Christ Church Brighton was established five years ago as an Anglican church without a parish. Meeting in pubs, cafes and a school, leader Carl Chambers explains how the church is developing.
Our Friends and Family meeting continues on Sunday mornings at a local school and we remain committed to being a church for those who don't normally go to church.
We are an Anglican church without a parish that started as an initiative by the Bishop of Chichester to be a fresh expression of church in Brighton. We are not a parish church, we don't have a fixed geography as such – instead we are very much a network. Although we have started a church that is certainly not traditional, we are wholeheartedly a Bible teaching and following church.
Our aim is to: 'cast intriguing and accessible Gospel lifelines into the diversity of Brighton from a growing Jesus centred community'.
In some ways we are seen as being terribly traditional in that our Sunday meeting would be very familiar to anyone who has attended inherited church services, I don't robe up but the format is a recognisable one. For me, being a fresh expression of church – rather than a fresh way of doing worship or children's work – means that it's got be right that we are doing 'churchy' things but we are also always looking to reaching those who wouldn't dream of attending a traditional service in a traditional building.
As a result, we also have a meeting in the upper room at the Circus Circus pub in Preston Circus, Brighton, every Sunday night. Church in a Pub is all about providing a safe space to engage with the big issues of life, a safe place to ask questions about God, living in this world, wondering about who we are and where we are going and if indeed we can know any of the answers to those questions. We have different themes and might do things like watch part of a TV programme or section of a film and talk about the issues raised in it. Themes would include hope, technology, religion, health and forgiveness.
We also have Gospel Communities – these are the way we as a church express the fact that being a Christian is about more than just turning up on a Sunday morning. It is how we show our belonging to each other during the week by meeting up formally or informally in large or small groups, with or without the Bible and with or without prayer – those the last two are great and we often do have them. The aim of a Gospel community to share lives deeply and naturally during the week. They can take place almost anytime and anywhere.
A number of people involved with the Gospel Communities very much associate themselves with these groups as church but wouldn’t dream of turning up on a Sunday.
We do have a core group of people but Brighton has a very transient population so as much as we have grown in recent years we have also seen people leave. There have of course been disappointments and challenges along the way too. Relationships with other churches have mostly been very good but sometimes it has not been so easy for a whole variety of reasons.
However much we advertise something it can come to nothing – people will decide to join in because of personal connections, relationships are vital. We had an Easter egg treasure hunt in a local park and 80% of those who came were not known to us but at harvest time we organised a celebration to mark our fifth birthday and things turned out very differently. We leafleted 600 houses, told all the local schools, took out newspaper advertising, organised a fantastic day with lots of activities which the church family and their friends hugely enjoyed but only one couple came we didn't know. It was quite shocking but a timely reminder that not everything works out simply because you’ve promoted it all over the place.