweep up after games, spend time in the bar with staff, players and supporters and have got involved in the Trust which owns and runs the club; we regularly have a stall/prayer corner in our local Mind*Body*Spirit fair; we organise children's creation walks – a mix of nature hunt, learning about the environment and Bible stories; and in partnership with our local council and the Methodist Church we run sank•tuary, a safe haven/chill out venue for Clubbers from Midnight to 4am every Sunday morning. In each of these situations we have encountered "people of peace" who welcomed us in: the Chairman of the Football Club, the nightclub owner etc. all of whom have no connection with Church.

Safespace - tablesOur emphasis then is not to grow the core community but to "share lives" (1 Thessalonians 2) which reflect the Gospel and model a different way of being.  We seek to be people of shalom, to begin by offering peace and by living in the wider community rather than "reaching out" into it and drawing people "back in". Brueggemann writes* that the "Towel and the Basin" are the tools of Shalom, and that the Towel only becomes three dimensional when it is wrapped around the foot, so we believe our faith and church only takes on a third dimension when it serves, when it is lived for the Kingdom.

The destination

Safespace sanktuaryWe don’t know where we are going, we are a pilgrim people. We know that we hope to keep going, to keep serving, to keep challenging, to keep being people of shalom, the destination is up to God. We long to take bigger risks, to live deeper in the love of God and each other, to see individuals name God, to see community restored and to see culture transformed. The things we do follow from who we are and where we are, the particular winds and currents that lead us.

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