Space (Mawsley Church) – update Jul11

Pioneer Curate, Rev Captain Richard Priestley oversees the leadership team in Mawsley and serves in the parishes of St Andrew's, Cransley, and St Andrew's, Broughton. He has been an evangelist with Church Army for over 20 years.

Space - Centre

Mawsley Church is a growing Christian community in the village of Mawsley, Northamptonshire. Together with our sister church, St Andrew's, Cransley we seek to show God's love in our local community.

We meet in The Centre at Mawsley and also in people's homes. In November 2010, SPACE on Sunday – a monthly 'café with a bit more' – was launched in The Centre. It offers a variety of spaces – a quiet space to think, meditate or pray; a space for children with Bible-based activities; and a common space for everyone to enjoy a coffee, bacon roll and a chat.

Space - MawsleyMawsley is a new-build village, the oldest house here is eight years old, and it's two miles from the next village and four miles from the nearest major café or shop. It has a very young population of fairly middle-class, aspiring professionals. There is also a social housing sector in the village but it's a bit hidden away. On the whole, it's a 'living the dream' type of place.

The Church had tried different things to reach non-Christians, including messy church, but they were pretty much variations on an inherited theme. When I arrived here, about two years ago, I spent the first 18 months just listening to the community and looking at what was going on. Our services themselves weren't bringing in new people in any way but I could see that there were signs of community, with a lot of children in the village and people out and about walking their dogs.

Space - playgroundThe idea of this latest venture is to create a variety of spaces for people, a communal space, quiet space, children's space, and then at 11am I call everyone to order and we have a Thought for the Day in the bar area.

One outcome of this is that I had a really interesting conversation with someone on the board of this Centre. He had no concept of the church except to see it as a private club, there was no idea that what we do is for people who are 'non-members'. I had to explain that when we want to hire the centre it's not for what we want to do, instead it's to use it as a base for services to the wider village.

Space - signSPACE is about the church trying to speak and connect and do things that are noticeably different and relevant. Just to meet and have a chat is valuable because there is only a small coffee shop, but nowhere else in this village for adults to go and relax together. We are going to try and do it for a year on a monthly basis. We will then reflect back on it in the autumn to see if we have made any inroads into people's perception of 'church'.

Eagles Wings

Eagles Wings - groupEagles Wings is a church plant and community service ministry on a housing estate in Northamptonshire. It was founded by two neighbouring churches.

Two Northamptonshire Church of England churches were running a community ministry on a nearby council estate. A children's club and a family activity were each held monthly, while a team of 17 met every Tuesday evening to pray, worship and plan. Every member of the team lived outside the estate, but there was a growing desire to develop the monthly activities into church.

In 2005 the Diocese of Peterborough invited Richard Priestley and Mandy Priestley, of Church Army, to live on the estate. The Priestleys inherited a team, which they had to get to know.

Our first task was to live and to listen, to try to understand the team and to share a vision for how the church might look,

says Richard.

The vision was to create a community church, where a shared life might become evident.

Richard and Mandy along with the team spent the first year on the estate learning how to model Christian community. Richard and Mandy operated an open door policy to their home, encouraging the team members to eat with one another and setting the example by inviting members to eat with them regularly.

We opened ourselves up to them,

says Richard.

We tried to make the regular gatherings more social. We encouraged prayer for one another as a group, not just for the events and mission. We were modelling a fresh expression of church.

Eagles Wings: 'A place of refuge, a place providing spiritual food, help for practical problems and a listening ear'

The team began to share a vision for a church that would be

a place of refuge, a place providing spiritual food, help for practical problems and a listening ear.

One of the team's families moved house to live on the estate, while a few estate residents began to join in with the team's Tuesday night meetings.

Two types of members were forming in the now growing team: those living on the estate and those living outside, a development which caused Richard to experiment with dividing the team into two along these lines.

This caused some tension, but it helped us all to understand the needs of the estate,

Richard reflects.

We talked and listened through the problems and produced a different approach.

Two groups were formed but with mixed membership.

The process was helpful for community building and awareness of incarnational ministry, a focus of the mission itself,

Richard adds.

Some members left the team, partly as a result of this time of change, which proved a turning point in members' realisation of their commitment to Eagles Wings. While some wanted to continue, others realised that their time of involvement with the new community was over.

They left with a blessing,

Richard says.

We gave permission for the tired members to stop, and we ended one of the events as it was not working in the way it was intended.

Eagles wings - tableEagles Wings is now heavily involved on the estate. It runs youth work and children's activities and partners with other groups such as a Neighbourhood Learning project, which runs cookery courses for low income families, among other things.

Mandy and members of Eagles Wings run a breakfast club at the primary school, which makes contact with parents on the estate, and there is a partnership with a bicycle recycling project. A weekly Sunday tea reflects its vision for sharing and socialising with the local community. Held in a parish hall with around 55 participants, it has taken on 'an identity and a life'. Members have a chance to lead and contribute to the input.

A time of reflection is followed by tea. For a short period of time they tried once a month to have a reflection extending to half an hour of worship as 'a bridging event' for those who are drawing nearer to full participation in church life. This experiment did not work and was not continued. Other ways to bring people to worship are being sought. Small groups take place on alternate Tuesdays, with a central meeting for teaching and worship on the other Tuesdays.

Our vision is for a growing church, but our method is organic,

Richard says.

We want to be a community of faith that by its nature draws people to God, nurtures disciples and sends to mission.