The Way

Matthew Firth and Andy Dykes tell how a dual ministry in Cumbria is affecting the lives of growing numbers of young adults.

Matthew Firth: I am chaplain to the University of Cumbria and minister of The Way church for young adults aged 18 to 30. I work full-time in this dual role, half with the university and half with the Diocese of Carlisle. They had worked together to form the job description identifying these two distinct parts of my ministry and – as a far as I'm aware – it is a unique appointment in the way it is framed.

My role with the University involves the pastoral care of students and staff; I also oversee chapel worship and provide opportunities for people to explore the Christian faith. The diocesan job focuses on the planting and growing of this new church in Carlisle with the aim of reaching out to people in what’s known as the missing generation, the 18-30s.

I'm now coming up to two years in the role. The first year was a learning curve of finding out how the University works, getting to know what had previously taken place through the chaplaincy and looking at how things might develop – and also appointing an intern. Andy took on that internship in September 2013 and a lot of the work has taken off since then, including that of our fresh expression, called The Way. That had started to take shape about a year ago and we are still in the very early stages but there are now signs of things moving forward.

The Way on WednesdayWithin the field of university chaplaincy, I find that some chaplains want to reach out evangelistically but a lot don't – some because they feel a bit hampered, maybe because of a strong secular atmosphere in their universities, but others because they feel that chaplaincy is, first and foremost, about pastoral care.

It's up to individual chaplains to say that, for them, it's also about personal evangelism. For me, it was a different situation because my role was set up with a clear evangelistic aspect – it's something that I not only believe in but it was also written into my contract of employment within the dual role.

There are two very distinct roles but one person was appointed for both and it was made clear right from the start that I would be looking at ways in which we can do chaplaincy in a pioneering way.

Looking ahead, we're very much hoping that Andy's role will be able to transition into a role for a Young Adults Missioner when the internship comes to an end.

We're so grateful for all that we've seen God doing here so far, especially with the Student Dinners project. Originally started by a local YWAM team, I got involved when they decided to pass on that mission work to us as a chaplaincy team. The dinners, where food is available for £1, attract about 50-60 students each week.

Very early on out of that we did a Student Alpha Course that attracted a little group of students who said, 'What are we doing next?' They started to meet at my house and now we have The Way on Wednesday, after the dinners, so that people can get together and have the chance to learn and discuss together.

There's now a whole network of friendship and relationship where we can share life with young adults and have lots of one-to-one meet ups. I can't report major conversions but we have seen signs of God moving in people’s lives and what we have experienced is a sense in which there is a lot of digging of the ground and getting people on the journey and on the road to discipleship.

From September, we're also planning to get together on Sunday evenings to learn and worship as a church.

The Way - Andy DykesAndy Dykes: I was previously working for a church in Montreal but I had been thinking that church planting was what I was called to. The opportunity in Carlisle to do work with something in its infancy was appealing. I really liked the thought of being involved right at the start of its formation. There are lots of opportunities to get stuck in and see how things progress and lots of opportunities too to be creative.

We have got some kind of solid base of students but now we're looking at the whole issue of sustainability and how this work expands to include non-students. So far our involvement with non-students has been almost coincidental. I have been trying to get to know these young adults and develop something but of course I’m employed by the University so there's a balance to be had there.

I'm trying to raise funding at the moment so that I can stay on in a new role where I can be be more intentional with non-students. I guess the plan would be to piggy back more and more on a base of student work because I feel like there is a bit of community there.

As we've been thinking about how to reach out more widely, we also have to not lose sight of our student base. It's a bit of a balancing act. A significant thing is to continue to build contact with first year students coming in because otherwise, if we neglect that, we would be on the back foot and trying to play catch-up all the time. It's vital to establish relationships with new people but keep on looking to develop and deepen those already there.

We've been looking at the possibility of getting some kind of city centre venue, maybe a café, to give us a bit of stability outside the university. Financially, and in terms of turnover of people, it may offer wider scope as we develop the work.

The Way - Matthew FirthMatthew Firth: One of the real challengesis to know how to take these 18-30s from not having any relationship with Jesus or the church to being convinced by the gospel and saying, 'Yes, I'm a Christian'. The Student Dinners have worked really well, and they're still at the core of what we do, but we now need to see the next stage with increasing numbers of people translating their experience into an ongoing relationship with Jesus.

There's a real mixture of people in our community. Some come from church families and know the 'language' to it all; others have very little understanding and background, with only a basic knowledge about some of the stories in the Bible.

A big challenge is to walk the tightrope that this dual role creates in that we are doing this in collaboration with the chaplaincy of the University of Cumbria. It's a Church of England foundation university but, like most public institutions, a secular approach has to be wisely worked with and navigated. We also have to be aware that a specifically evangelistic element is a new thing within the chaplaincy, so questions about that have to be creatively navigated too.

Another challenge is how this sort of ministry is perceived by the wider church. As with all fresh expressions work, you tend to get a dynamic where other local churches and ministers may not recognise what you are doing as church. I think it's important to keep remembering that the church is not the kingdom; it's the vehicle of the kingdom.

What I also have to keep in mind is that half of my role is paid for by Carlisle Deanery through the giving of local church members. I make sure that I offer plenty of opportunity for others to explore, and see what I'm doing in trying to pastor and reach out and share the gospel with 18-30s.

York Community Chaplaincy

York Community Chaplaincy (YCC) operates in the York Diocese as a Bishop's Mission Order. Leader Chris Cullwick details how its work has grown.

Building on the development of chaplaincy in various sectors across the city and the success of recent projects such as Street Angels, the Community Chaplaincy seeks new opportunities for chaplaincy service and trains and supports volunteers into a variety of chaplaincy roles.

YCC officially started in June 2010 as a three year project though I have been personally involved in chaplaincy here under the title of York Workplace Chaplaincy for several years before that. A previous Bishop of Selby, Humphrey Taylor, had originally set up workplace chaplaincy as an independent and ecumenical charity, representing all the denominations in the city and its range of chaplaincy services.

York Community Chaplaincy - treeAmong the many organisations and businesses using these services were the Chamber of Commerce and York City Football Club. That model worked pretty well until about five years ago because the partners benefiting from the chaplaincy were contributing to the charity so there wasn't too much of a worry about fundraising. Those partners included City of York Council, Nestle (which contributed £34,000 pa), Terrys and Norwich Union which provided us with an office space. However, over the course of time and with changes in management, funding support diminished.

Two of us had been employed full-time but then my colleague was made redundant. It was time to think again because the workplace chaplaincy provision under the old arrangements ended in January last year. The Diocese was keen to address the need and opportunity and, on considering various options, saw a Bishop's Mission Order as the best way to move things on. The BMO, from June 2010 for three years, was a new initiative to not only support existing chaplaincies in the city but also to develop new opportunities with new resources, in particular by identifying suitable volunteers.

York Community Chaplaincy - castleI now help to recruit, train and support a growing number of those volunteers into chaplaincy positions. Under the umbrella of York Community Chaplaincy we now have a team of about 10 volunteers doing a variety of things. I'm also employed part-time by York St John. I have worked alongside the University's Theology and Ministry Department and very much hope to develop the chaplaincy strand as training for general use.

Looking at general trends, we can see that more and more vacancies for chaplaincy welcome applications not only from ordained ministers but also from suitably qualified lay people. We are providing opportunity for those who have not come through the route of ordination.

It's easy with pioneer ministry and fresh expressions to overlook what the church has been doing for hundreds of years in the form of chaplaincy. The fact is that chaplaincy has become a very, very flexible term. As far as I'm concerned, it's all about being where people are with a focus on service and I think that's why many are getting excited about it.

York Community Chaplaincy - towerI have organised a number of days to help people explore chaplaincy, one chap who came is now heading up the retail chaplaincy in York which regularly visits over 100 city centre businesses.

The BMO is very helpful because it gives YCC a sense of support and respectability from the diocese in taking this kind of initiative across parish boundaries and drawing in volunteers from different kinds of churches. We hope it will enable YCC to continue its life beyond my present appointment and direct involvement.

Others recognise the BMO as a cross city initiative which doesn't have to tiptoe around parish boundaries. We are now at a pretty critical stage and quite a lot needs to happen because chaplaincy is a huge opportunity and a tremendous way to harness a lot of volunteer engagement with our churches and community; going out to meet people where they are.

The Dock

Chris BennettBelfast's Titanic Quarter is at the heart of the city's regeneration. A few years ago the area was largely deserted, but a large-scale redevelopment programme is transforming it into a 21st century 'urban village'. Chris Bennett is chaplain of The Dock.

I had been in parish ministry for 10 years before taking this on in November 2009 and I can honestly say I have never had so much fun. I am not finding it a burdensome and terrifying thing – though there has been quite an adjustment to make.

In my first year here, after coming from a busy parish, I thought we would be singing songs and getting on with church life within a matter of months. That, of course, was not the case and wise people have talked patience into me.

The Dock - waterIt requires a kind of reordering of your expectations in a new way. It's a process. I was coming in with some expectations which were pretty standard parish-based ideas and it's been fun having that knocked out of me.

I've tried not to rush to plant a church on an existing model, or to do what is familiar or recognisable. Instead I have had to move from the focus on attractional and instead think about something incarnational; that's the essence of chaplaincy. It's about a whole 'other' way of doing things – to go and walk the streets and live the life of the community around you.

There is a lot of talk around chaplaincy when thinking about its relationship – or not – to fresh expression of church. What I have found in this context is that the chaplaincy word seems to describe what I am aiming at and it also helps those from a traditional situation to grasp what I'm doing. This is quite important from our faith background here in Belfast.

The Dock - craneThe idea of yet another expression of church in a place where division and sectarianism has caused such problems in the past can be seen as not overly helpful. There are very few working models of how Christians all share a ministry other than chaplaincy – why should it not work in the Titanic Quarter? The variety of needs here is too great to ever be encompassed by one minister or even one denomination. Chaplaincy is helping us to work out shared working in denominations. It's a key that unlocks unity rather than describing my absolute mission statement.

Over the next 25 years, the Titanic Quarter will evolve to include residential areas, businesses, a new college, a film studio, the £97m Titanic visitor attraction – and links through to East Belfast and the nearby Odyssey Arena.

The numbers involved will be staggering:

  • 20,000 residents;
  • 10,000 businesspeople, mostly in finance and IT;
  • 15,000 students at the new Metropolitan College;
  • 500,000 tourists per annum (the target for the first year alone).

The Dock - chainClearly the Titanic Quarter, when complete, will be big enough to merit its own local church. But the opportunity runs even deeper than the chance to plant another church along existing models. A brand-new community, in a brand-new part of the city, offers an opportunity to re-envision church for a new cultural context.

The Dock is in a position to register a new type of Belfast. There really is a feeling here that the Titanic Quarter, as neutral ground, could be seen as Belfast's chance to start again. Someone described it to me as 'the best blank page the church has had in Ireland since St Patrick stepped off the boat' – it's our challenge and a core value of The Dock to find out what it means to share the ministry in this place.

The Dock - walkI would see our expression of church as our weekly Dock Walk where we chat about a passage of Scripture as we're on the move, or as we stop, pray, or listen to meditations or music. We use Wordlive multimedia resource as a jumping-off point for our chat but people are very welcome just to turn up and we'll take it from there. We don't sing, or preach, or walk around with sandwich boards. It's comfortable for all of us – yet we engage in issues in quite a profound way. Then we all head for coffee afterwards and spend a little more time together.

This is a three-year pilot project post. I now have a job as a Titanic Walking Tour guide for two days a week. The role has got me into all sorts of businesses and buildings I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise and it's also an attempt to show this work can be self-sustaining because most of The Dock's money still comes from the Diocese of Down and Dromore – though we are in the process of being formed as a company, limited by guarantee, with charitable status.

Sometimes I do get asked, 'When is it going to look like a church? When are you going to have people singing songs and listening to a sermon?' but I've got a fantastic amount of support from Bishop Harold (Rt Rev Harold Miller) and all the denominations. I'm very fortunate in that. I also have a Methodist co-chaplain working with me now and hopefully this is the shape of things to come at The Dock.

The Dock - cakeAs part of our future plans, I also hope to get a boat – that has been the concept right from the start. Quite a few people ask us why, particularly with all of the Titanic associations here, but it feels like we are at the stage where we have done all we can do in coffee shops and a boat would give us an operational base. That means people could physically find us rather than having to rely on a website and a phone number for information.

In practical terms it's a good idea because development here is quite tightly controlled – and expensive. A boat is the only way to have a physical space for us and it's a relatively cost-effective way of doing things. Our budget is in the realm of £500,000.

A boat in the Titanic Quarter would carry great iconic power. As a boat doesn't look like a church from any denomination, it would be new territory for all – neutral waters.

The Dock - postitAs for being associated with the name of the Titanic, we're all accustomed to queries as to whether it's bad taste to commemorate that link at all. In fact the view in Northern Ireland is that it was all right when it left here; it was later on when disaster struck. But for many years there was a real level of shame about it – I actually think there is something of God about the way that everything is tying together in Northern Ireland at the moment. Somehow, the Titanic, from being a thing we never much talked about, is being re-born because it pre-dates the Troubles. For all that it was quite clearly a tragedy on its maiden voyage, the very fact that it sank has stamped its name on history. Many other ships suffered tragedies but the scale of the Titanic's amazing construction makes it unique and people now feel it's right to remember the incredible expertise that went into it. That's why there was such interest surrounding the recent 100-year anniversary of the Titanic setting sail.

The Dock - appThe talk in the corridors of political power is all about Shared Future and Community Cohesion – redefining the existing communities and asking them to change but here we have the opportunity to create a new community that looks very different from our sectarian past.

We are aware that the international community is looking at this too. People can view Belfast through a very narrow lens but The Dock can offer a phenomenal witness. In the past, Belfast has been the example of the danger that religion can bring. How wonderful instead to be an example of the healing of faith.

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!

Colin Brown

Colin BrownJust over a year ago Colin Brown moved to Cornwall to start a fresh expression of church amongst the artistic community. It's a slow, steady task but one Colin, Church Army and the Diocese of Truro are committed to.

It's not easy starting a fresh expression of church from scratch at the best of times, but when you are trying to engage with a dispersed community of artists on the south coast of Cornwall, it is even more difficult. Colin Brown knows he has his work cut out. "As well as the joys of being in a beautiful place, and doing what I love to do – painting – I find myself with a lot of questions", he said.

Colin Brown - FlushingAnd it is quite a list: "How do I follow God's lead in this? Where do I put my energy today? How do I go about meeting people who don't go to church and help them to become aware of God in their lives… in their art? What might church look like for them, and what part do I play in developing that?"

But slowly and surely the way forward for Colin is beginning to emerge. He started with prayer, valuing the importance of listening, silence and space, and then realised God was leading him to meet certain people and opening certain doors. He was asked to help with chaplaincy work at the local art college, given the chance to mount an exhibition in a local pub, found a temporary studio space in a local vicarage and began to meet other artists at a weekly night class.

Colin Brown - FerryColin is at the stage of building community amongst those he meets. It is something which he believes he needs to take slowly and gently, and is grateful that both Church Army and the Diocese of Truro, who support him, agree. "They have given me the freedom and the permission to be here, as an artist amongst fellow artists, to be inculturated in the artistic community, and to be accepted".

He is aware of the risks he is taking too. He has worked for the church for 15 years but his pioneering work in Cornwall seems to be much more fragile. He's realised how important it is to gather those around him who 'get it' but still admits that things may not work out.

Colin Brown - harbour"I know that in this particular moment I need to be faithful to my sense of where God is leading me, but it may be that it all just fizzles out. But I know that I have been true to myself and I know God is saying to me 'Colin, enjoy it, enjoy the journey and don't think too much about what is going to happen tomorrow'".

And deep down Colin has a dream – to see lots of artists in and around Falmouth discovering and expressing a deep sense of God coming through their work. "And who knows where that might lead," he wonders.

Church for the Night

Church for the Night lights

As a nightclub chaplain in Bournemouth, Michael French has always loved dance music and the club scene. He explains the many strands to his work in one of the UK's most popular clubbing areas.

Michael FrenchA main focus of the work is to provide a listening ear and a helping hand to those in the club scene. We also have people going out on the streets to show kindness and love to the clubbers, and anyone else who may need some support.

The chaplaincy itself, part of the Night Outreach Work ecumenical charity set up here 10 years ago, is about helping people to explore faith and responding to needs. As part of that, we organise something every two months called Church for the Night which is an event at St Peter's Church, Bournemouth, which runs from late evening to 4am.

The idea is not to 'pounce' on people when they walk through the door but to offer a free café art exhibition, and use projections, smoke machines, light ambient dance music, and a chilled out euphoric, atmosphere to help whoever comes in to find space with God.

Church for the Night girlsGirls will often arrive in their stilettos and hot pants, kneel down at the front and cry, pray, hug their friends and then walk out without saying anything, but they’ve had some sort of encounter with God which is just incredible.

A new website, Spaces, is now offering us a wonderful opportunity to highlight all the Christian work that's going on in Bournemouth. There will also be an online calendar to help in the development of ongoing programmes.

I originally worked in children's services as a youth and community worker, then I spent three months in Ibiza with 24:7 Prayer – meeting up with others who have a similar love for club culture and God meant that everything changed.

I've been into dance music and dj-ing since I was 17, and involved in the club scene for the past 10. Lots of people think of the club scene as being completely bad but I would say there's a huge amount of life there; the music is amazing and the amount of creativity in terms of multimedia, people's expression of dance and the community life is incredible.

Church for the Night prayerWhat we do in Nightclub Outreach Work is express our life in God in a different way. A lot of us have previously been members of various churches but this work is more about community – we just want to live life together, eat together, pray together, and get involved in social action with Worship, Word, and Witness.

It's going back to the roots of Christianity, having life and sharing life together – there is a lot of fear around about being controlled. That's why most people have rejected traditional church so we try to create environments where people can come together and pray without that sort of pressure. Our values are based on humility, servanthood, and accountability through the concept of D (discipleship) groups – these are three people that we meet with regularly and keep accountable to them.

All of this encourages me but I think it's not without opposition as well – personal struggles and issues are always there. In saying that, it's about actually learning from each other because I often find that my faith is strengthened by meeting with those who have an experience of spirituality in their own way but don't know where to place it.

Church for the Night logSome of the things that happen are quite bizarre. A guy working on the door at a club in Boscombe jeered at me that I looked like a famous porn star called Ron Jeremy. All of his mates laughed, I did too (with slight embarrassment). I then got a call and had to head back to my car to collect a ticket for someone. On the way I realised I had a 'Jesus Loves Porn Stars' Bible in my car and recalled there was a story about Ron Jeremy inside.

As I went back into the club, I handed the Bible to the door man with my business card in the page that said 'Jesus Loves Ron Jeremy'. The guy was astounded, saying, 'What are the chances of that?' He told me he would read the Bible and let me in anytime for free. Result!

We are created to create; we are creative beings and looking at those things which give you passion and life are those things which I would encourage people to start. I wouldn't say it was a good idea for people to start club ministry if they're not into clubbing or dance music, for instance.

Church for the Night floorWe don't discourage people from going to traditional churches. If people want to find God there then we'll take them along but the fact is that we view ourselves as church. We love God and, as people meet with us – whether it's in a nightclub, out and about, or in someone's home; God is in the club, God is in the home, God is in the streets, God is everywhere.

People tend to have a certain image of clubbers but I encounter all sorts of people on the club scene, from those in their late teens to their 50s.

We go to a dance class with teenagers and we are also linked with Christian DJs from Clean Time Sound System who work with a bunch of recovering drug and alcohol addicts. That's what I love about this job: you come across different classes, different races, different ages, different everything – it’s brilliant.


Sacred - peninsulaAfter many years of working in the area, Greenwich United Church (United Reformed and Methodist) has started a fresh expression of church on the Greenwich Peninsula. SACRED explores the sacred in body, mind, heart and spirit. Revd Martyn Coe explains more.

This area is experiencing rapid change and will continue to do so in the run-up to the Olympics in two years' time. There's no doubt that London 2012 will have a major impact on the lives of those who live and work here, and all of the churches are beginning to look at how we might respond to those challenges. SACRED is part of that thinking, though our concern is very much for the here and now as well as what is to come. We want to be seen to be available to those around us and be part of the community today. That has to be better than trying to play catch-up with an expected influx of 20,000 people to the Peninsula over the next decade or so.

Sacred - school signWe meet in Millennium Primary School on Wednesday nights for about an hour-and-a-half and have a four weekly pattern encompassing worship, reflection, thinking creativity and symbolic action. We look at Heart – looking inside ourselves; Body – worship reflecting on the whole body of Christ throughout the world; Spirit – communion influenced by the Iona Community and Head – using a DVD study course to explore faith.

We believe this monthly cycle gives us a consistency of presence and the chance to expand our horizons and get to know one another. Things are set to change again soon because, despite the economic slowdown, building work is continuing and a new multi-faith centre will go up quite close to the O2 Arena over the next couple of months.

Sacred - barrierThere is undoubtedly pressure on developers to keep to that deadline – otherwise it will still be 3,000 parking spaces by 2012. That wouldn’t look too good with the world's cameras trained on London!

During Lent we are working alongside an Anglican church which meets in the same school on Sundays and we use the Living Questions DVD to explore faith issues. For our theology and ecclesiology, the course works very well as it comes from our more radical liberal background.

Sacred - domeWe are looking to welcome to people when they move into the area, a sort of drop-in facility. As part of that we are in talks with the local authority and the Scout District about starting Beavers and Cubs to meet immediately before SACRED.

One of our challenges as a fresh expression of church is for us to become sustainable in funds and resources over a period. At the moment, SACRED is part funded by the southern synod of The United Reformed Church and I work alongside Deacon Jane Rice, and Alison Adam who used to be with the Wild Goose community.

Models of church and ways of reaching people have changed dramatically in recent times. In this area, for instance, it's very concierge-driven in that you can't easily do leafleting any more because you can no longer just walk into buildings and put a leaflet through someone's letterbox.

Sacred - treesWe also need to be aware that in many of these new developments what looks like public space may not be public space at all. I may think I'm on public property because it's an open, green area but I could be asked to leave it because I am actually on private land.

It is helpful that I am part of a multi-faith chaplaincy in the area. We visit businesses and developments, and my 'patch' includes ASDA and a number of restaurants in the O2 Arena. I also have a Health and Safety certificate so I can legally go onto building sites to speak to people.

I'm not sure if we will move SACRED down to the multi-faith centre when it opens. It will be handy to the O2 but not close to where people live. It's more in the commercial district.

Sacred - groupWe are talking about offering daily prayer there in the middle of the day. Everyone involved is hoping that it will work together but we have been very, very clear that what we are doing is a multi faith activity rather than an inter faith activity. We are people of faith working alongside each other for the common good.

Emmanuel Café Church

Emmanuel - Matt WardA fresh expression of church that is 'fuelled by coffee'… Matt Ward, a chaplain at the University of Leeds, takes us behind the scenes at Emmanuel Café Church.

In the days before Café Church, students would meet for a fairly traditional Sunday afternoon service. By the time I arrived at the university, I felt it wasn't engaging them and it certainly wasn't engaging anyone else.

I inherited a number of struggling worship events and was told, 'You sort it out!' but I knew the first thing to do was not to jump to do anything at all. Instead we wanted to listen to God. For the first term-and-a-half we just met together and prayed together, asking what we thought Church was, and where God's work could be found on the campus.

It didn't take us long to realise that sharing faith tended to happen around coffee and cake! Emmanuel Café Church grew from that, and we're now in our fourth year.

It's easy to fall into the numbers' game. How many people are attending, how regular is their attendance, and can we chart growth in what we have been doing? The fact is that we have got quite a large number of people who would say they are members of Café Church. They may not come week in, week out, they may only have been once but they feel a connection, and see themselves as a part of what we do.

We work in a number of ways to keep those connections. These include:

  • having a regular place to meet;
  • a Facebook page;
  • sending a weekly electronic list saying what we did last week and what is coming up next week;
  • texting people to say, 'How are you? What's happening for you?'.

The networking continues with students who have left the university. It's one of our key issues at the moment. How do they move on from our fresh expression of church into new places? They may grow in faith and confidence as students here, so how do we help and encourage them in that transition stage?

Some ex-students keep connected for a considerable period of time, particularly if they have ended up working in quite isolated or dangerous areas of the world. They want to share what is happening with what they see as 'their' community.

Emmanuel Café Church - chatCafé Church operates in 10-week bursts during term-time. Obviously, as we operate in a university environment, we always miss the major festivals. That's a bit of a challenge for a church community… but there are still ways to celebrate 'together', even when we're not in the same place at the same time.

In previous years, I have sent a sermon by text on Christmas morning. You have just 168 characters in a text. What can you say about the Incarnation within those sort of limits?! I don't know about doing that via Twitter with 140 characters. That really would be a challenge.

We've had some very successful one-off events, but we usually meet from 5 on a Sunday evening, and it's very deliberate timing. It's the end of a weekend so if students have been working they can come out afterwards, and if they have had friends to stay or been away themselves, they will generally be back by then. It's extremely informal and very much a 'drift in and out' idea. People may get involved with the discussion starters we leave about the place, take a look at the stations that could be around the room, or perhaps simply catch up with others and have a chat about how the week has gone.

Towards the end of our time together they usually have another drink because the whole thing is fuelled by coffee. They leave at about 6.30 to 7pm.

The idea that people who go to church at a certain time on a certain day does not connect with these students at all. Instead it's a continuous process. I see people on campus through the week, maybe in a queue for yet more caffeine, with others meeting to have meals or drinks together. In Acts 2, the sharing of lives and the sharing of things in common with each other is seen as important and I think that pastoral thing, that growing thing, that making of disciples, is key to Café Church, as it should be for every type of church.

Emmanuel - logoEvery year has seen quite a sense of growth in the life of the church, and in the lives of those who have come and found faith or confidence in their faith. My hope for the future is that Café Church continues to be shaped in a way that serves the needs of the students who come in and reaches out to students who don't. If it looks the same in 12 months as it does now, it won't be doing that.