Blessed – update Jul12

When the fresh expressions movement arose, Father Simon Rundell always thought that Blessed wouldn't be a part of it.

The fingerprints of God are on everything – you can never exclude people from the Lord's inclusiveness.

I was sure we were too badly behaved, too subversive and too much on the edge. That was until one of the team (Ian Mobsby) called to give assurances that we were very much part of the work Fresh Expressions was involved in and by recognising ourselves as part of this, it would really help widen the opportunities for others.

Blessed - fireworkBlessed in Gosport has been operating for 10 years now, initially growing out of work with an unchurched group of young people, drawing them into a sacred place.

Gathering together regularly in a dark church lit with tea lights, with icons and incense, young people began to respond very positively to the multi-sensual atmosphere. Unashamed of their sacramental routes, Father Simon shared the liturgy using earthy language that people could identity with.

We are all living messy lives – we need to use language in our gatherings that acknowledge this. If we don't use colloquial language, if we put our 'best church face on' we will lose contact with the gritty reality. Christ really wanted you to come as you are!

Blessed - umbrellaEventually, the young people asked to do 'that thing' with the bread and wine. They didn't have the theology behind their request, just the language to express their yearning and Simon felt the need to respond to it. Blessed has always pursued an open table policy and with this sacramental outreach, began a process of conversion.

Most evangelistic work is emotive. Emotionally these young people were encountering God, but intellectually they hadn't thought about it. It was simply a case of helping move their souls towards the heart of God.

As with any fresh expression of church, the community changed and evolved becoming very much a Generation X type of group.

You have always go to respond to where the spirit is leading you, and as individuals and the community change as they grow in the love of God – so must you.

Blessed - stonesAfter 10 years, Father Simon has answered a calling to go and establish another similar community in Plymouth. With the blessing of the team in Gosport, Simon moved house in April and has already started the process again with a group of older teenagers and young adults, giving them a new experience and interpretation of the sacrament.

I wouldn't say Blessed is a wonderful success story. At times it has been hard and a struggle… but we have a sacramental heart and a desire to support anybody who has the same.

The Gosport team will continue with the work that has begun, but Simon is very clear that everything is in God's hands.

This is not about building empires for centuries to come. It's about responding to the needs of the community. Paul left various cities, trusting that the Lord's work would continue without him.


Blesséd aims to impact the lives of younger people who do not relate to some traditional forms of church, but with a more 'ancient:future' perspective than some other fresh expressions. Simon Rundell, Parish Priest for the church of Saint Thomas the Apostle, in Elson of the Diocese of Portsmouth, works hard to nourish, support and facilitate Blesséd with a personal passion for gutsy mission. Simon is most definitely a visionary! In fact, a number of other sacramental initiatives have taken inspiration from Simon's work with Blesséd in and around South East England.

When you have nothing, the sacrament is everything.

Blessed - robesBlesséd is an unfunded, somewhat unloved and quite ramshackle loose collection of individuals seeking to draw deeply on the incarnational mysteries and views of the sacramental life and through that proclaim ancient truths in modern ways.

It has been a dream to realise Blesséd as a truly alternative, ecclesial community, to foster and support a non-parochial gathering which is centred upon the Eucharist. This has been a long, hard and quite frustrating process, as the necessary work which underpins this can get lost beneath the pressures of other things: of parochial commitments and responsibilities and lack of money and time. Frankly, I am not sure it is working well at present and not convinced that what we want is necessarily what God actually wants.

One of the most important things about alternative worship (and the spiritual communities associated with it which seek to 'reach out for God') is the recognition that we might, and indeed have the permission to, fail.

Blesséd makes in its own way, a significant yet small contribution to the sum total of 'creative worship' as a form of mission. It expresses a different perspective than some of the more protestant-influenced fresh expressions and irritates some in its insistence that the sacramental life touches everyone whether they know it, like it or dislike it. As with other fresh expressions, we are placed on the edge or outside of the Church BUT engaged with the local unchurched or dechurched culture.

Blessed at GreenbeltYet the outside is just where Church is called to be. This may not be a comfortable place, but it is from this vantage point that we can proclaim a transformative, newly-relational insight into society, following a God who calls us to engage with the wider community.

Being a fresh expression is inherently about struggle, about failing, as well as moments of success. In Blesséd numbers remain small, those who share in worship and support each other online are few and far between and weak and tired. And yet, that is what we are called to do – to support each other in our frailty, to gather in our brokenness to share in something tangible and yet powerfully inexpressible.

And I wouldn't have it any other way. Our very weakness, poverty and vulnerability are the source of our reliance on God.

So where does Blesséd go? If it isn't a formal, licensed, constituted or commissioned community, what then will it look like? It will, I sense, continue to be a roving resource and irritant: an inspiration to some and a folly to others; a burner of carpets and good ideas and a shot in the arm for those seeking to find a new place to encounter God in the Eucharist.

There is no agenda, just an openness to God. Pray for us, and help us to discern God's will. Until then, the altar is open and we, the people, gather to seek Christ present amongst us. Come.