The Well

An ex-mining village in Dunfermline lies at the heart of a developing fresh expression of church. Aileen Christie reports.

It takes a long time to build trust and relationship and we have certainly found that at Wellwood. It's a village of about 750 people and it's a place that's quite isolated in the northern part of Dunfermline.

Wellwood used to be a mining village but the industry's decline brought difficult times for what is a close-knit community.

In 2004, Wellwood was brought into the parish of Gillespie Memorial Church, part of the Church of Scotland. We were doing Purpose Driven Church and, at one point, we all held hands before being told to turn around and look outwards. Some of us felt it was no coincidence that Wellwood came into our parish at that very stage in the life of Gillespie.

The congregation embraced the idea of reaching out to the village but it didn't go too smoothly at first; we tried to deliver Easter eggs but this was met with suspicion by villagers who had been let down by churches in the past. Thankfully, that seems almost unbelievable now – and it's all down to the community relationships we have built up since then.

Jesus in the Park,or J in the Park, was our next step. That's when we took a large tent to the local park in the summer of 2006 and offered a week-long programme of activities, including drama, games, crafts and worship. We did that for five years and we did see some people coming to faith, that was all well and good but it was then a major step for them to walk into a traditional church setting.

We started off with the whole congregation involved and now there is a relatively small number of people concerned with it, I guess it's slightly unusual because it has taken the opposite track to many fresh expressions in that we began with a very large group that has now become smaller in number – but the good thing is that the smaller group is one that's more focused on its intention to be church in the community.

In those early days, ten years ago, we weren't looking to create a fresh expression of church; all we wanted to do was to engage the people of Wellwood to come to our church. In the first year, some of the kids came along and we built up some good relationships. After that, we did have people coming down to church and it was a complete disaster; that's when we realised that church as we knew it was just not going to meet the needs of people with no experience of church.

From then on our aim was not to get them to come to our church but to find out what would be 'church' at Wellwood – and that's still the journey we're on today. We are still not there in exploring discipleship but we can see that that will come in God's time.

We started to put our energies into getting to know the residents and developing friendships with them. We had a Scripture Union group at Wellwood Primary School and that meant we were seeing the people every week; it just built relationships but it really does take such a long time, we couldn't believe how many years it takes to get to that stage.

Again, we still had no idea of setting up a fresh expression of church but then I did the mission shaped ministry course in Edinburgh and things developed from there. We'd come to the natural end of Jesus in the Park at the point when I was doing msm and I felt it right that we should have a permanent presence in the village, a place for the community which might also become home to a fresh expression.

There wasn't a community facility at all at Wellwood. There was a small food store and what was an empty unit next to it which people remembered as a post office and later a beauty salon. It's a fairly small space and had lain empty all the time we had been in the village. If we were going to set up a permanent presence in the village, that was the only place to do it.

The Well - building and bannerInitially we were completely funded by the church but after Jesus in the Park finished, the funding wasn't as available so we were looking for external funding. Thankfully, we have a great relationship with the Fife Council in the Dunfermline area and they were very amenable to partnering with us in Wellwood. We also applied to various trusts and the Go For It fund of the Church of Scotland. Although not significant sums of money, this helped us to tell our story in various circles of assistance. Go For It has been such a huge source of support and encouragement along the way and we are very grateful for that.

We knew that we had to make a move for the empty unit so, in the end, we just went into the neighbouring shop and asked the woman who owned both sets of premises, 'How do you feel about us taking on the next door unit, even though we can't afford to pay anything like what you are asking?' She said, 'That sounds like a great idea!' It should have been £650 a month but she gave it to us for the first year for £200 a month with an increase to £300 after that time.

The wonderful thing is that Gillespie Memorial Church did support us in that. They agreed that if we didn't manage to get funding, they would underwrite us when we took on the lease. That sort of support meant such a lot to us.

We can have small meetings in the unit, which has become a real hub for the local community and is known as The Well, but we are now hoping to move into the local primary school. That's when I think we can start developing working with adults coming in and having meetings and chats. At the moment the environment doesn't allow for that. It's really reaching the end of its lifespan for us but it was the ideal location at the time.

We're into our fourth year and the unit is used regularly by the community. We have a lively youth group on a Monday night and hope to revive a drop-in on Thursday lunchtimes for secondary school pupils.

People in the village give us far more credit than we feel is due to us for making things happen but the truth is that they have found the confidence to develop as a community; we have been happy to support them in that. A major turning point was the planning of a Gala in the village. In mining communities, the Gala was a big event on the calendar but there hadn't been a Gala at Wellwood for about 20 years.

Then it was decided that it would be great to have a Gala again and The Well became the meeting place for the Gala committee. We were able to facilitate that and we helped with applications to the council, and so on, but we weren't even officially on the committee; we simply went along to the meetings.

It was fantastic to see people gain in confidence and actually take control but even until the very last minute we didn't know how the wider community would react to the Gala. We went to the top of the village where the parade was going to start, there weren't many people around… and then, with 10 minutes to go, all the doors opened and the people came out as the band came marching down the road. It was so significant for everyone in the village. That then was the turning point because the attitude changed from complaining about the council to thinking about what they could achieve themselves.

By the second year, it strengthened our relationship with the community and the rest of the people. Now we're looking forward to the fourth Gala on the last Saturday in July.

It has been a real highlight to see how that has developed but there have also been some terrible low points. Wellwood's primary school closed in October 2014 as part of a package of school closures across the area; we walked alongside the parents to build a case for the school to remain open but, in the end, the decision went against them. It was a devastating blow.

The children now have to go out of the village to school. They have settled all right but I think it's more about the impact on the community not to have a school at the heart of it any more.

But there's now a possibility of using the redundant school premises, getting it at a token rent for use by the community. We really hope the residents get the chance to do that, particularly as they are saying to us, 'The church needs to be there, we couldn't do it without you'.

We have to get the paperwork done by April. We never know where we are going next on this journey but we would hope and pray to be established in the old school buildings in the summer.

The school closure was awful, though working closely with the parents has been such a blessing. If the school was made available, it would give us the space to do a lot more, particularly with the kids, and it would also give us so much more scope in the range of things on offer.

There are three of us on the team at the moment. I work with Shirley and Linda (our respective husbands also lend a hand!) We are all lay people. We also have those who support us in the church – mainly in prayer but they are also there if we need help at all. As I've mentioned, there was a massive buy-in from Gillespie Memorial Church at the start and there is still a lot of goodwill but, in practical terms, it's just us.

All three of us are 50 and we are in this journey for the long haul. We all do what we can do and then we wait and see what happens. We do work very closely with the people on the Gala committee, about four or five of them, and I think we are at a tipping point in terms of members of the local community stepping up to take responsibility. I think we are on the verge of seeing people say, is there a role for me?

We are all partners working in Wellwood together. The adults now know there is no 'side' to us; it would never have worked if we did. We say, 'we are here to help you', because it's all about working alongside people so that they are finding out for themselves.

How many people are coming to our church? That's not what we are about. We have seen change in the community and have built up trusting, open relationships which leave the way open for deeper conversations to arise naturally. All the children in the village had contact with J in the park and the SU group and now have a grounding in the Bible stories and, we hope, an understanding of who Jesus is.

We've encountered some ministers in the wider church who do not have much understanding about what we are trying to do and don't seem to be 'buying' it. But that's OK, we just try and remain faithful to what God wants us to do with the people in this area; we leave everything else up to him.

Becoming a network of networks

A body of many parts

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its parts form one body, so it is with Christ… Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Taking Fresh Expressions forward Download

Taking Fresh Expressions forward

Find out about our current five areas of focus and our key new projects going forward.

You can view a video summary of this article below.

I have always marvelled at the multiple expressions of Church to be found within the body of Christ, and it was one of the things I loved most about leading and pastoring a local church. As the body of Christ grew and multiplied into a variety of congregations, I would often find myself making four changes of clothing on a Sunday to adapt to the particular style and tradition of each worshipping community! Of course, there came a point – after we had planted seven very different fresh expressions of church – when I needed to surrender to the fact that the vicar alone couldn’t possibly adapt to the culture of each and every one. My role then was to keep a diverse church connected, where the different communities could learn from each other, celebrate their stories together and be mutually supportive.

An organisation of many partners

Over the past nine months, becoming team leader of Fresh Expressions has meant embracing that challenge all over again, but on a vast scale. The landscape that has evolved over the decade since this initiative started is huge, with many different faces (denominations, streams, agencies, colleges and local communities), often within strikingly different cultures, encompassing several layers of experience and understanding, and each with a language and vocabulary of their very own.

On one level, none of this has changed our main purpose as an organisation:

Fresh Expressions seeks to transform communities and individuals through championing and resourcing new ways of being church.

On another level however, everything has changed, and the organisation that once existed as a single sponsored initiative is now in the position of supporting and championing a movement of many parts and networks.

As a result, the emphasis of our role has shifted too. Whilst still being committed to 'renewing vision, gathering news, supporting growth and developing training', the task of communicating and convincing has now been overtaken by the challenge of connecting. As more have joined the partnership, the movement as a whole can increasingly offer multiple ways of renewing vision, gathering news, supporting growth and developing training, and we at Fresh Expressions want to celebrate and facilitate that in a new season.

A network of networks?

In On the verge, Alan Hirsch talks about eight 'movement rules' and highlights the 'network rule' in particular. He writes:

Of all the movement rules, the network rule is the one most often overlooked. When we look at a movement, we're often enamoured by the mass of its size and intrigued by the smallness of its parts, but we miss that what is actually holding it together is an infrastructure of networks.

Of course, we can put ourselves on dangerous ground when we try to put the phrase 'infrastructure of networks' alongside the word 'movement', and Hirsch himself talks about the difficulties in enabling an organic 'all channel network' to thrive. At the same time, however, movements are partly catalysed by the quality of communication and connection between their many parts, and Fresh Expressions has been privileged to play an increasing role in enabling that, to support – if you like – the emergence of a 'network of networks'.

A fresh path for Fresh Expressions

How then, might we draw a picture of Fresh Expressions to describe our future role? Returning to the body image, I think increasingly we would want to see our partnership as the skeleton on which an 'infrastructure of networks' can thrive and multiply, each made up of many parts, but joined together in a common vision. To that, we are now adding the joints and muscle of five major areas of focus:

  • inspiring vision;
  • networking strategically;
  • connecting geographically;
  • supporting practitioners;
  • resourcing learning.

We are then adding the flesh of several major projects, all designed to connect the movement's many parts through the DNA of promoting best practice, providing effective support and creating genuine partnerships wherever we can. We invite you to read about these in the attached document and to 'watch this space' as we develop the vision of becoming a network of networks.

Above all, though, we invite you to continue with us on this wonderfully complex journey of which 'each one of you is a part'.

Taking Fresh Expressions forward

Declining church? Five signs you still have something to give (Chris Morton)

Chris Morton explains why there are signs of hope, even for churches that appear to be in terminal decline.

In most areas – both rural and urban, you don't have to go very far to find a church whose 'glory days' are behind her. Many churches are declining. Churches close down all the time.

If this is happening in your church, you might be losing hope.

We serve a God who is always doing new – or shall we say 'fresh' – things.

For many churches, their story is over. Perhaps, like he says to the individual follower, God looks down and says, 'well done, good and faithful little community'. For others, there is still work to be done.

Here are five signs your church still has something to give:

You have a space

For many declining churches, their primary asset may be their building. In years past, the building may have been solely dedicated to official church activities. Today, the building lies empty for most of the week.

Have you thought creatively about how your building can be a blessing to your community?

A few options might include:

  • offer free or cheap office space to like-minded non-profit organisations and businesses;
  • open a restaurant that serves affordable food for neighbours in need;
  • share the space with a young church plant.

Many people made sacrifices of time, resources and money  to build your church's building! Pray that God will help you re-imagine its use.

You have money

Declining churches often have financial resources, either frozen or liquid. Perhaps it is time for you to redistribute what you have been given to a new generation of Jesus' followers?

My own young church community has received financial support from a declining congregation. Years ago, they sold their church building and started meeting in a home. They continue to worship God and love each other. They used the money from the sale to form a foundation that supports new church starts like our own. We couldn't do it without them!

You have pioneers

Every church has a few 'pew-sitters' who could become pioneers. Pioneers are women and men who are passionate about groups of people outside of your church. These pioneers know and love this people group, and can imagine new ways that the church could be created among them.

Look at your church again. You might have someone like these pioneers:

  • dog walkers who could share the gospel at the park;
  • bikers to 'love the hell out of people';
  • knitters to re-imagine church for those keen on handicrafts;
  • artists to minister to the creative community.

Equip these women and men for pioneer ministry, and then wait to see what God will do.

You have mentors

Perhaps your declining church is full of slightly older worshippers who have a lot of life experience to share. Personally, my life has been redefined by families that took me in and cared for me.

Young Jesus followers are in desperate need of mentors who can help them navigate relationships, business, finances, parenting and more. Sadly, many fresh expressions of church have trouble engaging different age groups.

Perhaps God has equipped your church to bless a younger generation.

You have vision

As you probably have heard, without vision, the people perish. One sign of life is that your church is still full of vision.

Vision is not the same as wistful regret. It does not mean saying, 'I wish things were different'.

Vision is not a general hope God is still at work.

Vision is a clear and definable preferable future that lines up with God's stated hopes and dreams.

An example might be a future where:

  • every person within a one mile radius of your church building is prayed for face-to-face;
  • different churches in your area team up to serve disadvantaged residents;
  • your church adopts local pioneers and church planters and cares for them in tangible ways.

Is your church declining – or even dying?


Maybe not.

Either way, there is still some life in you.

Just imagine what God could do!

Chris Morton serves as Community Developer for Austin Mustard Seed, a new church community for North Central Austin. The original version of this article was first posted on the Fresh Expressions US blog.

Please note that comments and views may not represent those of Fresh Expressions.

Pioneer hub day – Oxford

A day organised by CMS, aimed at gathering and supporting pioneers from across the region.

You can come along for part or all of the day, you can sign up for a one-to-one consultation, use our prayer space or attend a seminar.

The day is free and open to anyone involved in or interested in pioneer ministry and fresh expressions of church.


You can book tickets for the day on the EventBrite page.


10.30-11.00 Join with CMS Students for worship and prayer.

11.00          Prayer Room Open

11.00-11.30 One to one slots available

11.30-12.30 Seminar on new developments in pioneer ministry

12.30-13.00 One to one slots available

13.00-14.00 Lunch (bring your own or café available)

14.00-15.00 Seminar on mindfulness, prayer and the seeking generation

15.00-16.00 One to one slots available

16.00          Close, cake and chat

Pioneer Connection – Hampton Court

An opportunity to gather with other pioneers for a coffee and chat.

The CMS Pioneer Hub (in the form of Andy Freeman) will be coming to a central venue in an area to hang out for the day with whoever wants to come along. Maybe a 20 minute coffee or a 2 hour discussion – whatever works for you – and the coffee is on Andy!

Find Andy at Mada Deli, 11 Bridge Road, Hampton Court. He'd love to buy you coffee and chat. Come in for 15 mins, for an hour or for the whole day.

Contact Andy Freeman on for more information or if you'd like to host an event in your area.

The Pursuit

The Pursuit is a four-day, 24/7 worship, prayer, community and justice gathering for you and your mates. Come and experience a weekend of retreat as we engage with God and His people in a real and authentic way.

Spend as much or as little time as you like in the constant, creative worship hub, explore where worship and justice collide, regain the desire for God's presence, hear His calling and purpose for our generation, experience Him, and then be sent out as risk-takers, game-changers, and Kingdom-bringers who are sold-out to the heart of God.

God is calling us to so much more, join us in this fresh and unique gathering where you bring as much to the table as anyone else.​

Fresh Expressions are partnering with The Pursuit to host a series of short, sharp talks from leaders of fresh expressions of church, to inspire, challenge and stimulate discussion.

The Pursuit gathers in the grounds of Caythorpe Court, Grantham, Lincolnshire. Tickets are £120 for camping in pre-erected tents and £140 for log cabins. Prices include accommodation and food.

Find out more (including what makes The Pursuit different) or book your places on The Pursuit website.


Ministry 4 Mission success

The Diocese of Salisbury is continuing to develop its massively successful Ministry 4 Mission (M4M) initiative.

The M4M project – coordinated by Alan Jeans, Archdeacon of Sarum, and Revd Penny Joyce, Support Officer for Ministry and Mission – comes to the end of its first stage in April this year but the work is set to grow throughout 2015.

This two-year project maps the many ways in which churches across the diocese reach out in mission; also providing encouragement, support and training for those interested in growing new forms of church for the 21st century. The M4M courses have been run for both lay and clergy and are open to other denominations – over 700 people attended from January to December last year.

Penny said,

The attendance has been stunning and seems to show that there is a real thirst for engagement with fresh expressions of church in the Diocese.

To support and share good practice, local hubs have also been set up for practitioners to meet together and plan training and resourcing. All hubs are based within a half hour radius of a central point so that people don't have to travel miles across the diocese.

There are currently Messy Church hubs, a café church hub, a West Dorset hub, and a new housing hub. A pioneer hub for all of those looking to undertake pioneer work in their area will have its first meeting on Wednesday 25th February 2015 at Church House, Salisbury.

There are further plans to:

  • run a mission shaped ministry course in the north of the diocese this year;
  • facilitate further courses for 2015 with a 'mission equipping' theme;
  • digitise a map of new initiatives across the diocese;
  • set up hubs for lay leaders with a mission heart.

To find out more, contact Penny Joyce on

Armada Spasy

Major Kathryn Blowers of The Salvation Army tells how Roma churches are developing in Kent.

My husband, David, and I served with The Salvation Army in Prague for nine years. In 2003 we returned to this country when we were appointed to a very large, traditional corps in Margate where there were a number of Czech and Slovak speaking Roma people.

We started some ministry with them, mainly social, but seven years ago we launched a house group involving ourselves and 3 other couples, including our daughter who had married a Czech Roma. From that grew a church which now welcomes in about 120/130 people in all and, two years ago, we also planted another church in Chatham.

Our whole aim is to train and disciple and equip people for ministry; we are not a 'social' church as such so we don't do food banks or mums and toddlers' groups and so on. Those are all great things to do but they're not our particular focus, we do help in the community but it's not in order to 'get people in', our community work is simply an expression of the life of the church. We help people to be saved by God and we then disciple them, nurture them, teach them, develop their ministry and send them out to do it all over again. Evangelism is very much the natural outcome of discipled people living lives which are committed to Christ.

Armada Spasy - groupAs a result of this approach, our corps programme comprises:

  • main worship meeting and children's programme (Saturday);
  • family day (no organised programme – Sunday);
  • housegroups (Monday) at various locations;
  • drop-in (9am) and Bible school (Tuesday);
  • women's meeting and a housegroups in Chatham and Gravesend and youth ministry in Margate (Thursday);
  • discipleship class (Friday).

On Wednesdays a mission team leads a meeting in Chatham – supporting Chatham corps in ministering to the Roma community in that town – and on Thursdays housegroups are led in Chatham and Gravesend by mission team members.

We've probably got about 40-50 people (including children) meeting regularly at Chatham now and we're also talking about setting up another group in Gravesend. There are five house groups in Margate, about 80 people are included in this house group ministry. Our youth house group has now divided into two and meets on a different day.

I would say that about 95% of the people in our own congregation have been saved in the last seven years. Many of them want to become members of The Salvation Army, wear the uniform and get really committed to it. We also teach very strongly about tithing and the church was in the top 5% of giving in our division, in relation to size.

Many of our meetings currently take place at the Northumberland Gospel Hall in Margate but, in early 2015, we will move into a building on the high street. This is exciting because it further allows us to do what we ought to be doing and we will have another Salvation Army couple with us which will enable us to plant out from that 'hot spot'.

Armada Spasy - groupWe had a first wedding from the Chatham group on 28th December 2014; this was great news because the Roma people don't normally get married. In their culture it's more normal to live together but we've had several weddings at Margate since the church started.

One of our biggest challenges is answering the rather political question of, 'Why are you doing a separate church for them?' To me, that could also be seen as almost a racist comment; the fact is we're simply trying to keep up with what God has been doing with the Roma people and providing the space for them to come to know him and then tell others. This is truly missional work without going abroad.

Perth vision day


£12 including a soup and sandwich lunch.


Sessions 1-3 feature interactive learning with presentations, interviews, stories, activities and questions.

09.30 Registration and refreshments

10.00 Welcomes and worship

10.15 Session 1:

What is happening and why it is important: How fresh expressions of church are changing the landscape.

11.35 Break

11.50 Session 2

Values and how fresh expressions of church are developing and can develop in your context.

13.00 Lunch

13.45 Local story feature

14.00 Seminars

Choose from a selection of seminars and workshops.

15.15 Session 3

Where next?

16.00 Networking

16.30 End

Book or contact

Book online.

For more information or to book:

Lorraine Orr