St Christopher’s, Leicester

Alison RocheWhen a congregation in Leicester had to move out of their dilapidated building, they were given the chance to start a fresh expression of church in a local school. With that came the opportunity to do some serious listening and to refocus church life around the needs of those they were now in contact with. Revd Alison Roche takes up the story.

I was appointed the Vicar of St Christopher's parish church in the Saffron Lane Estate in Leicester City, an urban priority area. Before I arrived, the building had fallen into a pretty grotty state, so the previous vicar started the process of looking to rebuild on the same site. Following much discussion, the Bishop raised the question of locating the parish church within a proposed Church of England Academy School. So I took the job knowing that the parish church would move in two years time.

St Christopher's buildingThe church had a history of being good at outreach and community involvement. They took the risk and went with it. So a couple of Septembers ago, thirty people marched with me from the old church to the new building. We are now in a fantastic location, very accessible public space, with people dropping in and out of the building all the time. I loosely have a chaplaincy role to the school, which has reframed my job, but I am still the vicar of a parish. So we have used the relocation as an opportunity to listen and explore the possibility of new forms of loving service to local people.

St Christopher's street cornerWe have focused on the real needs of families with children, mostly because the parish is in one of the highest areas of social depravation and educational need. We have therefore consciously worked collaboratively with the school to address the particular community and spiritual needs of the area.

In the last year, the church has grown in attendance to an average of forty adults and ten children. We try to also cater for older people and single people who have got involved. It is a very welcoming church. All the new people have been local.

One of the first things we did was an after school service. The identified need was around the exploration of parents and children's spirituality at the same time as the many after school clubs. So 3pm on a school day became an opportunity for engagement. When it started, no one turned up for three weeks which was really hard. On the fourth week a couple of families turned up and it took off from there, but it was a real lesson in patience and trust. We have also managed to continue and develop relationships with families with children who go to other schools, which has been really important as we are still the church for the whole parish, not just the Academy.

St Christopher's - foodOur main challenge remains how to engage more with the families of children who go to the Academy School who are not Christian and unchurched. We haven’t quite cracked this yet. The good thing about the Academy School is that there are no selection criteria for attendance which is purely geographic. So the challenge for us has been to develop an accessible Christian ethos in a Church of England school where most of the teachers, parents and children are not Christian.

Now that we have been here two years where we have established trust and joint working relationships, we are now beginning to see greater engagement from local people seeking us out for spiritual needs. So this is beginning to grow. Amongst other things, the school end of term collective worship aimed at parents and students has increasingly grown which enables our greater visibility. I hope to spend more time in the morning in the restaurant area at the heart of the school between 9 and 10am, where parents are invited to have free tea and coffee, to get to know parents who do not come to our events.

St Christopher's - congregationRegarding discipleship, it remains a real challenge how to engage people from a non-book culture. We have been using the START course by CPAS, but like everyone else we don’t find it easy to find appropriate resources. START is good because there are things to make and do, and is less wordy than some discipleship courses, but this is an ongoing struggle. People in a UPA are may not necessarily be the sort of people who are confident sitting around in a group. One thing that we are actively doing is to ensure discussion groups in every other Sunday service to make it more participative, more effective and grow confidence.

We hope that the Church will grow by developing small specialist congregations, which will get more missional. We hope that a recent and jointly appointed detached youth worker will in time, set up some form of youth church beyond the walls of our church buildings.

3.08 @ Kingshill, Nailsea

When the Bishop told Associate Vicar Steve Tilley he would be comfortable with a few ‘heroic failures’ he gave permission to those wanting to start fresh expressions of church to experiment in a daring way. The leaders at Christ Church, Nailsea in the Diocese of Bath and Wells, took him at his word. Here Steve takes up the story.

Why didn't Christ Church, Nailsea reach families in one of its more distant estates effectively? 10 am Sunday, with a walk involving crossing the main road, may not have been an attractive proposition.

So we decided we would like to have a go at planting an all-age congregation in Kingshill School. It was easy to reach, and attended by the children of many of our target families. We opted for a monthly service and it didn’t clash with Christ Church's own all-age service. But what about Sunday lie-ins, local football teams and Sunday morning shopping trips? Inevitably this conversation happened:

'What time shall we start?'

'How about 3.00 or 3.30?'

'Why do church services always start at times like that?'

'Don't know.'

'Why don't we start at a strange time; then everyone will remember it?'

'What, like eight minutes past three or something?'

'Why not?'

And 3.08 was born. We expected everyone would arrive at 3.15. We planned that the first seven minutes of our event would be good, but never important. Over the next two years only once was anyone late. People tended to arrive for 3.00. We finished by 4.00 pm with tea, cake and chat.

Lesson one: start at a memorable time.

How did we try and attract people? We leafleted every house in the neighbourhood. We put an entry in Kingshill School parents' sheet. We advertised in the local paper. We used word of mouth. We gave everyone who attended a postcard with the details of the next two events.

On our launch 43 people turned up. Many had come to support us from local churches. There were few, genuine newcomers. That was disappointing and it  proved to be the highest number we ever got. Most of our guests over the next two years were folks from other churches interested in trying it themselves. That may be where it bears fruit, we thought.

The content? We went for simple teaching and worship with activity. For the first year we worked through the creed, in the second year the Lord's Prayer. We grew in confidence as a team and our mini-dramas were appreciated. A puppet, Russell (the crow) asked awkward questions by holding up laminated sheets with his beak. We used many of Dave and Lyn Hopwood's Telling Tales resources (CPAS). For our prayers we tended to split into three groups so that some could talk and meditate, some pray together and some work on a craft.

We planned carefully every month (we met at 6.08 for about an hour – the 08 was catching). One of us would bring an outline and then we'd put some meat on the bones, allocate tasks and fix the running order. Lots of the details were finalised by email.

Lesson two: a wise use of technology can keep preparation meeting time low.

Sadly, despite working really hard on our publicity, we never penetrated our target constituency. Maybe there wasn't enough personal invitation by word of mouth? Maybe the idea was flawed from the start? Perhaps it simply wasn't God's will for now. There will be many reasons why 3.08 at Kingshill didn’t work as we hoped.

Reluctantly we took the decision to stop after two years and 22 events. The all-age leading skills learned will be used at Christ Church. An afternoon event at that church is being mooted. A couple of us are going to try another angle and maybe target men.

Lesson three: if it isn't working, stop.


StillPoint, a collection of resources and spaces for those attracted to the contemplative tradition, is a new fresh expression in Oxford. Ian Adams and Matt Rees explain.

StillPoint - logoStillPoint began out of our work as Ordained Pioneers and the hOME and mayBE fresh expressions of church communities in Oxford. We became aware that there were many 'on the edge' of our work who were interested in spirituality but not religion, who would not look to the church for what they are seeking. We had become increasingly convinced that there were great resources and practices that could nurture faith coming from the contemplative tradition. One of the great opportunities for today is that ancient contemplative approaches to faith find resonance in our current post-religious context. We therefore wanted to explore how we could enable people to encounter such treasures through some form of resource centre offering ways into the practise of Christian spirituality. This could open up a depth of faith for Christians living in the 21st century, and could assist spiritual seekers to encounter the Christian contemplative tradition. This would be offered as a gift, as a way in, an accessible approach to Christian contemplative spirituality.

StillPoint - exhibtionIn a place like Oxford, the sense of being 'spiritual and not religious' is huge, so connecting with such people is important. We also wanted to do it for ourselves, so that we could be living a depth of the faith informed by such practices. The focus then has to be assisting people on their particular spiritual journey, a key area for the church to get involved in if it is serious about mission in the twenty first century.

A challenge for the church is to shift an understanding of the faith from 'something you do' like going to church, to a sense of Christianity defining 'a new way of being', enabling you to become more whole, more self aware, more human and to make a difference in the world. This is a call to discipleship, and perhaps we have often dumbed down on what it means to be a Christian disciple. It is important to discover and practice a spirituality that brings love, transformation and peace.

StillPoint - launchSo we began StillPoint, offering a mix of resources and possibilities. We have run a series of meditation workshops drawing on the Christian tradition. We have invited some long-experienced practitioners of the Christian contemplative tradition to run workshops and offer their insights. We have also put on an Art Exhibition on a theme, again aimed at enabling people to quest. It is very important to us that StillPoint is focused on the experiential. We want StillPoint to be a centre of practice rather than another study centre.

StillPoint - cinemaWe have deliberately from the beginning not used church spaces, but used a cinema and a local arts café as public space, to seek the spiritual in the ordinary so that it can be trusted space for spiritual seekers. We have created a website, again aimed at those who might define themselves as spiritual and not religious.

Our hope is that StillPoint increasingly supports spiritual seekers to explore the Christian faith and for Christians to increasingly understand and grow into the depth of their faith, fit for the twenty-first century. It is still early days, but it is already exciting to see what has happened and the potential for it to grow and make an increasing impact where we are.

Willington Quay

Steve DixonSt Paul's is an Anglican church in Willington Quay, an area of urban deprivation on the banks of the Tyne. In 2000 the church was reordered to accommodate a community project, managed by the church. Steve Dixon, Church Army Evangelist and Lay Pioneer Ministry in the Diocese of Newcastle, continues the story.

Willington Quay - header

Willington Quay, is on the banks of the river Tyne. It is an old industrial village, which quickly became part of the Tyne and Wear conurbation. It is an area of high urban social deprivation. It is also quite an isolated area. To access services, people need to travel out of the village on a reduced bus service that only increases people's sense of disconnection. The majority of people here do not own their own homes and live in privately rented or housing association accommodation. Council statistics suggest that the state of this housing is probably the worst in the borough.

Willington Quay - St Paul's ChurchIn amongst this is St Paul's Church, which was one of nine churches in the area. As the area suffered increasingly from the trauma of post-industrialisation, all the other churches were demolished as their congregations became unsustainable. In response to the increasing social needs, St Paul's Church was reordered in 2000 to accommodate a community project, managed by the church. This was a very brave decision, as St Paul's Church itself was finding it difficult to keep going.

The community project was a success from the start. Listening to local needs resulted in the project becoming an important hub in the local community. Other than one general store, a sandwich shop, kebab shop, a couple of pubs and a 'working men's club', the church is the only public space in Willington Quay. However, just over three years ago the congregation at St Paul's church disbanded. At that time formal worship services closed, but the community project continued in a limited capacity. Two years later, my post was created to work alongside the remaining church wardens and local people to revive the project and create a new worshipping community.

Willington Quay - eventThe project aims to make a difference to local people facing deprivation, with groups and support for single parent families, young people, people living with long-term unemployment and older people. All these activities were centred on offering loving service, working in partnership with local government and other voluntary organisations. The project has created social cohesion for those engaged with it. We can expect 150 people to turn up for community events that we run, because there is now real ownership of it. My post was created by the Diocese to develop a fresh expression of church out of the work of the project, as part of a team ministry. Given that there is now a viable community, I was charged with exploring the need for discipleship and forms of worship. The two church wardens and I are the people on the ground. One of the first things we have done is to set up a new more inclusive and empowering management approach to the project, now called 'St Paul's Community Partnership', that involves local residents and institutions.

Willington Quay - ladies singingWe did a lot of thinking about how we can rebuild a form of church coming out of the project. Do we start with some form of discipleship course or worship gathering as a bit of a taster – to give people room to explore questions? We chose the latter, because contextually there is real resistance to training and education type approaches, as many people here had a poor experience of education. So on Pentecost Sunday 2009 we started worship services again in the church, using the CPAS 'Start course' and adapting it to meet the discipleship needs of our context.

In the worship services we are trying to be as inclusive as possible, but particularly focusing on young families, which include teenagers and older people. We have not advertised these new worship services outside of the project, to make sure they didn’t get taken over by people travelling in, thereby keep it contextual. It is growing well. We are open to the possibility that our youth work may lead to some form of youth church  in the future, where St Paul’s becomes in itself a mixed economy of local church.

Willington Quay - housingThe Church now faces new challenges. A lot of the ex-industrial land has been bought up for new housing, for those who have money. Clearly this is not going to be the people who already live here. It seems that more affluent people living in Tyne & Wear are moving in. This raises huge issues around social cohesion, with the 'have's and the 'have not's living in different parts of our expanding village. We are currently exploring setting up some new forms of groups such as book clubs, evening classes and explorations of spirituality to engage in these 'new build' areas. We are still dreaming!

So in five years time, we hope that St Paul's will be financially and socially sustainable. We're also hoping that someone will emerge from the work to explore the development of a sacramentality.

Sanctus: fresh expressions of church in the sacramental tradition

A DVD featuring stories of fresh expressions in the sacramental tradition alongside a keynote address by the Archbishop of Canterbury from 2008's national day of pilgrimage to Coventry Cathedral.

  1. Visions (York)
  2. Moot (London)
  3. Critical Mass (Peterborough)
  4. Glorious (London)
  5. Contemplative Fire (Nationwide)
  6. feig (Gloucester)
  7. Blessed (Gosport)
  8. A sermon preached by Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury in Coventry Cathedral on 8th December 2008 exploring fresh expressions of church in the sacramental tradition.

You can purchase each of the segments as a downloadable video clip using the links above, or the whole DVD as downloadable video clips below.


See for yourself exciting ways in which worship can be real and total; something not just thought about, but seen, and head, and touched and smelt – an experience that envelops all our senses.

Very Revd Richard Giles, Liturgical Consultant

This DVD is a great spur to energy and confidence as we make new inroads into networks and communities with the message of fullness of life in Christ through the sacraments and a generous catholic approach to contextual mission and evangelism.

Rt Revd Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ramsbury

The stories contained in this DVD should encourage and inspire all of us in parish and community ministry to discern the Spirit's movement in our own place, and to look for the new ways in which we can tell the story of Jesus to this generation.

Revd Jonathan Clark, Chair of Affirming Catholicism

If you thought fresh expressions of church where only for evangelicals, then watch Archbishop Rowan's sermon and think again.

Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Reading

Somewhere Else

If you have seen expressions: the dvd – 1 then you will remember Somewhere Else – the Liverpool ‘bread’ church. Heather Lovelady brings the story up to date.

After a fantastic 10 years at Somewhere Else, we have spent the summer saying our goodbyes to our founder minister, Rev Dr Barbara Glasson, and have just welcomed Rev Ian Hu as our new minister from September.

Transition is never easy and over the last 12 months we have worked and prayed hard as a community to find the person to help us continue this unique city centre ministry. We are excited to see where God will take us over the next few years. Will bread making remain at the centre of the mission? We are keeping an open mind, although this simple yet deeply theological concept has helped us engage practically and spiritually with many people: marginalised, ordinary and powerful here in Liverpool, nationally and in the wider world. Our small upper room continues to provide safer space for the vulnerable, inspiration to those discerning their calling, silence for prayer and reflection and a place to be continually ‘amazed’ by the bread…

We recently held a story making event at Somewhere Else with artist Laura Wild. You may like to look at the website to see some photos and video clips of community members fashioning ‘story starters’ from sourdough and then making their story as part of a national artwork project called ‘culture capital 2009’.

Come and visit! We are open for bread making, prayers and lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10.30 to 2.00pm and worship is on the third Sunday of the month at 11.00am.