To everything there is a season

‘Dying to Live’: Rural Fresh Expressions Gathering, 22nd-24th May.

Seasons, cycles, rhythms and change. Hot topics in any Fresh Expressions (FX) chat – but arguably nowhere more starkly observed than in the rural context. Whilst many of the issues and principles facing urban and rural FX practitioners are the same, the rural context can provide a unique set of circumstances which highlight the challenges in a bright-spotlight-in-your-face kind of way. Suspend potential urban mutterings for a moment whilst we consider these factors:

  • the geographical areas for Fresh Expressions to cover are bigger (likewise the inherited church) and so there is a greater distance to travel to gather or find like-minded folk;
  • the age profile tends to be older so there is less critical mass of children and young adults to sustain work amongst this demographic;
  • inherited church leaders are often required to maintain multiple-parishes and aging buildings, leading to less resource available for pioneering new FX outworkings.

And (unsurprisingly) a combination of these factors are leading to speedier decline in church attendance in rural areas… All in all, its tough out there amongst those rolling hills.

But, after that catalogue of reasons to despair, there is hope – and that’s what the folk at ‘Dying to Live’ will be exploring on 22nd-24th May at Hayes Conference Centre in Swanick. After all, if there are any people who understand the cycles of decline, dormancy and new life then it’s got to be those who live and work in rural settings –  where the seasons dictate the pace, and cycles of life and death provide patterns far starker than in urban settings. Analogies with the natural world abound and provide a rich vein for discussion and reflection, but these also fit hand-in-hand with Biblical and theological perspectives – if it all boils down to a Gospel of new life and the fingerprints of the divine through all creation, what does this mean in practical terms as the Body of Christ finds new expressions in situations of apparent death and decline?

The gathering at Swanick on May 22nd-24th will provide ample opportunities for story-telling, reflection and peer-led learning around these issues facing rural FX ministry. Moving away from front-led leadership, the gathering will focus on the experiences of practitioners and how best to enable and support – and a combination of Biblical engagement (led by Bishop Mike Harrison and Rev. Canon Sally Gaze), examining case studies and the principles they illuminate, and networking time reflect the hope that this is a time for reflection, encouragement and relationship building. Worship will interweave through the weekend, led by Sam and Sara Hargreaves, and will provide spaces to pause and consider creative responses through worship and prayer.

In addition to the central programme, planning has also taken account of what everyone knows to be the real ‘best bits’ of any conference type event – the stuff (conversations, encounters, idea sharing) that happens over the dinner table/at the bar/in the toilet queue…! Taking these incidental but crucial moments seriously, ‘Dying to Live’ will have two ‘conference companions’ on site throughout the gathering. Arthur Rank CEO Jerry Marshall and Bishop Chris Edmondson have an enviable if challenging job for the weekend – they’re there not to lead or direct conversations, but to sit back and listen. At the bar, over coffee, brushing teeth – they’ll pick up key, emerging themes and reflect these back at the close of the weekend. With one ear on God and one ear on the people and discussions around them, these ‘conference companions’ will be one very special way that ‘Dying to Live’ facilitates shared learning and reflection.

Anyway, no doubt by now any rural FX practitioners and enablers out there not already signed up are scrolling enthusiastically for a ‘book now’ button. Well, you’ll need to hold your horses as there has been a huge uptake for places this year and the team are currently creating extra spaces in conversation with the venue. If you’re interested, please do contact as soon as possible and we’ll try and get you sorted with a ticket. If, however, you can’t make the date there are still ways that you can get involved and benefit from the conversations and learning of ‘Dying to Live’. The planning team are hoping that rural FX soul-mates will be found, and that groups of like-minded folk will breathe new life into regional rural hubs that create spaces for accessing support and inspiration. Watch this space for ‘Dying to Live’ sessions, news and updates online – and maybe there’ll be a new local meet-up planned by the freshly energised near you soon!

Rural FX ministry is full of challenge and opportunity – there is a time for both, and ‘Dying to Live’ is a time where both will be explored and discussed alongside peers and partners for the journey. Making time, reflecting, praying, listening and learning – sounds like a great new season to us, and we can’t wait to hear what emerges from this special time together.



Preparing the Ground

What do housing estate builders and pioneer community workers have in common…? Well, after chatting with Sue Steer – who’s been in post at Lubbesthorpe, Leicester, since September 2016 – it seems that the answer may be ‘more than you’d think’. Groundworks have been ongoing to prepare for the new housing development for over a year, and the deeper preparation of being ready to welcome and support the formation of community as people finally move in has run alongside the muddy stuff.

“People do ask me, “what are you doing? There’s no people yet!” And I have wondered the same myself at points…!” says Sue, whose pioneer community role is supported by four denominations and will eventually mean that she moves to live in the heart of the new community of Lubbesthorpe. However, with the first settlers due to move into the first completed houses by the end of April, all the preparation and relationship building is about to reveal its value. “The last six months have been about working with stakeholders and key partners at the Council”, Sue explains. “We’re starting from scratch here, and Churches Together in Leicester have been building solid foundations for the work we’re hoping to do as people begin to move onto the estate.”

Those in the housing development know (nope, us neither) will be aware that a “106 Agreement” can provide a legally binding framework to guarantee the provision of certain community facilities as a new estate is built. In Lubbesthorpe that will mean that within the first year or so spaces such as a community cabin, and later house, will be provided to give a focal point for gathering and resources. However, what in the interim? The first residents won’t even have completed roads or pathways – so how does Sue plan to begin to foster a sense of community when everyone needs to hop in their car just to leave the estate?


“I’m thinking about what will bring people together,” says Sue. Initially, as only eight households per month are expected to move in per month as the estate is completed, this will involve personal visits and welcomes to every home – as well as some out-door events planned over the summer to provide spaces where the new neighbours can meet each other. However, Sue recognises that this work will soon become unsustainable, and so she is currently building a team to help her plan and eventually deliver the community work on the new estate. Another source of support for Sue is the overseeing group representing the denominations that are resourcing her work. “There is no expectation of a particular outcome” says Sue. “The support group ‘get it’ – my job here is to build community and see what happens, not to develop a church plant or any other particular model. Eventually we may see a missional community grow here – but there is no agenda and no pressure.” This imagination, openness and faith that Sue will support what happens organically as the community forms feels like a real gift – to both Sue and to the people who are moving onto the estate.


“I can’t wait to see what takes root as people move in”, Sue says. “I know from experience there will be hard times, boring times, lessons to learn – but this is it at last!” Sue anticipates that her early work will be to identify community gatekeepers – those who just seem to build community around them without trying – and to facilitate what grows. “It’s about building relationships, listening and going with what works.” It’s a threshold moment for Sue and the people currently packing to move to Lubbesthorpe, and we are inspired by the openness to allowing the opportunity to take the shape and vision of those who find a home there. Trusting in the imagination of a Creator who can think way outside the new-build and discerning ways to be involved in the new work in that place – well, that sounds ground breaking to us.


By Hannah Skinner


MA Lecturer and/or Undergraduate Programme Co-ordinator

Church Mission Society (CMS) are looking for new teaching and co-ordinating staff for their influencial Pioneer Mission training programmes in Cowley, Oxford.

There are two roles available:

MA Lecturer 7 hours/week

Undergraduate Programme Co-ordinator/Lecturer 17.5 hours/week

These roles can be applied for together or individually.

Job descriptions for both roles can be downloaded below.

To apply please visit their website to download an application form and return to and return to:  HR Team, CMS Watlington Road, Oxford OX4 6BZ or email

Research Director

Church Army are seeking an experienced and gifted leader with a passion for research to lead Church Army’s Research Unit.

This is an incredible opportunity to build on the transformative work of Dr George Lings and join this pioneering and unique team which is effecting real change both in Church Army and the wider Church. As the leader of the unit, you will be responsible for leading the team as a centre of excellence inresearch; and inspiring the Church in mission through the Unit’s findings.

The successful candidate will:

  • Be educated to Master’s degree or equivalent
  • Have a developed understanding of evangelism and fresh expressions of church
  • Be an excellent communicator
  • Demonstrate excellent interpersonal skills


  • Salary- Senior Salary Level
  • Hours – 37.5 hours per week. Normal working hours are Monday to Friday 9 -5 with evening and weekend work required as per the needs of the role require. Travel will be a key part of the role. 
  • Terms – Full Time, Open Ended Contract
  • Six-month probation
  • 25 days annual leave plus bank holidays
  • Auto-enrolment pension or CEPB if eligible


Please submit a detailed letter of application to us detailing how your skills and experience make you suitable for the role. You should refer fully in your application to the criteria in the Person Specification. Your application should also include details of two references who could be contacted to provide references for you, one faith based and one employment related. References will only be sought for those who are shortlised and not without approval from you. 

Please return to:

or by post to:           Faye Popham, HR Team, Wilson Carlile Centre, 50 Cavendish Street, Sheffield, S3 7RZ

Closing Date    9th May 2017

Interviews    18th May 2017 in Sheffield

Pioneer mission Enabler

This role is for someone excited about developing mission and discipleship among families & young people.

Could you develop a team from within our congregation to live as authentic disciples beyond the church?

Can you nurture life enhancing relationships with the unchurched? If yes this role could be for you.

The role comes with accommodation and a salary of £21,840 for a 35 hour week This is initially a 3-year appointment and is subject to a satisfactory DBS check.

For more details and an application pack go to or email:

Closing date: 12th May & Interviews Saturday 27th May