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 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!
Eventually, 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.
After 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.