Red Church

Ben Dyer tells of the development of a missional community of young adults in Ormskirk.

It is almost two-and-a-half years since my wife, Bethany, and I made the move from York to Ormskirk. I had been part of the leadership team of a church plant from St Michael le Belfrey called Conversations; this was aimed at 18-30s and we met in a bar each week. When that came to an end after five years, I told God, 'I'm never doing church leadership again. It is far too hard work and stressful'. That was in February 2012 but by April/May I felt that God wanted me to be in church leadership again!

After various conversations, we came to Ormskirk Deanery where they wanted 'something for young adults'. I subsequently had a formal interview with the Deanery and they offered me the job with a five-year contract.

Why Red Church? In some Bibles, the words of Jesus are written in red, which stands for what Jesus said. Red is symbolic of the blood of Jesus, which stands for what Jesus did. Lastly, red is short for redemption, which stands for what it means to us. People often ask why we are called 'Red Church' and in our answer we can often tell people the good news of Jesus through just explaining our name. I joke with people that it's also because we are all supporters of Manchester United! However, this is a dangerous thing to say in an area where most football fans would say they follow Liverpool or Everton.

Red Church - Ben DyerI started here in January 2013 and, for the first three months; I basically tried to evaluate the situation. As part of that, I met every single vicar in the Deanery and lots of people in the diocese, including young adults in churches – and not in churches – to see what was going on. Then I presented a vision and a strategy to the Deanery with what I felt God was saying about how we connect with young adults in the area, help them come to know Jesus, and love the church.

There are 18 churches in the Deanery and it is predominantly rural but then we also have a few densely populated urban areas. In York there had been many young adults who were very gifted, very mature in their faith and keen to get involved in things. I came with the same expectations to Ormskirk but soon realised that this was a very different place.

I have found a lot of people who go through youth groups at church but seem to fall off the radar somewhere between 16 and 18. Even if they are living in their home town and have grown up in the church – and actually quite like God, and call themselves a Christian – they haven't managed to engage with church.

The original plan was that we would get together 15-20 young adults in some sort of gathering and attract other people to that. The only problem was that in six months we only managed to find two other people willing to be part of Red Church. So, we then formed a group of the four of us and we'd meet once a week in our house to read the Bible and pray a bit. There were hardly any young adults in local churches. In terms of disillusioned 18-30s, in all 18 churches, I'd say there was under 20 young adults committed to church.

Red Church - groupAfter losing hope, more people started coming along to our house! In June 2013, we had four and by August we had twelve. Sometimes it would be people I came across who were disillusioned with church. One young woman invited a friend who had never been to church at all; she in turn brought along someone else who had no church background either! Some of the people had been in church all their lives but still didn't find themselves loving church.

It was very relaxed, we often watched a Nooma DVD, we'd chat what it was about, find out what was happening in people's lives and pray for each other. It wasn't intense 'Jesus-ness', it was just getting to know each other.

I decided it would be good to do an Alpha course and, because we had outgrown our living room, we decided to move it to a public venue. In September 2013 we set it up in a local bar and ran an Alpha. In my opinion it didn't go very well. We ran the course until Christmas but had a drop-off in terms of attendance every week.

At the same time, we launched a football team which trains at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk. Our football team plays in the South Manchester and Cheshire Christian Football League and 90% of those involved have no experience of church. Most of the guys who come along have been invited by their friends.

Red Church - candlesThe fact is that, for most people, coming to know Jesus is a long-term thing. The message we want to give is, 'We're not asking you to say "yes" or "no" to the Christian faith within a certain timeframe; you can just belong with us in some sort of community'.

We believe church is fundamentally about relationships. Relationships with others and a relationship with God. How we 'do church'/our strategy is based on the idea that people generally move forward in their journey with God within community rather than outside it. Our church strategy has five levels with each level looking to attract different people and have a different intensity of 'Jesus-ness'. Our five levels are:

  1. Our lowest level of 'Jesus-ness' is activity-based small groups. We think people generally form friendships and community more naturally and quickly while they are doing something together. We don't shove Jesus down people's throats, we just hang out and become friends. Whether that is through our football team, film club or girls/guys nights – they all bring people together and start friendships.
  2. Red Group is where we introduce Jesus more intentionally. It's still very social but it all relates to Jesus. Red Group takes place every Tuesday evening at a coffee shop in Ormskirk. We generally play a silly game, show a Nooma DVD, or someone may tell their testimony for 5 or 10 minutes. People can ask questions, we have a chat and leave. We don't tell people you have to believe anything, but we introduce people to the idea of faith gently.
  3. An Alpha course. That's where we can explore who Jesus is, why he died and what it means for me. We haven't run an Alpha course since 2013 but we plan to run another one soon. My motto is 'Make It Easy for Yourself' (I have to fight against perfectionism) so we are going to use the Alpha Express shortened videos. I feel Alpha is more about the relationships we have with the people and how the discussion groups are led, rather than giving live talks.
  4. Red Church - gatheringA service where we can encourage and challenge each other, while giving people an opportunity to connect with God. Red Church runs its service every Sunday at 4pm in Ormskirk School, it is not wacky or weird, it has all the main elements of a standard service but in a very contemporary and relaxed way. From 4-4.15 we have drink and doughnuts. At 4.15 we have a game, notices, worship slot, talk and reflection, which is maybe a video or a poem to give people space and time to reflect on the talk or their week.
  5. Our deepest level of 'Jesus-ness' used to be a mentoring network, but this just changed to small groups because creating a mentoring networks turned out to be a logistical nightmare! We share a meal together, open the Bible, talk about the stuff going on in our life, and pray.

People can plug in to whatever 'level' they want, if people want to come to football for the rest of their life they are very welcome to be part of us at that level. However, the hope is that as people build relationships and hopefully become interested in God they will begin to move through the different levels.

Red Church - bonfire night

On top of this, we also have a prayer meeting in a coffee shop at the University on a Thursday evening and we are trying to grow leaders from within our ranks through running the Growing Leaders' course. We currently have 8 leaders, all of whom are at different stages on their journey with God, but we are trying to grow and develop.

We have had a lot of encouragement from the Diocese and most people in the Deanery have been happy with how Red Church is developing, I think one of the reasons for that is for the most part we are not 'competing' with any other church. When I moved here I was shocked to find out most of the students from Edge Hill Uni were going to churches in Liverpool because they didn't find a church in Ormskirk where they felt at home – so it has been good to be able to offer them a spiritual 'home' on their doorstep.

I would say one of the challenges, as a lay pioneer minister, is administration of the Sacraments. That is still being worked out but I pray it will be considered by the Church as a whole because if we are a growing, functioning, worshipping, Christian community we must navigate any obstacles in the way of people's walk with God. It is a major issue.

Giving has been part and parcel of what we do right from the start but it is much easier to deal with the finances now because the Deanery has now set up its own charity for Red Church.

I'm fortunate in that I don't feel isolated in my ministry, which pioneers can often feel (although vicars serving in traditional churches can often feel the same). I think Liverpool Diocese has done a great job in terms of general support and creating accountability – and I am now an Associate in The Joshua Centre. They do recognise that pioneers need a lot of support, but I'm of the opinion that if you want/need support, it is also your responsibility to create your own.  

Red Church - weekend away meal

I see massive opportunity in working with young adults. They are very open to the idea of spirituality, God and real community – not what they see as 'fake' community – but they are sometimes closed to the idea of traditional church. I meet a lot of young adults who are lonely and are earnestly searching for meaning in their life and I feel the church can offer them both real community and answers to some of their deep questions.

I'm an incredibly excited about continuing to see God work in Ormskirk and the surrounding area and I hope that Red Church will still be helping people discover Jesus and church in 50 years' time.

Buckshaw Village Church

Pioneer curate James Gwyn-Thomas is based at St Andrew's, Leyland, and also leads Buckshaw Village Church.

Buckshaw Village, known to many as Buckshaw, only started to be built 10 years ago. It's a huge area between the towns of Chorley and Leyland in Lancashire and is one of the largest sites for urban development in the North West. There's a population of about 10,000 at the moment but that's set to rise by a few thousand more as new housing becomes available.

Buckshaw - scaffoldingIt is being developed on the site of what was the Royal Ordnance Factory, Chorley, and Buckshaw is sandwiched between the M6 and M61 which means that a lot of the residents work in Preston or Manchester because the road links are so good.

Interestingly, there's a huge craving for community because everyone who moves here is new; no-one's grown up together in this place and that means they want to find a community spirit. Many people choose to come to Buckshaw because it was built with that expectation of creating community.

Buckshaw - houseInstead, it can seem a bit strange to newcomers at first because Buckshaw Village is all very manicured and neat, like living permanently in Center Parcs! That's why, when I first came, I spent the first four months just talking to people, finding out more about them and their lives, and listening to what they wanted to see happen here.

Buckshaw Village Church is a church plant from St Andrew's in Leyland and was established in the summer of 2010, with the support of the local Methodist and Anglican congregations in Leyland, Chorley and Euxton. Led by my predecessor, Ken Campbell, a small group of people started meeting together on Sunday mornings. The idea was to make gatherings accessible to everyone, regardless of age, background and any previous experience of 'church'.

Buckshaw - dog walkingWhen I came to Buckshaw, I found that the key thing was to hold everything lightly. We just wanted – and still want – to find ways of church getting involved with what the community is already doing, such as what happens through Buckshaw Village Community Association. It's very important to me that the word 'we' – rather than 'I' – is used when talking about the church here and, as part of that, we now have a church leadership team in place. I'm not on my own in this. Buckshaw Village Church exists for the community and in the community.

Buckshaw - chattingI work quite closely with local Anglican and Methodist ministers because we see Buckshaw as a kingdom priority; and we find it's so important to meet, pray for and support one another. The Methodists are also starting to come into the local primary school where they're running a Messy Church with our support.

Our main meeting of the week is on Sunday mornings in the Buckshaw Community Centre. We don't have a church building but we do hire the community centre room and that's our biggest financial outlay. Shops are being developed and some have already opened, including a café called Cowshed which is where we now run the Alpha Course on Thursday evenings.

Buckshaw - Community CentreBut some of our greatest growth is not through outreach courses like Alpha, but rather, through the relationships that form through times such as our toddler group: Semi-Quavers. Meeting on a Tuesday morning for many parents on the village has proven to be a life line and they greatly appreciate the time we spend together. Relationships, relationships, relationships! It has been great to provide events where we, as a church, can get to know the community. We've had a whiskey night, curry nights, afternoon-teas and hope to have cheese, wine, sausage, coffee and film nights too, all open to the community. As relationships are being built, we are starting to see crossover into our Sunday service as people realise they quite like us and can certainly trust us and that they too are actually quite interested in their own relationship with God!

Buckshaw - audience

It is of course also so important to have our midweek youth groups (sorted) and the recently started growth groups for fellowship and discipleship.

Buckshaw became a Bishop's Mission Order (BMO) because this is quite a big village but not a big enough community to have lots of different types of church. There was a danger that the area would attract all sorts of church plants which could weaken the overall mission. By working with the other local denominations, we said, 'Let's protect this and work together and be strategic for the kingdom'.

Buckshaw - coffeeIt's my first curacy but I already feel that, in future, I'm not going to long for a parish that has a church building because there is something very special about not having one! At the community centre, if people feel comfortable coming through the door for karate or acting class then you already have a head start. But a question is, 'How can we make that space that was sweaty on a Friday night for karate become one where we go to have a really special place of worship? Is it possible?' The answer seems to be, 'yes we can' because we are not limited, we can explore and discover, we can make mistakes as we continue to think about, 'What is the best way to do church in Buckshaw?'

Buckshaw - team


Peter Grant tells how a fresh expression of church has developed from long-standing work among young offenders.

The ministry of Reflex, as part of Youth for Christ North East, ran for 15 or 16 years but changes in the prison system relating to young offenders brought changes in the ministry too. Such a lot of great work was being done but things had to develop in a different way to serve the needs of those coming out of prison so, just over 12 months ago, we set up our charity – The Junction 42 Foundation – to develop our work with ex-offenders, their families and friends in the community.

I've been working with men involved in issues of offending and domestic violence for over 20 years and what we started to see were real openings with the gospel in prison but it all broke down when the men were released and tried to get into the community through church. It just didn't work because the cultural difference was too great to make that step.

As a charity we started to run a couple of groups in the community, one for men and one for women. We also set up some mentoring training and got some people involved from local churches. The guys' group had around 10-12 people coming along; some were just out of prison while others were mature Christians, some with an offending background in their past.

Connect - kitchenWe ran an Alpha course in May last year and ended up with about 40-45 taking part and 11 people being baptised. It was incredible to see people inviting their families and friends in a really natural way; it seemed to be a bit of a magnet for them. When we got to the end of the course, we knew we couldn't simply say, 'Well, that's done now so go and find a church.' We also knew we couldn't remain in the Alpha format because of the increasing, and very welcome, challenge of the sheer number of people wanting to worship together – and so Connect came into being.

The key for us is that it started really small, started from relationship not from structure. We read Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens by Neil Cole and it resonated with what we saw God doing with us.

A sense of ownership is something that has always been part of all that happens here. Right from the very start of Alpha, people went into the kitchens and started helping and then tidying up afterwards, they didn't have to be asked. That kind of 'come and be involved' approach is part of who we are and what we do; it's all about doing things together and not for. Connect is not something that's 'put on' by the church, instead that sense of ownership prompts many people to share their testimony and has encouraged people to discover – and use – their gifts.

Every week we see new people coming in, God is doing amazing things. Over the last year, we have seen many, many come to faith for the first time. We probably have about 60 'regulars' now –  though the number would be closer to 100 if everyone involved in Connect all came at the same time; it really has grown very quickly and the core of it is growing stronger.

Christians come to us from all sorts of church backgrounds, including Baptists, Anglicans and Free Churches and a retired Methodist minister who's helping us too. A lot of people are particularly getting involved in mentoring so that's something we are looking to use and be fairly intentional about it.

There have been a number of signs of growth. Our women's group, which meets on a Thursday, grew out of one of them saying, 'I want to start a sisterhood'. These are young women in their early 20s, passionate about their faith, who look at the Bible and focus on teaching. We also have about 20 people going to another weekly Bible study – from which we are seeing an emerging leadership team.

Connect - full roomWe are not affiliated to any one Christian denomination though we do meet at St Luke's Church, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where the vicar – Robert Ward – is a great supporter of what we do. Robert heads up a network of church leaders in Tyneside and there are a few people now going to his church who started with us here. However, the majority of new Christians say that Connect is their church.

To be honest, we kind of resisted the whole idea of calling ourselves church for quite a long while but when others started calling it their church we thought, 'Well if they are happy with that, we will too.' We are not so bothered about it now.

I have been a Christian for most of my life but this is like nothing else I've come across before. Yes, the discipleship issues are generally more difficult than what most churches see because they might involve drugs and other addictive behaviours, re-offending and so on but now a wide range of people are now being drawn in so we are beginning to get away from the idea of us being seen as 'an ex-offenders church'. About 25% of those now attending have been in prison, 50% are people who have come through a connection with ex-offenders, either as family or friends, and 25% are from local churches lending their support too.

We don't have kids with us but we have quite a mix of ages, including a number of retired people who have a lot of wisdom. People are invited to come as guest speakers and some really understand about speaking into our culture, for others it is quite a new experience but they always tell us that they are greatly encouraged by being there. Again, as part of this strong sense of ownership here, we are very open to visitors and people are very welcome to come and see what we do.

We see partnership as being really important and so we are working with Christians from other areas who want to do similar things. Sunderland is just about to launch a Connect and we are also in touch with people looking to develop one in Durham. Our aim is operate as a network; we don't want oversight of them but to help them.

In terms of oversight, there are now seven or eight of us involved in that, including people we have seen emerge as leaders here. We used to meet with Robert and Alice Ward regularly but now our leadership is moving towards being more inclusive in its structure – something not necessarily run by the charity.

We meet on Tuesday nights, arriving at 5.30pm to cook and set up and starting at 7pm. We try to finish at 9pm but people tend to leave at about 10!

The biggest surprise to us here is the worship. It was during our third session of Alpha that we decided to introduce the idea of worship at Connect. The worship leader used to be a prison governor. We were unsure how this would go down with people unfamiliar with church but simply said that 'This is what Christians do'. The worship leader said he'd play a song through once so everyone would get the idea of what it was like.

It was 'How Great is Our God' and it was just amazing. After the first verse everyone was on their feet and going for it, it was such a God 'thing' because it could never have been organised, or had such an immediate effect, if it had come from us. It was very, very, very different than any other kind of worship I have ever come across. It was raw. Our musicians are very talented but they are not polished; we have guitar, drums and sometimes piano. Our singers are young women, with incredible voices, who became Christians with us and they sing with a couple of guys. We are now very passionate about music as a community, the worship band has come into prison to lead worship in the prison from where Connect first grew, and it's amazing to see and hear it – the guys there love singing. It sometimes sounds like a football chant. The closest description I would have is a kind of Geordie version of a black gospel church.

Our format is pretty flexible but generally we have:

  • some worship as people gather;
  • about 20 minutes of worship;
  • eat together;
  • news of what God is doing in people's lives, including testimonies at times;
  • speaker for 20 minutes maximum;
  • discussion around tables;
  • prayer and ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We are very much up for networking and not being isolated. That's why we have made connections with local Tyneside churches; St Thomas' Church, Philadelphia in Sheffield; and Reflex's links with The Message Trust.

Now, we are excited about linking in with Fresh Expressions and being part of a network of fresh expressions of church; we don't know how things will develop but we do know that God is in control.

Language Café

Christ Church Roxeth (in Harrow) realised that it was having little impact on its neighbours of other religions and cultures and started looking for ways to serve them.

Harrow, North West London, is an area with an 'ethnic minority majority'. In the 2001 census there were 41 different ethnic groups with 2,000 people or more. 

It decided to launch a Language Café for women on a housing estate in the area, using a community centre there.  

The women meet every Wednesday afternoon and sit in small groups discussing a topic. There is no formal teaching, but the leaders use pictures and other resources to stimulate conversation on that week's theme, giving the women an opportunity to develop their English language skills.

The team offer free refreshments and look after any children who come. 

We are yet to discover if it will develop into a church of some sort,

says Caroline Newbold, one of the team,

but we are clear that we are Christians and we encourage the women who come to write down names of people they are concerned about on a prayer board. We pray for those concerns after the meeting every week.

We have had some encouraging feedback from the women about this and they have started to open up to us about situations both here and in their home countries, although language and cultural differences mean that building relationships is a slow process and patience is essential.

We have lots of ideas for developing the work of the café, including offering the women a chance to take part in a new version of Alpha for speakers of other languages in the new year.


Sally Gaze describes the Alpha course she ran with seven young mums from four villages in her Norfolk benefice as

the easiest ever.

They were all very alike and gelled very quickly,

she says. The women were drawn from local mother and toddler groups and were not previously churchgoers. The Alpha course developed into a daytime cell church, one of several forming part of the ‘mixed economy’ of the Tas Valley benefice, of which Sally is team rector.

In this group we had shared and prayed… we had struggled to engage with the Bible over the noise of ten toddlers and we had changed and grown,

Sally says.

They had also begun to think about mission. Three of the women, each from different villages, had the idea of putting on something for toddlers at church, specifically a music group. As their Alpha course helped them to bond and grow into a church relationship with one another, these three formed a team to organise a children’s service supported by their fellow cell members.

With Sally they visited a neighbouring benefice’s children’s service,

and got the bug of it,

Sally says. A monthly service for toddlers, 4All, is held at 4 o’clock on Sundays including around 40 minutes of ‘lively, child-focused worship’, followed by high tea for the children and tea and cake for the adults.

Young women with a life stage in common discovered church together, then went on to share their new life of faith with others

Initially, 4All was planned by Sally with input from the women. These roles have now been reversed, with the women planning and Sally helping out.

Very importantly, they invite people,

Sally says.

They deliver 30 invitations personally and look after the refreshments.

They also pray for those who attend, many of whom were not previously churchgoers.

4All is a bridge. It has done a lot to help build community in the village.

Two years after studying the Bible together and growing in discipleship, the cell has undertaken the Alpha course again, this time running it for a new set of participants.

Young women with a life stage in common discovered church together, then went on to share their new life of faith with others.

The Lounge at Costa

The Lounge at Costa in Woodbridge, Suffolk, has changed 'shape' in recent months since it featured on expressions: making a difference. What does it mean for the future? Dave Gardner, vicar of St John's, Woodbridge, explains more.

The Lounge – based in Costa Coffee at Woodbridge, Suffolk – was not planned as a fresh expression of church but it came about as a result of the relationships that St John's had developed over the years with Costa staff.

Lounge at Costa - caféIt was a great success as it developed. People came and the events were of a good quality but then it became clear that many of those visitors were Christians fed up with their traditional churches. They wanted a community that seemed less structured and distant from the established church, even though The Lounge was born out of – and accountable to – a 'traditional' church.

During the Autumn of 2010 there were no meetings at Costa as we had no leadership in place to take on the work and we were also using J John's Just 10 series adapted for use in our congregations at 9am, 11am and especially at 7pm (Café Church). We let the Lounge take a break as it is sometimes right to cease or at least pause a ministry to allow the right time for it to be reborn in the Lord's timing.

The Just 10 series was strongly evangelistic and it is the Café Church Team that often provides the seedbed for a lot of the missional activity of St John's. At the end of the Just 10 series we felt it right to put on Alpha@Costa starting in January; two things were very important to that – relationships with the staff and seeking to listen rather than impose. The key person has been the assistant manager and she has recommitted her life to Christ and started to attend one of our congregations on a regular basis.

Lounge at Costa - boyIt was really exciting doing Alpha at Costa as various people would wander in alongside a core who attended most sessions. It was particularly pleasing to have some older teenagers attend. An important step we took was to have a very small tight team and to say to the rest of the Church not to come unless the person they invited would only come if they did. As a reasonable sized church for our area we can easily fill Costa with Christians so we had to be very clear about this!

A number made a prayer of commitment and recommitment (including the assistant manager) and out of these we had two baptisms and three confirmations in May. These took place at Café Church in St John's but the baptisms were outside in a birthing pool. The style was very contemporary and the church was absolutely packed. Since then there has been a small group meeting with one of the Alpha group leaders.

Lounge at Costa - boatsAt the end of this month, on Sunday 28 August at 5pm we are having our first open 'The Lounge' which will include jazz music, DVD, short testimony and lots of relationship building. It is too early to call this a missional community and a couple from the Church is considering the possibility of taking on the leadership of The Lounge or whatever emerges. We also hope that some of those who were on the edge of Alpha@Costa might come along. We might even consider another Alpha course if that is what is required! These are exciting days. 'The Lounge' might become a pilot missional community but once again we are seeking to listen rather than impose.

We also have a men's group called men@stjohns but this too is in the very early stages of development and has been birthed out of another initiative using John Eldridge's 'Fathered by God' course. We are hoping this will become more missional and are currently looking to hold this in a non church venue – at the local wildlife centre – where we ran the course previously. It is a monthly community where men can gather and build relationships with each other and consider what it means to be a Christian man in the real world.

Warham Trust

Warham - Malsanger HouseIt's many years since every country estate had its own church. Now, Malshanger House, just West of Basingstoke, has opened the doors of its clubhouse for the Warham Trust, an Anglican fresh expression of church in rural England.

The idea has been that we should be a fully-fledged church in our own right, at the same time as many of our people belonging to their local churches,

explains Peter Irwin-Clark, the vicar of the Warham Trust.

For the vast majority of our 100 or so core members we are their first church, and about one third of those don't belong to another church at all.

Beyond that inner circle we have contact with another 200 or so who are infrequent attenders at our worship-services but may come to one of our small groups or a midweek teaching meeting.

Earlier in the autumn some of the members were confirmed by the Bishop of Basingstoke, reinforcing the clear connection with the established church.

On Sundays, Warham holds Liquid Church — everyone worships together for much of the service, but, in the middle, disperse across the estate to different sessions offering a variety of topics and styles (including a non-verbal Creative Workshop).

Warham - baconOn Wednesday evenings, a daughter congregation meets in Padworth, where 40 to 50 people come together for worship and small groups. The more-than one-centre element is part of what makes Warham different.

This approach to Sunday worship seems to be attractive to all ages. The clubhouse is set out in café-style and provides easy access for people in wheelchairs. This (with the excellent bacon-butties!) encourages a relaxed atmosphere, and it is less disruptive if, for example, a young child wants to walk around.

It is natural for people to stay around after the service because the church is set out so informally – and in such a beautiful setting no one is in a hurry to leave anyway!

This story was originally published in expressions: the newspaper – issue 3 (spring 2007) and features on expressions: the dvd – 2: changing church in every place.

Goth Church, Coventry

The development and understanding of what we mean by mixed economy of church is seen perfectly in Coventry cathedral and how it has been dealing with its duty of care and mission in the 21st century.

Goth Church Coventry

It does, of course have a pastoral duty to a wide variety of audiences. We could call them those who tend toward inherited expressions. But there will still be many semi-regular visitors to whom a fresh expression is their best route into the Christian paradigm. Two groups, two labels, have found a place in the flock at Coventry through fresh expressions: Goths and Hoodies. The results have defied the preconceptions attached to the demographic labels.

When it became apparent that groups of Goths (young people who listen to heavy metal music and wear dark clothing) were congregating in the city centre for want of anywhere safe to go, the Cathedral moved and found a fertile soil for evangelism.

The context might seem unlikely, but a survey of the Cambridge Gothic community suggested anywhere up to a third of 'Goths' considered themselves in some sense Christian, and as one journalist put it:

…church services are all about a misunderstood man who got nailed to a cross. They are held in a looming, bell-towered, candle-lit edifice in the middle of a graveyard. Indeed if you go catholic, you get to burn incense and drink blood, as well. By contrast, playing a bit of Rasmus looks a bit, well, townie.

At first, the cathedral was providing a place for Goths to hang out in safety; but it was soon observed that many of those taking refuge were also beginning to take an interest in church services and the church building, without really connecting. And so now, Wednesday nights, 7.45pm, they come and gather for the ancient Office of Compline, introduced in this form for their use – candles, prayer, silence, the Peace.

Utterly orthodox in its liturgy and theology, but utterly tailored in its specificity and missional context, the Goth Compline is a nuanced mixed internal economy within an expression of church.

Of more recent advent is work with 'Urban' youth, aka 'Hoodies'. Both are horridly misleading labels in themselves: to identify the young people of inner cities as characteristically angry, violent and antisocial is to misrepresent and disenfranchise them; and to associate those qualities with an item of clothing is even more bizarre and tragicomic. (As the owner of several hooded sweatshirts, perhaps I have an interest here!)

But all labels have a root: in this case, one can specially identify those from deprived inner-city areas, affected by family breakup, poorly financed education, and a fractured, crime-plagued community.

So, it seems to me, there can be nothing more in the spirit of the 2,000-year-old, adaptable Body of Christ than for it to find a place for 'Hoodies', armed with permanent markers, sketching scenes from the Gospel and writing 'Jesus Wept!' on the wall of their place at the Cathedral, before returning to a game of pool or sitting down and talking with their companions in this new community – as, perhaps, the great cathedral bells ring out as they have done in one form or another in this place for nearly a thousand years.

This story, written by Owen Edwards, was originally published in mixed economy, Autumn/Winter 2008/09.


Footsteps - streetMary Styles, an ordinand with the CofE Diocese in Europe, is a Reader at All Saints Church, Rome. For the past nine years she has led Footsteps, a fresh expression of church meeting in two areas of the city.

Rome is the base for three United Nations agency headquarters and many international companies so there is a large English-speaking community here. Hospitality, friendship and fellowship are the basis of our ministry and, as a cosmopolitan group, understanding and celebrating other ways and cultures are hugely important.

When I first arrived in Italy I really noticed the difference in people's openness to talk about things other than the weather! In England it had been very difficult to talk about spiritual matters and no-one really wanted to engage with that. However, when people are away from their home 'territory' they are far more willing to discuss all sorts of matters.

Footsteps - MadonnaFootsteps started because I was aware of the gap between these sort of discussions and the opportunity or space to follow them up. Since that time, some of those who have been part of Footsteps are churchgoers who have lapsed, others have been involved in church life for quite a while and there are also those who are not interested at all in attending a traditional church.

Whilst there is a good choice of established churches in the city centre, it became clear that there was no opportunity for worship in English in the suburbs and beyond (from where it can take one to two hours to reach the heart of Rome). It was also notable that many who expressed an interest in learning more about the Christian faith or coming together to worship were either not interested in – or disillusioned with – inherited church.

Footsteps - piazzaFootsteps now meets in both a northern and a southern suburb, Casal Palocco and La Storta, for informal worship in English and runs weekly Bible study groups and occasional Alpha courses open to all. We meet in people's homes, as families and individuals, to serve and reach out to our neighbours. Our mission is 'knowing and growing in Jesus, following in His footsteps and putting His love into action.'

We are all English speakers but that doesn't mean we are all British. Instead we have got people from every continent and denomination and as a result we have been very enriched by our Orthodox and Catholic members.

Footsteps - sofasDealing with ex-pats means there are large fluctuations in numbers because our community is particularly mobile; quite a lot are highly skilled professionals and they may be with us for anything from six months to two years before they fly off again. We generally tend to attract families with children; there aren't too many people of grandparent age.

We have what would broadly be recognised as a Liturgy of the Word where we sing songs, read the Bible and talk about what relevance the Bible has for us. We may also have a forum or discussion with different people leading it. People have come along through word of mouth 'advertising', in the past there have been very good mother evangelists at the school gate but we don't have many of those people at the moment so we are having to rethink how we get the message out. There is no big strategic plan; we do what we do depending on who is around at the time.

Footsteps - bibleWe try to keep the actual worship to an hour but there is always a time of fellowship afterwards with coffee and pastries. I have had lots of support from the local Baptist pastor and Methodist minister and my parish priest at All Saints has been very supportive too – though there has been the inevitable tension from some people in the community who say that we should bringing regulars from Footsteps into All Saints. On the positive side of things, we have got vicars and ministers who want to help us lead interdenominational worship because we are not linked to any one tradition. The only link is through me – who happens to be an Anglican Reader.

If I could go back and start it all over again I'd say it would have been better if we had put a proper authority structure in place; otherwise there's a danger of Footsteps becoming 'Mary Styles Incorporated' and I'd never want that.

Footsteps - homeI have been trying to prepare people for a handover in leadership but, due to the transient nature of the congregation, everybody I have trained as possible new leaders has left. As a result I am now trying to forge links with churches with a good organisational structure in order to help make the big decisions about the way we are going.

I have a leadership team and every now and we do gather as a group to try to discern prayerfully what we should be doing. The big challenge is for me eventually to leave Footsteps as something that is sustainable, something that continues with a life and energy and purpose.

Scarborough Deanery

Revd Sam Foster is fresh expressions pioneer missioner for the Scarborough Deanery. Numerous projects are now underway, among them a fresh expression of church in Hub Groups. Sam tells us more:

I am a fresh expressions missioner for the whole Deanery instead of a single parish and that has made a huge difference. Although I work for the Church of England, I work ecumenically – mainly through Churches Together – helping churches to step out in faith in building community and supporting Parochial Church Councils and ministers along the way.

Scarborough Deanery - friendsI now have an Anglican team of about ten people, including Church Army officer Shena Woolridge. Church Army gave us full funding for five years and Shena works full time on spirituality and the arts. The entire Deanery is represented in the make up of the team, we have got 27 Anglican churches here for instance but five of those churches may be in one benefice so one person will represent that group.

The team overlap a lot; and the beauty of it is that everyone has responsibility for a project or particular area of work. The groups of people helping us to run these projects are ecumenical, everything from Anglo-Catholics to Pentecostal Baptists. If we want things to be sustainable we must equip and encourage lay people to do all sorts of things; I am against the model of a vicar as a Jack of all Trades. I have been ordained for seven years and I don't want to have a breakdown because I’m running around trying to do everything.

Scarborough Deanery - CaféWe also have a mix of lay and ordained as well as some people who have recently come to faith. Whatever their Christian story so far I look for people who don't speak church 'language' all the time – it's very easy to slip in to that but it ends up meaning nothing to the people you're trying to reach. It's interesting that people who don't know anything about church tend to respond to friendship and support but the de-churched people we meet along the way look for some form of accountability so they know if we are 'safe' or not.

To work across the Deanery means that I can go anywhere and open things up, not only to our own CofE churches but also ecumenically. Part of that work is getting as many churches as possible to support and fund the initiative. Twelve churches of different denominations have done just that though this comes with its own challenges; namely that we have to make sure that everybody is singing from the same hymn sheet by using the same national material from Fresh Expressions. It sounds a bit heavy but in order for this to work it has to be that way.

Our team also meet regularly to share in the vision. That really helps when facing criticism from the various denominations – whether it is not preaching the Gospel enough or preaching it too much!

Scarborough Deanery - beachHealing on the beach for example is a bit controversial among the churches but most people on the streets – faced with things like regular Mind Body Spirit Fairs – are saying, 'It's about time Christians were doing something like this'. The media around here call me 'the vicar without a church' and I'm fine with that. I don't face too much opposition as such – mainly because I'm ordained and the vicars see me as being in the same boat and also that I came into this job because I truly felt that God was telling me to do it; to be a church without walls.

The Hub Groups are part of our fresh expressions faith community, discovering together what it means to be disciples of Christ in the 21st Century. There are three groups now with the first one coming out of an Alpha course we did in a Travelodge. It was New Year and they let us advertise on the railings outside because they were promoting New Year's breaks and we were looking at Resolutions in one way or another. We had a real mix of people there and by the time we got to the end of the course they wanted something more.

Another of the Hub Groups is made up of people not really involved in their own churches but who still want to be disciples and deepen their faith journey. They are our potential leaders.

Scarborough Deanery - Indian

There's also a 20s/30s group and that's more flexible. That started with a young married couple who said they had no friends. I asked them to stay on for six months, start something, and see if they could build it up. It is now a very social group meeting twice a month in all sorts of places. The others meet weekly in people's homes. We also bring the three Hub Groups together for different occasions.

Our next step is to think about something on a monthly basis; we currently do creative prayer days around the town and it would be good to expand on that possibly. One thing is for sure, we are not at all interested in just starting another church. We share people and share resources but that would possibly change if we were in one distinct building.

This is a real mix of an area; it's a seaside town with a middle class suburbia that attracts visitors all year round but two locations in Scarborough are also nationally recognised areas of deprivation. We also cover many rural villages too and this rural focus makes up quite a lot of the Deanery.

Scarborough Deanery - lanternPart of our role is to try to encourage churches to shape a team and take over building community when they feel equipped to do so. At Christmas last year, St Mary's, Cloughton, staged a live nativity on Town Farm in the village. It was the first time the church had ever been involved in anything like that. It has since moved the local post office inside the church to ensure that the community doesn't lose that vital service. They also have a fresh expression café church called Café Refresh which meets in the village hall.

St Thomas', Gristhorpe – part of the Filey group of parishes – is an iron clad shack that came in a flat pack from Harrods 150 yrs ago. In April 2009 the fresh expressions team set up a Community Cinema in the church.

St. Mark's Newby, Wreyfield Drive Methodist, St. Luke's and St. Joseph's RC Churches and some members of the Barrowcliff Residents Association are in the process of looking at how we can best serve and be part of the community of Barrowcliff. We are also following the stages of the fresh expressions mission audit 'Listening to the Community' which involves asking local residents, youth workers, councillors, to tell us what they are already doing. What they share is forming our prayers.

Scarborough Deanery - nightSacred Space on the beach is very popular with people lighting a candle to give thanks or commemorate something or remember someone. In the pilot project last year 150 candles were lit on South Bay, Scarborough. We are not there to Bible bash or collect money. As a result people stopped and said, 'We don't go to church but can we join in?'

The Deanery actually pay for my post, the Diocese provide the house and pay my expenses. Initially it was for 5 years – now they have said they want to continue with it. At the moment we don't give anything to the parish share.

As a team we meet together monthly and pray together and we dream dreams but I'm also very much a member of the Clergy Chapter and Churches Together. I like to see us as one church.

Needing a Bishop's Mission Order (BMO) to go places and do things clearly works in other places but in this area it would be such a poor witness, this attitude of blessing from God is to work all together for the needs of the people.

The only way we can get through to people is by God's good grace and through relationships. Two years ago I had a blank canvas, now God is filling in that bigger picture.

Scarborough Deanery - red