Church on the Bus

Church on the Bus, set up by Church Army Evangelist Alan Park, offers practical and spiritual support to more than 60 homeless and vulnerable people every week. Alan explains the development of this fresh expression of church.

It all started in 2004  and we now have two buses, one single-decker and the other a double-decker, which make various weekly 'stops' in Derbyshire to bring the Gospel to those who would never normally set foot inside a church building.

Before I became a Christian I was homeless for seven years, but my life was changed when I came to know Jesus. Since then, I've wanted to share the hope of the Gospel with others.

The buses, staffed by 45 trained volunteers from different churches, travel to Chesterfield, Matlock and Clay Cross four nights a week. Lots of people comment on the fact that it's very peaceful and calm on board and that helps to break down many barriers. We have built up a firm foundation of trust and respect so it's very easy for people to mention God and talk about faith. We also help with practical things our visitors may need, like food, warm drinks, toiletries and clothes.

It was great to show the Archbishop of Canterbury what we were doing when he came to see us as part of his trip to the Derby Diocese. I know he was glad to hear that, as a mobile church, we have seen God move dramatically in people's lives. Some people come to us specifically for prayer but we are there to minister to others no matter what and that means sometimes you can come away happy and sometimes you can come away sad. Every day is different; you never know who you are going to meet.

Church on the BusWe always stop in the same place as part of our weekly round so we are in Chesterfield on Monday and Thursday, Matlock on Tuesday and Clay Cross on Wednesday. As a result people know where we are if they want to reach us.

I have been in situations on the bus where it is simply raw evangelism. I think this is what more believers should be doing because Christians have been trying to get people to go into church buildings for years and years and they simply won't do it. With Church on the Bus we are not just talking about reaching those in need, we are doing it. This is a fresh expression of church serving a marginalised group of people and building Christian community with them.

One man we saw had been homeless for 25 years and if you mentioned Jesus Christ he physically attacked you. At one point he attacked me and I turned the other cheek. That clearly spoke to him because after six months he turned up again at the bus and said, 'Who is this Jesus guy? I want him in my life.' He's still homeless but now he carries a Bible in his pocket at all times and evangelises other homeless people.

Over the coming years we are looking to expand the work of Church on the Bus and as part of this we hope to begin visiting an estate in Matlock ministering to single parents. We are also in need of more volunteers to join the team as well as people to support us in prayer and finance. Currently the project is part-funded by Church Army while the rest of the money comes from donations.

I pray that more and more people will come to know Jesus Christ through Church on the Bus. It would also be good to pray for nurture groups as we work through how to disciple those who come to faith with us. I am thankful to God for everything that has been done through the buses so far and I look forward to what He has in store for us in future.

SOURCE

As a Christian community based in the Hythe area of Colchester, members of SOURCE spend a lot of their time in the area's pubs, bars, coffee shops and cafes – says Church Army evangelist Nikki Foster-Kruczek.

Thirteen years ago the parish of New Town and the Hythe began to pray for God to show them how to respond to a part of the parish undergoing a massive regeneration. The Hythe, the old port area of Colchester, is still being redeveloped but it already looks very different to the way it was when work first got underway.

It was decided that a worker should be appointed, dedicated to living and working in the Hythe. The money was raised, interviews were held and I took on the post in May last year. I'm funded jointly by the Church Commissioners (Mission in New Housing Developments) and the Church Army. The local parish also gives to the work. I am on a fixed-term five year contract with Church Army acting as my employer but the expectation is that eventually the post will become self sustaining.

SOURCE - networkWithin a few weeks of me arriving, a small group of people from the local church had offered to help with the 'mission to the Hythe'. But the question was – how do we mission such a place?

The Hythe is now a marina and the boats moored at the quays are homes rather than commercial vessels. Hundreds of new houses and flats have been built and many people have moved into the area. The old pockets of heavy industry have almost gone to be replaced by call centres and offices. For us, a picture began to form an octopus, a central resourcing core with tentacles that reached out to the different parts of the Hythe.

There are few connections between the various small estates – thanks to a couple of main roads and the River Colne cutting across the area. A few muddy footpaths are used as short cuts but people generally live in their own small estates and rarely visit another part of the Hythe unless it is to go to a large supermarket or DIY store.

People commute to work in different parts of Colchester and Chelmsford, Ipswich and London. The Hythe has no parks, very little green space, no rubbish bins, no GP surgery and no school. Not every residential area has a play space for children and where such spaces are included they have very limited appeal to any child above the age of six. On the edge of the Hythe is the main campus for the University of Essex and many students live in the Hythe itself.

SOURCE - litter pickA small group began to prayer walk around the area regularly and 'notice' things. We saw the two pubs trying to attract more customers, a newly-opened wine bar, local businesses struggling to stay afloat and the coffee shops, cafes and benches where people ate their lunch. We also saw rubbish, rubbish and more rubbish. All over the Hythe, people had just dropped their litter.

So our first attempt at something 'missional' was to begin to take care of our local environment by organising a litter pick and clearing up one area of the Hythe. We also began to gather together to share food in someone's home once twice each month, to eat and pray and talk and see where God might lead us. This was a vital time in our formation as a small Christian community.

SOURCE - bin bagsWe felt that God was asking us to be visible and present in the Hythe, so we started to go to the different places and just 'hang out'. The coffee shops, cafes and pubs became places where we met to eat, drink, chat and above all listen to other people. Simply by being present in these places and willing to listen, we discovered that people had a lot to say and through those conversations God spoke loudly to us about caring for the area and being willing to walk with its people.

One day we saw a poster for a quiz night to be held at the local wine bar, a place we had heard was aimed at a gay clientele. In all honesty, we had mixed emotions about going there but when we went in, we were made welcome and have been going to the bar regularly ever since. We are known as people who like to have fun but are deeply spiritual.

Our decision to formally become the SOURCE community happened gradually. We talked about how we could function in the Hythe on a much more effective basis if we committed to being there full time. People began to pray about their calling to be part of what was emerging. Our name came from our meditations on the image of the river, our physical river and the image of water used throughout the Bible. God has become for us our 'source' of sustaining as we depend on Him to lead us in all we do.

SOURCE - commissioning

SOURCE was launched on January 30 this year at St Stephen's Church in Colchester. We wanted to make it a clear moment when we ceased to be members of St Stephen's and formally became committed members of SOURCE with a call to the Hythe. It was in the context of the weekly communion service and we wrote a special liturgy. There was a time of listening to God and people shared pictures, bits of Scripture and thoughts, we were anointed with oil and prayed with. We had a party afterwards, sharing lunch and fun together and the next evening SOURCE met for our first worship space, known as CENTRE.

Since then we have continued to love and serve God and our area and we are learning to love and serve one another in community together. We meet weekly on Monday evenings for CENTRE and we continue to pick up the litter, run a clothes swap and do lots of other things – such as bake cakes and give them to local businesses as a gift for the staff.

SOURCE - altarCENTRE is held in the home of one of our members who lives in the Hythe. We start by offering a simple meal at 7pm as some folk come straight from work and they need some food. It also helps to break the ice a bit. CENTRE keeps us focussed on God in the midst of life. We often sing, anything from ancient hymns to Hillsong, we focus ourselves on God, there is a time of reflection and sharing where the question 'Where have we seen God at work?' is asked. We usually look at the Bible together and then talk about it. Recently we read about the Sabbath and had a conversation about how we find our rest. We often hold some period of silence for people to just be with God. We bring intercessions in different ways and usually end with the Grace or the SOURCE community prayer. People usually leave by 9.30pm.

We would see SOURCE very much as an ecclesial community in its own right and are working with the Parish Church to keep that message clear. This is not always easy. SOURCE is learning together what it means to 'track God' both outwardly in mission and inwardly in our own spiritual journey. We still have more questions than answers and have no idea where God will take us next, but we're still praying and walking and hoping… and we're still looking for ways to engage with the people in the Hythe with a particular emphasis on those with little or no connection to church.

KidsAlive325

KidsAlive325 - John MarrowJohn Marrow is a Church Army evangelist working in Guildford. He works with local schools and runs an after school midweek fresh expression of church for families in three different locations across the diocese.

We started in January 2006 at Emmanuel Church, Stoughton, because we wanted to reach those families we don't normally get to see at all. In this area of Guildford we have so many football groups involving hundreds of kids on Sunday morning: 'traditional' church times are completely unsuitable for them.

I had visited Kidz Klub in Liverpool and, for years, I had been considering whether a similar thing would be appropriate in our own context. KidsAlive325 is different in that, instead of bussing the kids in, we invite whole families to what is 'after-school church'.

KidsAlive325 - friendshipDo people think of it as a church? I think it's a mix. Some people, when they first come, see it as a club while others decide to come along because they don't see traditional church as meeting the needs of their children. A further group would see it very much as 'their' church because a standard setting is very alien and strange to them.

KidsAlive325 is now operating in three different places: Emmanuel Church, Stoughton, Guildford; St Andrews, Oxshott where it runs in the side chapel of a parish church; and Heatherside Church, Camberley where it is set up in a local school. In Oxshott, non-churchgoers make up about 70% of those who come along; in Camberley they are all non-churchgoers.

A team of volunteers helps to make the whole thing happen – 60% of my puppeteers for instance are retired folk. At Emmanuel I have Year 5 and 6 kids help with the technical stuff like the PA system and they love that. We simply couldn't run KidsAlive325 without this sort of teamwork – particularly as the service runs every week during term time so that demands a lot in the way of commitment. It really is a joint effort; a couple of weeks before one series has finished we'll be thinking about the theme for the next one; we'll then write our materials on that theme and get the three groups together to paint all the backdrops we need.

KidsAlive325 - clownOne of our previous themes was Godzworkus Circus and I was Jonno the clown. When I first did that, the kids realised that I didn't actually mind being a fool for Jesus. We want the children to know that it doesn't mean that you're boring if you go to church; we can be full of life and have fun.

It's all about building relationship, both within the teams and in the community. People are generally happy to get involved and, through that, we can get to know the families who come along. I just really enjoy getting to know the children, their parents, their families and obviously the staff and the people involved in the school as well.

KidsAlive325 - puppetsIt has now got to the stage at Emmanuel where we're thinking along the lines of 'what's the next step?' I work closely with the staff team there and a major question at the moment centres on the Year 6 boys who think KidsAlive325 is now 'too young' for them.

There are no easy answers to this sort of question but it's important that the traditional churches involved in this fresh expression of church are very much involved in its development. I make it very clear during KidsAlive325 that there is a very strong relationship with the local church and that means a lot. The vicar of Camberley is there every week and he is very much part of that relationship building process with that community. In this way he has been available to pick up pastoral concerns and baptism enquiries from the people he meets at KidsAlive325. They are connecting with him and the wonderful thing is that he, in turn, is now thinking about possible ways in which a baptism could take place at the after school service rather than in church.

KidsAlive325 - emergencyAt Emmanuel we have already celebrated a baptism from one of our KidsAlive325 families. This was a major step forward because, years ago, that particular family had been 'turned away' from a church and they had real bitterness about the institution of church and all that it stood for.

KidsAlive325 is not 'my' ministry as such – or Church Army's. It's got to be the church's ministry and the church's mission. It's about working alongside the local church in a real mixed economy way.

When I first started KidsAlive325, some people said it would be just like Messy Church and that we'd soon have them right across the country. The way things have worked out so far I'd say that KidsAlive325 could almost be seen as a follow-on stage from Messy Church because we don't incorporate a service or time of time of worship into a wider programme of activity; instead we are the service. Another difference is that the children and families who come will be given refreshments as soon as they arrive and they are welcome to bring a picnic tea to eat afterwards but food isn't part and parcel of what we do.

Sessions run from 3pm to 5pm. Younger children will arrive from 3pm, the service starts at 3.45 for a half hour slot and they can then hang around until 5 if they want. That's a vital time for us to follow up on people and we have a pastoral team to help those who want to find out more about faith issues, or anything else related to what we're doing and why we're doing it!

Grafted

Grafted - Paul LittleRefresh, a fresh expression of church in the Scottish Borders, has grown out of the Church Army's Grafted project. Established in 2003 by Church Army officer Paul Little, Refresh continues to develop new ministries in the region.

I came to the area in 2001 straight out of Church Army college and my first post was as an evangelist in the outdoor centre here which belongs to Barnabas Trust, now known as Rock UK. We are 25 miles north east from Carlisle and 20 miles south of Hawick in the Scottish Borders, the very furthest tip of Edinburgh diocese. There's somewhere around 800 in the traditionally agricultural community though there is a lot of tourism in the summer.

I was placed with another officer and my brief was to be an evangelist on the site to the 9,000 people who visited very year but it soon became clear to me that the future job would be very different. God had called me here but it was to be for another reason and this started to take shape after I ran a 10-week course for six people recognised as most serious offenders in the youth justice system. During that time one did reoffend but otherwise everybody had a clean sheet and the police would ring up asking where they were! Basically it worked because the young people had something to do on a Friday which appealed to their sense of adventure and helped them develop skills at the same time.

Grafted - bikeThey ranged from 12/13 year-olds up to 16 and were basically pre-prison status. It was an experimental last ditch programme and things have developed a lot more since then. Many of the young people I have met along the way are now in their early 20s and those relationships bring lots of opportunities.

Those first few years saw me heavily involved in networking with youth work, social justice projects and drug agencies so that when it came to running the stuff we are now running, there were already strong relationships in place and they were prepared to trust us. It may have appeared to be quite unfruitful at the time but those early links have become vital. Many of the people I first came across are now key decision makers and budget holders in the area but it all takes time and you have to allow that time if things are going to be effective. These days we get a lot of referrals from social workers – even though they know we’re Christian and we're trying to tell the Gospel. The local council also funds us to run the youth work in the village.

Grafted - BordersGrafted (Giving Hope to those Without Hope) is known locally for its work with people struggling with drug and alcohol dependency. Using outdoor activities such as canoeing, mountain biking and mountaineering, Grafted's Window of Time project helps to develop leadership and self esteem in those with poor basic and social skills, or those with learning disabilities or emotional and behavioural difficulties.

The project runs 5 days a week, including a drop-in on Tuesdays at Hawick Youth Centre. This provides a safe and supportive environment with opportunities to talk to others who have been able to overcome their own addictions and hear their stories. There is also a discussion group for those wanting to talk about issues of faith and the bigger questions of life.

Each Wednesday we encourage people from the drop-in to join us for adventurous outdoor activities which help promote an active lifestyle. These include hill walking, canoeing, kayaking, archery and mountain biking. Throughout the rest of the week, we support people in a variety of ways by attending appointments, accompanying them to court and showing kindness and support where needed.

Grafted - drop-inWe have an open access policy and anyone over 18 is welcome to attend.

Referrals and recommendations also come through social workers, health professionals and the Criminal Justice system.

The other strand to all of this is the fact that my wife and I joined the Presbyterian Church when we moved here. In fact I was actually preaching in a Presbyterian Church when I felt a strong calling from God to leave and begin another one. What sprang to mind was, 'Leave the 99 sheep and look for the lost one' from Matthew 18 and Luke 15. It sounds simple but I went through a year without going to church as an 'event' and instead learned about 'being' the church rather than 'doing' it.

Grafted - signpostRefresh Community Church in Newcastleton was the result of that period. About three quarters of the people who have come over all are non-Christians and we have grown to about 20 in number with some 60 people from the community involved in one way or another. There are also groups that meet under the banner of Refresh, all of which are missional because the people who make up the leadership are locals who have been through Alpha.

It's normal for them to do things that are missional but that is something else that has taken time as well. We had to be strong at one particular point because we found there were a lot of people who were already Christians attracted to Refresh and they wanted things to become more settled and comfortable. It meant we had to be quite firm in saying that we were called to be a mission group in the village. We work well alongside the Presbyterian Church but have always had this vision of Refresh as a lifeboat and we do our best never to become a cruise ship. That doesn't suit everybody but some people just want to cruise and enjoy all the benefits that brings.

Grafted - paintsWhen we meet for Refresh, there is usually discussion and some sung worship. We don't have anybody at all who is ordained – we never have had on the leadership team. Children's work didn't really take place in the community when we started Refresh but it is flourishing now.

Stepping Stones is church for two to four-year-olds and their parents and carers. This takes place each Monday and has become an integral part of the week for many.

Other children's activities include Boulder Gang on Thursdays and Rock Solid Crew. The groups are run in six week blocks and there are social events in between, things like games nights, activity sessions, movie nights and adventure walks. Each week we follow a theme based on a Bible story and a memory verse and we include games, worship, and prayer. We have an average of 25 primary school children coming along each week, with 16 of those not attending any other form of church.

In June we took a group of 32 of these young people to a Christian residential weekend called 'Spree'. They all had a great time and are already looking forward to going back next year.

Grafted - NewcastletonMore recently, and as part of Refresh, Deeper was developed for 14 to 19-year-olds in the village. Deeper is a home group for teenagers, which meets each Sunday in a Church Army house we have here. The aim of the group is to disciple the young people who come along and encourage them to grow deeper in their relationship with God. The evening consists of games, a talk and discussion with food. On average 12 young people attend regularly. We see youth work as a priority so we are looking at new ways of developing youth work for 2011.

At the other end of the age range, another group came about when Mary – a member of Refresh – felt called by God to invite the elderly people we visit each week to come to a regular tea party. Mary serves a home-cooked meal with plenty of cakes and scones for afters. Our guests chat to their peers and lifelong friends who they haven’t seen for years and this is sometimes followed by a short time of worship and a speaker talking about some aspect of their Christian faith.

Some of those at Refresh are still involved with their local church and we did come close to meeting on a Sunday because we wanted to reach families but we decided that wasn't the right way forward. We have explored, and continue to explore, a lot of options but the important thing is that we see ourselves as part of the one Church with Jesus at the head of it.

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

X-Site

X-Site - Louise WellerChurch Army New Zealand runs a successful bus ministry called Canterbury Kids Coach. Captain Louise Weller tells how a new Christian community, X-Site, has developed to work alongside the mobile ministry to reach families in Rowley, a needy suburb of Christchurch.

We began three years ago, running a children's after school programme on board our Canterbury Kids Coach.

Every six months we move to three more locations. Two years ago, we were given the use of a community house so that we could encourage children who had been on our programme to be involved in something more permanent, and provide support and ongoing discipleship. We call this 'X-Site'.

Parents started coming along to 'X-Site' as well and this has now grown to an average attendance of about 30 children and 9 adults each week. We have not 'arrived' yet but we are well on the way.

X-Site - pancakesThe X-Site weekly sessions are from 3pm-5pm every Friday and follow a similar pattern each week. Leaders and other adults from the community arrive from 2.15pm and we stop to pray at 2.45pm. The children arrive from the nearby local school and are given a drink and games to play and we sit around and chat.

At 3.30pm we start our session proper with singing, prayer and a Bible reading. The children themselves lead the prayer and Bible reading while parents are all encouraged to be involved. We then have one of our puppets introduce the theme for the day and then the mums with children of preschool age leave for their own special programme while the others have their separate teaching time. We use lots of different creative ways to encourage the development of faith, including mime, drama, crafts, games with purpose, teaching of puppetry and even learning how to play the ukulele! We usually follow a theme that lasts for 10 weeks.

X-Site - JesusRefreshments are provided and meals arranged at the end of each term. We carry out visits and follow-up work to help meet material needs and address neglect, truancy and abuse. This is much more than just a bus; it is bringing Church to the people.

Our organisation aims to keep the following values at the heart of all our work:

  • fully rely on God;
  • encourage the development of Christian values: sharing, honesty, responsibility, honouring of relationships, serving others, making wise choices and respect;
  • break down the barriers of isolation and racial disharmony;
  • see where the Holy Spirit is working and join in;
  • remain outward focused – seeing the needs in the community and continually looking to 'take new ground'
  • following the example of Jesus, we seek to love and serve each other, and encourage others to do the same.

X-Site - cheerThree team leaders are members of the local Anglican Church and two are from the nearest Baptist Church; teenagers help as junior leaders. Although we are a Church Army initiative, we also have the support and encouragement of our local parish and some families have now started attending services on Sunday.

Our goal is however, to encourage the local people to find faith in Christ and grow to become leaders of their own community. This is beginning. For those that come, this is Church.

We are a registered charity funded from trusts and donations from individuals. To spread the vision about what we’re doing we undertake speaking engagements, networking and sharing stories of good practice through the media and our own publications. We understand the value of working together with other organisations, agencies and community groups and work at discovering what is happening in order to encourage one another. It is important to enable people to network together, learn from one another and exercise responsible oversight.

X-Site - smilingWe want to see lives transformed and communities grow. I didn't have an opportunity as a child to hear about Jesus, so I had to struggle alone during my tough teenage years. Consequently I desperately want others to have opportunities to hear about, experience and grow in the love of Jesus, and be equipped to reach their full potential.

It is our hope that parents will take ownership of this and begin to disciple others. With a group of 10 mums, we recently started to organise midweek morning sessions for parents. We hope that these sessions will be a time to focus on being there for these mums and helping them to grow in faith. We are taking things a step at a time, learning as we go, and listening to the needs of the community and to what God is saying. Watch this space!

Sorted

Andy MilneChurch Army evangelist Captain Andy Milne first launched Sorted in 2004. As a keen skateboarder he got to know the area's young skaters, many of whom went on to become founder members of the youth church in north Bradford. Now skateboarding is just one of many activities they enjoy every week, explains Andy.

We meet on Monday, Tuesday and Friday nights, and we'll see an average of 100 young people during that time. About 25 to 30 get together for the Monday youth congregation from 7.15 to 9pm but they are very active and help set up the equipment and run the whole thing really – including worship, teaching, prayer, and activities in between. The age range is 13 to 20.

On Tuesday night, we meet in a different place – at the Salvation Army – and have five different groups with anything up to 35 people there. Each group is led by two young people. Sometimes there is a discussion around a Bible passage and sometimes they work on a fund raising project but the idea is to try and provide a place where they can really talk about their faith and what they can do with that faith. It's more discipleship focused. When they get involved in leadership it really helps their understanding. If they run it themselves, they really own it and the energy triples.

Sorted - thumbs upFridays will see us have a testimony, short talk for about five minutes and then different activities in the various rooms. Last year we asked the young people what they wanted to do at this session. We have to be facilitators in it – otherwise they are going to get bored. There's quite a wide age range for this one, it's about 11 to 20, and the older teens run it with some adults as well. We can get 40 or 50 people coming to that.

One room is used for things like live music sessions; there is also a café with a tuckshop, and games on offer like softball and table tennis. We have people doing dj-ing with mixing and that sort of stuff. It's amazing when you look back to see how things have grown since were first given use of a portakabin in the grounds of a school. Some of the young people have been coming to us ever since.

What tends to happen is that kids come through their friends or schools to Friday evening sessions because it's very open, accessible to anyone. Then they get to know people and when there is a bit more trust they tend to move into the other two groups.

Sorted - footballWhen we started, one of the ways I was able to build relationships was through the skateboarding but it's quite a small part now. It has been good to see a lot of young people come from very different backgrounds to be part of this and I have been privileged to witness young people having experiences of God on a Monday night, come to faith and develop into leaders and disciples.

Some local churches realised they hadn't got the resources to do something similar themselves but felt they could support something that's Kingdom work by allowing us to use their buildings. They show their support for us in practical ways.

We are in the process of setting up Sorted 2 about a mile-and-a-half up the road because we realised that about 80% of those in Sorted 1 were from the same school of around 1200 pupils. The second school in the area is the sixth largest secondary in the country with about 1800 students but it is currently being extended so will be even bigger. It is multicultural and multiracial.

Sorted - micThere was a real sense that God was asking us to go there. Then one lady had a picture of God giving us a key, opening up something that hadn't been open for some time. People were amazed when we were then invited to go in. As a result we started working with youngsters there and developing groups. We now see about 30 young people every week in Sorted 2. It’s a massive thing for us.

In the last year, a Church Army team has been drawn together to oversee the whole thing. People from local churches also act as adult volunteers for each Sorted, and it all makes a tremendous difference because the work through the schools is growing all the time.

Another exciting development for us is to be granted a Bishop's Mission Order. It means we are now seen as being on an equal footing with other churches and it also clarifies what Sorted is all about in this part of Bradford. The BMO was first mentioned about three years ago when it was noted that Sorted is not a seedbed for something else or an extension to another church. It's a church in its own right.

Sorted - baptismThat could clearly be seen earlier this year when six of our teenagers were baptised by the then Bishop of Bradford, Rt Revd David James, in the River Wharfe. A further five then joined them to be confirmed and take Communion by the side of the river in Ilkley. We find that the young people often have an experience of God before they follow him. Rather than a gradual intellectual process, they often have an encounter with God and begin to make sense of it later.

Going back to where it all started, I have now written a book about skateboarding called The Skateboarders Guide to God in which I try to connect the Gospel with skateboarding mentality and language. I hope to get it published so that it may possibly help others along the way.

Sorted - graffiti

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.

Bloomfield Estate

Kevin MetcalfKevin Metcalf, Church Army Evangelist, describes his early attempts at pioneering in Bangor, Northern Ireland.

My job title is community outreacher worker and I work alongside a Rector of a Church of Ireland Parish Church in the town of Bangor in Northern Ireland. My role is largely to reach out to the Bloomfield Estate in the southern part of the town and to build some fresh expressions with those who do not relate to more traditional forms of church.

Bloomfield - housing

The Bloomfield estate still has a lot of sectarian problems, so this type of work is hard but important. It takes a long time to build trusting relationships in a community like this, so I recognise this is a vision that will take time to be realised. At the moment, we are reaching out to children and young people, and through the children, making connection with families who live in these communities. 

Bloomfield - craftAt present there is very little for younger people to do on the Bloomfield Estate, so I have been developing relationships with community workers to identify needs. I am passionate about children's work, so I have been focusing on activities that engage with younger people and provide positive opportunities. Although local young people have a lot of religious and bible knowledge through school education, many do not have a form of the Christian faith that resources their life. For example, at the local school of three hundred and fifty young people, only fifty have a stated religious affiliation, leaving three hundred with none. So in the context of Northern Ireland this is a bit of a paradox. Even though it is a very ‘religious' country, many do not have a committed faith that they find to be spiritually resourcing. My aim then is to enable younger people to come to faith and experience Jesus in a real and living way, not just knowing about him, but knowing him personally. Through this, I want to see whole families come to faith.

Bloomfield - Community AssociationSo far, I have built up connections with a local school, and a community association in the Council Estate. At the school I have been engaged with children through assemblies and after school clubs. In these times I have been using crafts and other activities as well as talking about God. In the Community house we have been running a 'Kidz Klub', using similar activities with a limited number of children as the space is quite small. To build on these relationships and see the work develop and grow, we have started running another Kidz Klub in the local primary school and a team of Christian volunteers visit the homes of the children who attend. Our first night we had 48 children! Through this we are building relationships with families on the estate and discovering how we can help support the wider environment of the children and witness to God's love.

Bloomfield - GraffitiThe use of this primary school, I think will give us the space to build up a fresh expression of church. We are very aware that the local middle-class forms of traditional church are an alien environment for many people coming from the Bloomfield Estate. So we hope that a 'Messy Church' approach will be flexible, accessible and more laid-back and therefore appropriate. This will enable people to explore Christian spirituality, and the big issues of life, but also an opportunity to build relationships with local people.

Solace

Solace - Wendy SandersonWendy Sanderson, Night Club Chaplain, Church Army Evangelist, Lay Pioneer Minister and co-founder of Solace tells the story of this unusual fresh expression of church in South Wales.

Two years ago, I co-founded Solace with James Karran, an assistant Baptist minister. Solace is a new form of church that meets weekly in a bar in central Cardiff on Sunday evenings.

Solace - Rowan WilliamsFrom the beginning we met a lot of people who were into clubbing who were interested in Jesus, God and faith but often, not traditional expressions of church. So we began on April Fools Day 2007 aiming at people who were searching for something. I am 32, and clubbing is part of my life, so Solace has grown out of our lives as clubbing people. On our launch night over one hundred people turned up, mostly I am sure out of curiosity, and now on Sundays we draw on approximately fifteen to twenty people a week. When the Archbishops of Canterbury and Wales came, of course numbers rocketed. We like guest speakers!!

In an attempt to make church accessible and relevant to clubbers, we broke it down into four different elements, which we do on four different Sundays a month. Each month we focus on a theme, and deliberately target difficult issues such as sex, relationships, debt and other issues that really matter to clubbers. The first Sunday each month tends to have a guest speaker and three of our regulars take a bible verse and say what they think about it with questions afterwards. On the second Sunday we have an entertainment night and people bring their friends. On the third Sunday we hold a debate night and recently looked at the issue of sweatshops and how we can be more active in the fight against exploitation. On the fourth Sunday, we have Agapé, based round the symbolism of Communion, and using the arts and other elements in an alternative worship style event enabling those attending to express themselves.

Solace - tablesWe engage with the de- and un-churched – in fact anyone who is interested in exploring faith. We have wanted to break down the negative stereotype that many hold concerning Christians and Church. Most of the other churches in the area are geared up to the needs of young families with children, but we are uncompromisingly focused on the many younger adults who are single. There are many, many single clubbers in their twenties and thirties who do not relate to forms of church which seem to over-focus on families. In many ways, Solace is a spiritual community, a society of friends where clubbing is an important part of our lives, and most of us are single. We are pleased that Solace has developed into a place of hope, a place of peace and safety. Some have said they value it as a place where you can be completely yourself and be accepted unconditionally and where people are non-judgmental.

Solace - logoWhen it comes to discipleship, we specifically work on a one-to-one basis, where the themes and discussions on Sunday nights encourage people to explore or re-imagine spiritual things. We allow people to challenge each other on Sunday nights, and encourage people to dig deep with the Christian faith and the stuff of life. This is learning about the faith through proactive engagement in activity. Something like an Alpha Course or Emmaus just would not work in a clubbing context.

We hope that people will increasingly explore the Christian faith starting where many are – a long way away from it. Through a strongly relational mission we hope that Solace will continue to grow a very strong community of people who 'are and who are not yet' Christian. We are also now looking for our own building, to house not only the Solace Sunday nights, but the many social outreach initiatives we have started, which need developing by having a permanent space.

Joe's Story

I’ve been a Christian for a number of years, but never fitted into 'traditional' church; feeling like an outsider and never quite connecting. This feeling of detachment has meant that I have undergone long period without attending Church. I felt disconnected from God, mainly because I was trying to be someone that I wasn't and it was just too hard emotionally to keep that level of pretense up for long periods. One of my closest friends felt the same way and so we decided to look for an alternative form of church.

In March 2008 we found Solace on the internet. The first meeting we went to, was discussing the issue of debt and making it relevant to my life! For once I found somewhere that made my faith relevant, with like minded people, who rather than judge, accepted me, flaws and all. The biggest and best difference Solace has made is that I am now a Christian 24:7 rather than just on Sundays or in front of other Christians. Solace is a place of acceptance and hope which makes my relationship with God relevant and effective, Solace is somewhere that my God given gifts are needed, used and developed for the glory of God and I will always be thankful to God for guiding me to it!