The Anchor – update Apr13

Hayley Matthews, chaplain for MediaCityUK at Salford Quays, has been appointed Rector of Holy Innocents, Fallowfield. She tells of how things have developed during her three years as coordinator of The Anchor, the chaplaincy's on site base.

I'm very much looking forward to serving at Holy Innocents but there's no doubt it will be very different to what I've become accustomed to at MediaCityUK.

At the moment it is unclear as to whether The Anchor will continue in the same way or if it will be time for something new there. I have been very fortunate in starting to form community in this place and I will take with me many happy memories of the people of Salford; the parishioners at St Clement's Church, Ordsall; my small army of volunteers; staff at the Holiday Inn who helped with many a gathering at the hotel; and the countless people I got to know at the BBC North – particularly those at Radio Manchester, Religion and Ethics, and Outreach who I worked very closely with.

The Anchor - lunchA true sense of community has developed around our regular Big Business Breakfasts as people got together to support and encourage each other. We also saw the building up of our community gospel choir and the impact of our Church Urban Fund volunteer programme, which enabled people to gain qualifications, work experience – and most of all confidence to know that MediaCityUK was a place for them, too.

I would have loved a fresh expression of church to develop on site but the role was specifically missional as opposed to proselytising, with the aim of encouraging people into their own local faith communities rather than drawing them away. This has taught me to be more creative about sharing my faith in a way that is hopefully more 'parabolic' i.e. giving food for thought in the longer term rather than fully formed doctrinal answers to questions that haven't yet been asked.

In a way, BBC Radio Manchester and Radio 2's Pause for Thought/Thought for the Day became my 'pulpit' as I took part in their programming on a regular basis. I was in a very privileged position with that but, on the whole, I discovered that it was important to be able to adjust to whatever the context and culture did – or didn't – provide.

I found it encouraging when people began to realise that we didn't need a church building to be church. A lot of non-Christians along the way have asked me, 'But where is your church?' I would say to them that we are all 'bricks' of the church and that we needed to move away from the idea of the one building where everything is in the same place. The Anchor has certainly made me think a lot more about incarnating 'the Church' through people rather than it simply being seen as a place to 'go to'.

The Anchor - groupThere is something about being a chaplain that's like a game of 'tag' because you meet some many people from different networks and situations and, with God's help, reach out to them all in some way that will enable them to pass on God's love and grace, too. Social media was very important for this, some people would want to come to the Daily Prayer or Holy Communion every week but others – due to work patterns or commitments at home – would follow our prayer schedule on Twitter or use my blog as a mini-homily. I've been amazed at the 'secular' community activities that have provoked conversations around faith and spirituality, let alone the meaning of life, that simply being alongside people as a priest has given the opportunity for.

During my time at The Anchor, I have been a spiritual companion to a number of people who would not otherwise have gone to church; others have been with me for a while and then wanted to find a church for themselves. My aim was always to encourage people to be independent in their spirituality; it wasn't my role to make them 'do' or 'be' any one thing – that was to be between them and God. The irony is that this encouraged people to ask more questions and feel more able to explore what they saw in a faith that wasn’t being imposed, just lived out through another ordinary human being experiencing similar everyday issues.

I have really contemplated the parables of the yeast and salt here and there's no doubt that the volunteers offer that salt and light. I believe they have grown in their faith and I think that is something which is a challenge to those in inherited church who can be somewhat parochial. Of course it's important to promote evangelism but I think we can become so intent on preaching the gospel that we forget what it is to be missional.

The Anchor - Hayley MatthewsThere is a profound similarity between chaplaincy and those involved in fresh expressions of church in a sense of being:

  • a Christian presence;
  • pastoral;
  • engaged in social action and healing.

The difference is that in standard chaplaincy we are missing the worshipping, ecclesial community. It can be like working in a desert but isn't that where the water's most needed?

Note: At the time of writing, we do not know about the future of The Anchor which is a Churches Together initiative backed by the Church of England. The chaplain is employed by the Diocese of Manchester.

The Anchor

The Anchor - HayleyPioneer minister Hayley Matthews is chaplain for MediaCityUK at Salford Quays and coordinator of The Anchor, the chaplaincy's on site base. The site is associated predominantly with the development of BBC North but The Anchor serves a much wider local 'audience'. Hayley explains:

Everyone always thinks of the BBC when MediaCityUK is talked about but, by the time everything is up and running here, there will be lots of different businesses associated with media and production – people like caterers, set designers, web specialists, costumiers and make-up artists.

There is a lot of interest around the BBC personnel just about to make the move into Salford because some are coming from what was the Manchester base in the city's Oxford Road while others are transferring from London as this area develops into a national, and international, media hub. New businesses are arriving every week. Work is also going on to create a 'new' Coronation St here because ITV is also moving to Salford and the old set will no longer be used.

The Anchor - complexWhen I saw this job description last year I knew it was 'me' but I didn't think there was any way I would get it. I was just coming out of my curacy and was very aware that there were lots of Christian people involved in the media, including many priests, who were very clued up on who's who and how the whole thing worked. I didn't even have a TV but, as soon as I heard I got the job last autumn, I bought one and got Sky installed at my new vicarage!

My office with The Anchor is based in what was an old pie-making factory which now houses full-sized studios. Morning prayer takes place at 9am daily and we celebrate the Eucharist at 12.30pm every Wednesday followed by a time to sit and have lunch.

The Anchor - studiosWhen people begin to move on to the 220-acre site, owned by Peel Holdings, we will also hold some of our worship in the University of Salford building and the multi-faith spaces provided in the BBC areas.

Any new company that moves here has to satisfy a requirement that 40% of their jobs will go to local people. Some of these people will have had three generations of worklessness in their families and MediaCityUK will provide the opportunity for a real change in fortunes. It can be easy to think that the only people working on site will be high-profile broadcasters earning impressive salaries. In fact there will be lots of people on modest incomes.

This is a three year post through Greater Manchester Churches Together with major funding coming from the Diocese of Manchester but, despite its Christian leadership and funding, The Anchor is open to people of all faiths and none. Its role is much 'bigger' than simply serving the BBC buildings and people, important though that is.

The Anchor - insideMy job is very much about creating a sense of community. As part of that we now have a monthly film night at a restaurant in The Quays and I also arrange The Big Business Breakfast, involving the free Big Bacon Buttie, for anyone working on site to meet their neighbours and maybe even swap a couple of business cards first thing in the morning. It's for people on their way into work – otherwise they tend to get immersed in their work and don't come out too much at all.

Outdoors too there is lots of scope with this work. We held a Christmas carol concert on the piazza outside the main studio buildings last year and about 80 people joined in with us on that, even though it was bitterly cold at the time. I'm already planning ahead for this year's event on 15th December when there will be upwards of 2,000 people on site.

The Anchor - plantersBefore then, on June 5, BBC Radio Manchester is making its first live broadcast from MediaCityUK and I will preside while Chris Edmondson, Bishop of Bolton, preaches and a number of other local faith representatives take part. It's all a great opportunity for creating that sense of community by integrating MediaCityUK with the surrounding areas. I have been to all the Deanery churches to preach and preside so they have a contact here because it's all about people feeling that they can come on site to see the regeneration of their own area.

I have also started a community gospel choir so that lots of different people feel they have a foothold in MediaCityUK. The idea of priestly presence is really important in this context so I wear my dog collar wherever I go. Overbury, the developers, even gave me a personalised 'chaplain' hi-vis jacket and hard hat so that I could go on site and be instantly recognisable. I am not there with an agenda or to Bible bash; I am there to support them in whatever impacts on their work.

The Anchor - jacketA turning point for me came when the Archbishops of Canterbury and York both came to bless The Anchor and officially open the bridge which links MediaCityUK with Trafford where the 'new' Coronation St is going up. When I gave my presentation I looked out to see a couple of hundred people there and I had met them all. These are people who really care about Salford and its people and who are working hard to make MediaCityUK meaningful to everyone.

I would very much like to encourage the formation of an ecclesial community here but it's too early as yet. To do anything remotely churchy for the unchurched would be offputting as we are surrounded by churches so people are spoilt for choice as all traditions are catered for. However there is a need for something for those who are perhaps exploring their faith and how it might affect their lives from day to day.

The Anchor - buildingsI'd rather see a catholic, incarnational, charismatic encounter that supports people in developing a rhythm of life that they can take with them into their own routines. This new monastic approach is the direction I'm going in but I'm still at the discerning stage because the commercial outlets aren't open and the people aren't here in any great numbers as yet. It's important for me to have an idea of the ebb and flow of MediaCityUK on a day to day basis.

The sense that I get is that it's not about providing a church on site; instead it's enabling people to be disciples – whether living or working here. There will be a lot of transience at MediaCityUK and some of the people will be based at Salford for just two or three days a week before returning 'home' – wherever that may be. You have to ask, 'Is it going to help them to have a fresh expression here?'

When the people have moved in, maybe the Holy Spirit will say something different; I'm very open to however things may develop!