Franklinton Community

Ben Norton, Pioneer minister for Kingswood, Hull, describes an intentional community for young adults in the Diocese of Southern Ohio.

When I travelled to Ohio earlier this year, I met Jed Dearing – the project leader for the Confluence Episcopal Service Corps Program hosted by St John's Episcopal Church in Franklinton. Jed showed me around the area and told me of some of the amazingly creative missional enterprises they are involved with as a community.

Franklinton is a neighbourhood immediately west of downtown Columbus, Ohio's largest city. Jed and a group of friends moved there a few years ago with the intention of wanting to live out the gospel incarnationally. They soon found that St John's Episcopal Church was already doing so through a ministry called 'Street Church', a weekly Eucharistic service out on the street for the homeless communities in the area.

Through getting to know people at this service, Jed and his friends soon found that there were many needs they could begin to address. For instance, not many people in their community could afford cars and the bus routes where not always helpful so many people either didn't travel or, if they did, they rode bikes. This meant two things; the only shops nearby were corner shops that did not sell fresh food but rather sold crisps and sweets – so the diet of the local community was predominately unhealthy; the bicycles that people were using were not always safe.

Out of these issues, two projects have developed:

  • Franklinton Cycle Works: This is a project where the local community can come and learn how to fix their own bikes or can choose to fix a shop bike. The time given is added up as store credit which can then be used to buy a bike from the project.
  • Franklinton Gardens: Volunteers give their time to create an urban farm right in the centre of the community, using plots of land where houses once stood and turning the ground in to a place to grow fresh crops that are then sold in the local area.

Franklinton - working

Confluence is hosted by St. John's Episcopal Church in partnership with the Diocese of Southern Ohio and the Episcopal Service Corps. Confluence is a volunteer corps program for recent college graduates or young adults who commit to a year of spiritual formation, vocational discernment, social justice and intentional community.

The interns live in intentional community, sharing the Hospitality House in Franklinton. The Hospitality House has a long history of being open and available for the community. The house was repaired, repainted, and refurbished during the summer of 2013 to provide a peaceful home as the centre of community life for the Confluence volunteers who aim to:

  • spend a year in intentional community learning to live simply and sustainably in a home with four others;
  • go deep into vocational discernment working with a leading social service organization doing dynamic work on the margins;
  • enact social justice through volunteering with neighbourhood non-profit organisations;
  • pursue spiritual formation through contemplative practices with housemates, and worship with the homeless at 'Street Church'.

Franklinton - prayer


Steve Collins tracks the 20 year history of Grace, an alternative worship community based at St Mary's Church, Ealing.

Our 10th anniversary in 2003 came as a bit of a shock, because we'd always thought of ourselves as fragile in the face of circumstances and liable to end at any moment; we had to readjust our mindset when we realised that we were in it for the long haul! Our 20th anniversary offers us opportunity for reflection and re-evaluation.

Grace was born out of dissatisfaction with standard forms of Anglican worship, while taking inspiration from various experiments that were happening at the time. The dissatisfaction was that the standard forms did not seem to relate well to the culture of the world outside of the Church, or even to the culture of many people inside the Church. The inspiration was that Christians in other churches were acting to create new forms to bridge the cultural gap. It seemed that it might be possible to do something constructive within our own church community, rather than put up unwillingly with the status quo or leave.

So a lay member of St Mary's and the then-curate obtained permission to hold an experimental service on two Sundays a month, starting in November 1993. The 8pm slot didn't interfere with existing church arrangements, and suited the intended demographic, which was people in their 20s and 30s who might have been out on Saturday night – and would prefer to give Sunday morning a miss – but would see Grace as a good way to round off a weekend. The demographic did, of course, include the team, their families and friends, rather than an abstract target market that might be 'out there'. We felt that if it didn't work for us, regardless of who else came, how would it work for anyone else?

Grace - masksAt first the services were created by a team of five people, but the twice-a-month frequency was too much work. So Grace took a break and returned with one main service a month, which continues to this day. From 1998 we again ran a second service each month, initially as a vehicle for experiments with the Eucharist and later as a place for community-focussed prayer, but the second service had to be kept simple to be sustainable. It never attracted a large congregation or had a long-term fixed form. Eventually it lost direction and numbers, and we finally abandoned it in 2013.

Over the years Grace has generally had a core of about 10-15 people who get involved in creating services and other events, and another 10-15 people as the direct community. Beyond that we have variable numbers of regular and irregular visitors. Congregational numbers have been as high as 100 and as low as 1, but the long-term average has been 20-40. However, we never know until the service starts who, exactly, will turn up! Our location in London means that we get quite a lot of overseas visitors who are studying new forms of church in Britain. We've made some good friends this way.

Grace is a strong example of what the Church Army's Research Unit recent report into fresh expressions of church and church plants calls 'lay-lay spare-time' leadership – people who are mostly not ordained and who do not have any formal training or accreditation. They generally serve in their spare time and so face all the associated limitations of resources and energy. There has never been any full-time or paid leadership, and the ordained people who were involved in Grace were doing it in their spare time, not as an official part of their ministry.

For many years there was no formal structure at all. This went with our stated commitments to openness and equality of opportunity – but those who got involved found that they were involved all the time, and those who were not involved in making the services had no other clear way to belong. There were also buried power issues common to all 'open' groups – male versus female ways of working, getting stuck in default roles, people whose word carried more weight than others. In addition, as we grew older and members came and went, we became more diverse. The diversity challenged our (sub)cultural focus – as we knew and intended that it would – but amazingly without causing conservatism or loss of creativity.

Grace - event

In 2001 we moved the main service to a Saturday night, 8pm to 9 or 9.30pm with our cafe open to 10.30pm or even past 11 if there's demand for it. The café allows us to be properly hospitable to visitors, who have often travelled a long way, as well as properly hospitable to ourselves!

The next change was to move to a 'curation' model for service planning – meaning that someone gathers and leads a group of volunteers to create a service. Since it's a different curator and group each time, nobody has to take part all of the time. The curator can also call in specific contributions from people who can't or don't want to be otherwise involved.

Grace has always been mission-minded, but our sense of what that mission might be has changed over the years. At the beginning we hoped that creative worship events would have a direct appeal to the unchurched, as well as the dechurched and the disaffected still within churches. We wanted to encourage and resource others who were on similar journeys, in gratitude at how we had been encouraged and resourced. We created worship events for youthwork conferences, festivals such as Greenbelt, and even individual churches, to inspire people to try it for themselves.

In doing all this we found ourselves, ironically, on a mission to the Church. We have a constant stream of visitors from around the globe, studying what we do and how we do it and taking it back to their own churches and denominations. It wasn't the mission we expected to have, but we've embraced it as the one we were given.

At the same time Grace has been a support for our own personal missions, in whatever places we find ourselves. Some of us do 'official' mission work, with mission agencies in the UK and abroad, or training pioneer ministers, or working with charities. Others are involved in more mainstream contexts but our community and creative activity as Grace supports our faith and witness wherever we are.

Grace - candle

Over the last few years, individuals have faced major stage-of-life issues which make it hard to find the time and energy for Grace. Ironically, our deepening personal commitments to mission have also had an impact. With core members struggling to be available, or unwilling to commit, and a decline in the congregational numbers (probably for similar reasons) the structures we set up 10 years ago are proving hard to sustain. Our 19th year found us at a low ebb, barely able to make the monthly services happen. We openly discussed the possibility of giving up.

In the circumstances it didn't seem right to make a big fuss over our 20th anniversary. We had a fairly low key celebration for the actual anniversary, and filled the rest of our 20th year by revisiting favourite services from the archives. The intention was to take them 'ready-made' to make things easy, but our creative instincts seem to have revived and most of the services so far have been significantly reinvented. It seems to be part of the DNA of Grace – even through all the changes in personnel over the years – that we have to reinvent things, we can't bear to do the same thing twice, even when it costs us or risks failure. We constantly re-use parts of previous material, or other people's material, but the sum totals don't repeat. Life, technology, circumstances, who's in the room, all move on.

We're in the fortunate position of being able to give ourselves permission to change if it suits us – so, for instance, when the second service ran out of steam we ended it and shifted our focus to community meals. All of our structures are self-imposed, so the questions as we look forward are: What do we want to do now? What are we capable of doing now? What do we need to do, to continue as a missional and worshipping community?

For Grace the secret of longevity seems to be in having a mix of new people but also people who have been there for most or all of the community's life. The former stop it growing stale, repetitive or inward-looking, the latter carry the historical memory of the community, the wisdom and fortitude that comes from having been there and done that before. Don't have the new people, and you settle into a routine that offers nothing new for others or yourselves. Don't have the long-term people and you fight your first battles over and over again and never get past the beginners' stages.

For those just starting on this path, we offer two lessons from our experience: persistence, and publicity. Persistence is essential if you are to last long enough to grow into community and to develop your own mission. It turns failures into experience and success into a foundation. Publicity brings outsiders to inspire you and stop you becoming a clique. It allows you to share your wisdom and receive wisdom from others. It lets you be part of a bigger picture.

How long will Grace last? We don't know, but we don't know what else we would do as church. This experiment became a way of life and an enduring community.

Upstart Church

A brief encounter with a coffee shop owner changed the way Greg LeMaster thinks about church.

Greg learned the coffee shop was struggling to make a profit and wanted to help. So he asked if the space might be used for an 'upstart church' on Sunday mornings. Without hesitating, the shop owner offered him a key to the building.

Greg has worshipped at Graceland Baptist Church – just west of Richmond, Virginia – for 20 years; the last five as the church's part-time minister of outreach. With a weekly attendance of 250, churched families who move to the area almost always move their church membership to Graceland as well.

Upstart Church - groupBut Greg is now helping the Graceland congregation to see things differently, going outside the walls of their building to the people not reached by any church.

Greg started the process by asking a few people from his congregation to begin meeting in coffee shops. They in turn were to invite friends who would normally meet them for coffee but not for church. The format for the group remained the same:

  1. catch up with one another;
  2. a short reading and reflection from the Scriptures;
  3. a conversation about the Scriptures and how it applies to our daily life;
  4. prayers for the group members and for the people in the place where they are meeting.

Greg has also been delighted by what has become a regular get-together for people from around the world. It started a couple of years ago when Greg and the associate pastor at Graceland arranged an outreach event at a Richmond apartment block. They organised some games and handed out ice lollies to the children while a team of visiting, Spanish-speaking missionaries shared a brief message with the people living there. Not only did they encounter Spanish speakers but they also met people of many different nationalities with some from Latin America, Jamaica, Sudan, Nigeria and the Congo (DRC). To their amazement, 15 of the residents became Christians.

Upstart - familyThis 'one-off' event has become a weekly gathering. Every Friday afternoon, a small group of people, some of whom first met at the original event, get together for church. They meet on Friday, because they (like 30% of people in the US) work on Sundays. 

This has connected Graceland, a predominately Anglo congregation, with Colonial Place Christian Church, a mainly international congregation in neighbouring Henrico County. Greg says,

You know it's a move of the Spirit, when all of these informal partnerships start to spread. A few months ago, we did not know any internationals. Now, we're doing church together.

This group is beginning to function as a church in its own right. They regularly share the Lord's Supper together and collect a weekly offering.

Greg's son Daniel is autistic and while Graceland is a welcoming place for him, he wanted a place where his son could be as expressive as he needs to be. So Greg started a group in his living room using the same the four-step pattern as in the coffee shop and apartment block. Several other families, uncomfortable about bringing their own special needs children to a traditional church, soon joined.

Upstart - pair

On most Sundays, Greg and his family go to an early service at Graceland and then return home where they are joined by a group of 12 to 14 others for Joy Church. It's a place where parents can share their joys and concerns – and where their kids are free to praise the Lord as they are comfortable. At Joy Church, an outburst is a welcomed part of worship.

Greg comments,

All the groups that we have started are foundationally set to be church. Some people may get confused with what they consider outreach because they have grown-up in traditional church from a very young age. However, the truth is that each is a church and has the DNA (Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships, and Apostolic Mission).

As far as pressure to bring these into the 'real church' is concerned, I think that it may exist to some degree but the truth is these churches function by themselves. I have no problem that some people elect to get additionally involved in what they may perceive to be 'real church'.

I think this complements the ministry of Graceland Baptist as we together desire to disciple and direct folks towards a deep life in Christ. I feel that people at Graceland are beginning to see that we must engage the culture as we can no longer attract the culture into the church. We simply must take church (us) to them in fresh expressions.

Burning Bush Barn

Burning Bush Barn - paintIt is almost three years since Burning Bush Barn was established as a place of creativity and contemplation. Wendy Shaw has seen how the quiet space has become a place of blessing for many.

The barn is in the grounds of the Rectory at St Mary's Church, Rockland, near Norwich. It was disused and very run down when we first arrived in the area but through a lot of hard work, successful grant applications, diocesan funding and wider fundraising, the barn is now a wonderful, quiet place for people to come and be.

I wouldn't describe it as a church or an art gallery but it has the potential to be more than both can be individually. It is rooted in the understanding that creativity is the language of a God who created and continues to create in us – and through us.

The journey for me involved traditional Church of England training and curacy but I had been trying for many years to find my own voice for prayer and healing through arts. In 2003 my path crossed with that of artist Kate Litchfield and we started prayer painting together and exploring the depth of non-verbal prayer. We began with canvas, making marks and line and colour that enabled us to be honest and play in prayer like we hadn-t done before.

We had wanted to try a prayer painting workshop day and very quickly we had a long waiting list. It was very difficult initially because we had to hire venues, get all the furniture out of the way, 'declutter' the space we were using, put out the art materials and pack them all away again at the end of the session.

The context is crucial, and a silent still space was integral to this way of praying. Word started to spread about what we were doing and we quickly got calls from other dioceses to stage similar days but we eventually took the decision to stay within Norwich Diocese, the place we had been called to and supported by.

Burning Bush Barn - exteriorWhen my husband became Rector at Rockland St Mary, the barn was derelict in the garden but we could see how the building could be used in a new way for our developing needs. The fundraising appeal for £203,000 was launched in May 2007 to renovate and preserve it. Much has been done because we now have a worship/gallery space and studio space but there's more to do because we'd love to have a hospitality space too. We have got planning permission to do that but have still got to raise about £65,000 to pay for it.

We have up to 26 people, Christians and non-Christians, for the Thursday morning breakfast sessions and it's a wonderful time to be together. If God comes up during our conversations during those sessions then that's great but we are not there to evangelise. Our belief is that this creativity is a language of God; it's not art and faith, they're inseparable. Art is not something we do; art is a way of living.

Burning Bush Barn regularly welcomes people from ages 9 to 84, it's a great joy! It is not about making fantastic works of art but instead our focus is on the process; it's in the waiting, of making marks.

So many artists say to me, 'I'm a Christian but I don't go to church, I struggle with it'. How do we gather these people together? We are continuing to grow; people want to be here but they don't have to commit to anything. A hospitality space would allow us to develop the community here because we need to be grounding and acknowledging that and seeing it grow.

We implicitly break bread in recognition of gathering as a body and the presence of Jesus Christ here. We try to pitch it so it's open enough for everybody to be able to find a place; we believe in accepting people where they're at.

Burning Bush Barn - logWe often say we don't know where we're going here but the important thing is to watch and wait for the move of the wave. As a result we don't know how long to be on that wave but that's OK. I may want to know what I'm doing this time next year but I can't tell you that. We have to wait.

In all of the questions about this being a fresh expression of church there is a presumption that we want to make church. Do we? As an ordained priest I know that anything we do is rooted in the gospel – otherwise you can't be flexible – but people ask, 'What sort of shape are you at Burning Bush Barn?' I would say it's not church shaped, it's probably amoeba shaped because the edges of it are ready to change at any time. And we are people who live on the edge. We are edge dwellers.

We are not here to make something permanent because we hold what we have lightly, allowing it to move, and one day it may disappear. We began doing something because we felt that God was calling us to it. The sacrament is at the heart of what we do here; the whole thing is rooted in it; that holds us – but we are a transient group of people that allows freedom of movement. The authorities have had to struggle with that a bit and funding is quite difficult because Christian funders are uncertain about the arts and arts funders tend to be more uncertain about anything that seems to be based around faith or religion in any way.

I am asked, 'How many people do you have?', 'What are your donations like?' Well, as far as the money goes, sometimes it comes in and sometimes it doesn't. But, to us, it is important that what we do here is offered without charge, to ensure that they are truly accessible. We are very grateful to the Diocese of Norwich which pays our services' bills.

We have to live responsibly as artists, as a faith community. We are here to work that out creatively; to live from what we have, not for what we haven't.

Burning Bush Barn - Psalms banner

Burning Bush Barn - mugs


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

When you have nothing, the sacrament is everything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St Thomas the Apostle, Groombridge

St Thomas the Apostle, Groombridge – an Anglican church on the Sussex/Kent border – would describe itself as 'a Eucharistic parish', says minister Tony Fiddian-Green.

Communion services take place twice every Sunday. Four or five times a year a 'café Eucharist' replaces the main morning service, and Tony is also involved in a Eucharist with the church school.

Tony prepares the children for this termly event with three preceding classes, during which they trace the practice of Eucharistic fellowship back to the Exodus, through to the Upper Room in Acts and on to the parish.

Every time we do it we recapture the stories, and they do remember,

he says of the children.

At each service the children are involved with the prayers, readings, candles, banners, drama and music and the offertory, which includes a basket of cracker biscuits or matzo bread, chosen because of the biblical references to 'thin' bread.

'We have a celebration of the Lord's resurrection every time we practice the Eucharist. We get together, remember Jesus, and break bread.'

However, not all the school children are confirmed.

Having a school Eucharist would be bewildering for pupils who learn about it and then can't receive,

Tony says. So while those are who are confirmed receive, children who are not leave with the gift of a portion of blessed bread and a carton of juice.

This is an idea inspired by the Orthodox tradition where believers receive communion rarely, and after much personal preparation, but may leave a service with blessed bread on ordinary occasions.

Then there is the Café Eucharist to which the normal congregation is encouraged to invite their neighbours.

It's a fellowship breakfast really, with the breaking of bread in the middle,

explains Tony.

Non-churchgoers come to these services, held in the church hall, as well as the usual congregation of up to 100, which means that as many as 130 people can be present.

Tables for eight are laid with cloths and flowers for a simple breakfast of croissants and rolls. The service includes a two or three minute talk and the consecration of the elements with the words of institution. The bread and wine are passed round the tables from person to person.

Those who come often say they didn't know church could be like this,

Tony says.

We have a celebration of the Lord's resurrection every time we practice the Eucharist. We get together, remember Jesus, and break bread.

Come and Go

Robert Harrison, vicar of St John's Hillingdon, and teams of people from the church have spent over a year planning for an innovative way of doing Sunday mornings. Here he answers questions local people might ask about how it works.

Come and Go - logoWhat is 'Come & Go' worship?

It is exactly what it says: come when you can and go when you like. Our worship starts at 8am and continues all the way through to lunch at 12.30pm. You can arrive at any time in between, and leave whenever you wish.

Will I interrupt people if I arrive at the wrong time?

No. If you arrive in a quiet bit, it would help if you come in quietly, of course. But we are quite used to people arriving and leaving all through the morning.

Will people think I'm rude if I go half way through something?

Again, if you leave at a quiet moment, no-one will mind if you leave quietly. There is a planned opportunity to leave every half hour (at the end of each section), but you are welcome to leave at any stage.

Is there a minimum amount of time I will be expected to stay?

It is quite common for people to worship for one half hour section and then leave. But if you can only stay for five minutes, we will be pleased that you joined our worship, and believe God will too.

Occasionally, people stay for the full five hours. Those who have, have enjoyed the experience.

If I stay for a long time, will the worship start repeating itself?

Every half hour has a different style and approach. Each Sunday, a single theme runs through the morning's worship, but each section explores that theme in a different way.

You will get to look at the same aspect of Christian life and faith from many different perspectives.

I am used to worshipping in other Church of England churches. Will I get the kind of 'service' I am used to?

If you come from 8.00am to 9.00am, you will worship in a traditional, 'Book of Common Prayer – 1662' format.

If you come from 10.00am to 11.00am, you will find the worship similar to other services based on 'Common Worship – 2000'.

The worship from 11.30am to 12.30pm is contemporary, relaxed and interactive, while keeping within the guidelines of the Church of England.

Will I get a whole service every half hour?

That depends on what you mean by a 'whole service'. You will get a complete act of worship, but you will not get all of the ingredients that are commonly found in a Church of England service. The Come & Go program is designed so that you will get a fairly well-balanced spiritual diet if you stay for about one and half hours.

What style of worship will I find at St John's?

We do not believe that there is a 'right' way of worshipping God. (Jacob heaped up a pile of stones and poured oil on them; Moses roasted a sheep and ate it with his family and neighbours. King David wrote spiritual songs, and sacrificed bulls on a neighbour's farm; King Solomon did the same in a magnificent Temple. Jesus read the scriptures and discussed their meaning in a purpose-built synagogue; St Peter gathered Christians for regular communal meals in people's homes, and St Paul encouraged them to sing together and tell one another about God).

We purposefully offer a wide variety of worship styles so you can worship God in a way that suits your needs.

As a general rule, our Sundays begin with formal and traditional worship. As the morning progresses the style and content gradually become more informal and contemporary.

Are breakfast, coffee and lunch part of the worship, or gaps in the worship?

They are very much part of the worship. The very first worship gatherings of the Christian church took place over communal meals (not least of these were Jesus' Last Supper and his first meetings with his disciples after the Resurrection).

At St John's we have a strong emphasis on being a community of Christians. There are few things better for a community than eating together.

Do I have to pay?

In every half hour section there is an opportunity to make a financial offering. Making a significant offering from our income has been a vital part of Christian and Jewish worship all the way back to Abraham.

In the meal-centred sections, you will be invited to make a contribution towards your food. Any surplus money, after the costs have been met, will go into the general offering.

As St John's is a charity, we can claim tax back from the government if tax payers fill in a very simple form to register their gift.

Come and go - bannerWhere did the Come & Go idea come from?

We live in an age of extended shop opening, flexible working hours and 24/7 entertainment. There are only a few things in our lives that require us to arrive at a particular time and stay until it is finished, unless we have booked in advance.

We want to make it possible for as many people as possible who want to worship God, to do so.

Does Come & Go worship make a lot of extra work for the church leaders?

No. Because each half hour section is self-contained, it has been possible to include a wider spectrum of church members in leading our worship. As a result, the clergy are now doing slightly less on a Sunday morning than they used to. They are also regularly able to take part in leading the children's worship.

Even the vicar is free to come & go when he is not directly involved in leading the worship.

How much planning goes into each Sunday morning?

All the people who leading the half-hour sections on any given Sunday meet together about ten days beforehand.

They discuss the Bible readings for that Sunday and decide on a relevant theme arising from those readings.

They then talk through how each of them will explore that Bible passage & theme in the section(s) they are leading.

Finally they agree on a 'conversation topic' which is used three or four times during the morning when worshippers have an opportunity to talk among themselves.

They then go home and continue their own prayer and preparation.

What happens in each of the half hour sections?

8.00am Morning Prayer: the traditional 'Prayer Book' service of 'Matins', slightly shortened, with prayers, Bible readings and ancient Psalms & Canticles (there is no singing at this time in the morning).

8.30am Traditional Communion: the Communion part of the Holy Communion service in the 'Book of Common Prayer – 1662', along with a short sermon.

9.00am Breakfast & Conversation: a continental breakfast, preceded by a traditional prayer of thanksgiving. Sometimes we chat about the theme for the day, sometimes we just chat.

9.30am Songs of Praise: a selection of well loved hymns & songs, interspersed with a short Bible reading, a 'thought for the day', and time for prayer.

10.00am Understanding our Faith: a reading from the Bible, followed by a 'sermon' applying the theme of the reading to life and faith in the 21st century. Then a song and some prayers to give you time to respond to God.

10.30am Family Communion: a contemporary Anglican celebration of Holy Communion that links Jesus' Last Supper & his first meetings with his disciples after the Resurrection to the challenges and opportunities of our lives today.

11.00am Refreshments & Activities: after the communal announcements and a prayer of commitment to God, we disperse to a wide variety of activities, from coffee and chat, to presentations about different aspects of church and local community life. There is also an opportunity to talk and pray, in private, about particular concerns.

11.30am Praise & Worship: contemporary worship songs (with the occasional golden oldie) mixed with time to pray and a short reading from the Bible.

12noon Exploring Faith Together: a Bible story retold rather than read, a discussion instead of a sermon, and the bread & wine of communion shared together as an informal meal rather than a formal liturgical act.

12.30pm Food & Friendship: a simple ploughman's-style lunch with plenty of time to chat and relax together, beginning with some revitalised mealtime prayers.

Come and Go - communion

How do children fit in?

It is particularly useful for families to be free to come and go according to their needs. There are a number of different ways that children can take part in our worship.

There is a special area for toddlers and the adults they bring with them, which is equipped with soft and quiet toys. Those with toddlers do not have to sit in this area, but may if they wish.

Between 9.30am and 11.00am there is a parallel program of worship for children in school 'key stages' 1, 2 & 3. This happens in the Church Hall.

The children leave the church building together at about 9.40am and return to join in the Family Communion at about 10.45am. If you are arriving or leaving between these times, you will need to bring your children to, or collect them from, the church hall.

If you would like your children to stay with you in church, we have activity packs suitable for children in different age groups (any of our 'Welcomers' will happily give you one).

On the first Sunday of every month the 10.00 to 11.00 sections are particularly designed for all the family. There is no parallel 'Junior Church' on these Sundays.

Between 11.30am and 12.30pm there are activities and involvement for children within the worship in the Church.

What were the influences for the Come & Go idea?

The activity that most typifies our current British culture is shopping. Shops work on the simple principle of having an opening time and a closing time. Shoppers are free to come and go at any time in between.

Almost everyone in this country has a television. We are all familiar with the idea of looking through a varied programme schedule and choosing what interests us.

The Orthodox Christians of eastern Europe have been coming and going in their worship for hundreds of years.

How have the worshipping patterns of people changed?

Overall, attendance has grown. Occasional worshippers are coming more often. New worshippers can now fit Sunday worship into their busy lives. Regular worshippers with another commitment can fit worship around other obligations.

Beyond that, the 'Come when you can & Go when you like' message has made St John's appear much more welcoming.

Before, people had to come to church on our terms. Now, they can come on their own terms. We hope that, in time, we will all become more familiar with God's terms.

How did the existing congregation cope with the change?

Understandably, people were anxious at first.

This is one step in a long journey of growth and development. Come & Go is part of an ongoing process of mission planning.

We consulted very widely over a period of six months. We gradually unveiled the new pattern, giving people opportunities to ask questions. We deliberately shaped the new pattern so that if people came at much the same time as before, they would get much the same experience.

Now that people have had time to settle into the new pattern, they enjoy the freedom and the focus that it offers.

We were, in effect, already open from 8.00am to 1.00pm, but the only options were to arrive at 8.00, 9.45 or 11.30. In reality, a considerable number of people regularly arrived late for services; those people now feel much more comfortable about their part in the church community.

It took us about a year to take the whole thing through from initial idea to introduction. Looking back, the amount of work that went into developing and refining our plans was well worthwhile.


When, in 2001, Deanery Youth Missioner Derek Spencer began researching youth work among the parishes in his Horsham area deanery, he found that nothing was on.

He invited young people connected with his 20 local, largely village churches to fortnightly meetings. One was held in a village hall, the other in a grammar school, both at different ends of the deanery to make the groups widely accessible.

With an emphasis on the social aspect of the Sunday evenings, the initial twelve members grew over a year to 35 Christians and non-Christians, who were keen to attend every week regardless of distance. As a result, the two groups amalgamated.

The best youth work is done in social events when the guards come down and they are relaxed,

Derek believes.

We built in a spiritual programme, but it was relaxed, not hard-line, a platform for their questions.

Further activities included a week's camping and a weekend away in a forest cottage, events still regarded as highlights.

'The best youth work is done in social events when the guards come down and they are relaxed'

Derek had also been visiting local schools, giving lessons and assemblies. The drama hall of the largest struck him as a potential venue for a service.

I spoke to the young people who were excited about using their school for God,

he says.

A meeting was held in Derek's own home – of those he had approached from among the adults of the deanery, including some parents – to pray and plan. A pilot service in 2003 led to Eden, a monthly, Sunday evening multimedia service, often employing zones (which people could dip in and out of), and with the freedom to grab coffee or coke at any time. While generally around 100, for special events such as a visit from Matt Redman, numbers can rise dramatically as young people and interested adults come from across the diocese.

In 2004, Derek was ordained in a unique training programme, a development in his personal journey, and this has enabled Eden to hold services of Holy Communion, often using material from the Iona Community. Derek's ordination to priest was held during an Eden service at the school.

Despite Eden's diocesan-wide appeal, Derek is concerned for the youth he began with, many of whom count Eden as their church and who were uninvolved with church previously.

'I don't want it to become just another church; I want to keep original and keep pushing the boundaries'

I want to make church for them,

he says. In 2005, Eden became a fortnightly service, alternating between a service and a 'talkzone' which takes the form of a public debate between local experts, followed by discussion groups and feedback. An extra service was held on Easter Day

to show that Eden is a church.

Derek foresees the ongoing youth groups amalgamating within Eden to become weekly cells and Eden itself happening weekly. In the meantime, it already has its own bank account and support from donations.

I don't want it to become just another church,

Derek says.

I want to keep original and keep pushing the boundaries.

What began with twelve local teenagers meeting in two different spots has grown into a fortnightly Eucharistic gathering held in a school, attended by around 100 young people and adults with a vision to grow into deeper fellowship.


A new church for young adults has been growing in Bradford since the appointment of a city centre Mission Priest, Chris Howson, in October 2005.

The church takes inspiration from Micah 6.8, which exhorts concern for justice, and by liberation theology, expressed by Chris as

get involved in your context.

Liberation theology teaches people to act first, reflect later,

he explains.

Our job was to hit the ground running, to see what worked and ditch what didn't.

One of the first ways Chris sought to grow church was through JustChurch, a weeknight meeting that focuses its worship on the writing of letters on behalf of lobby groups like Amnesty International. Around 15 to 25 young adults attend, most of them new to church practice.

The old Anglican chaplaincy centre near Bradford University where JustChurch meets is also host to a fair trade café. On the first Friday of every month up to 80 young adults – most new to church – meet there for an evening of live music and poetry called Soul Jam.

It's about being alongside people and having fun, so people discover that this is a church that lets them be themselves,

says Chris. But he is also concerned to connect people with the wider church and holds a weekly Eucharist on Sundays at noon. Soul Space is a relaxed, informal Anglican service where the Bible is told as a story rather than read and discussion replaces a sermon.

We emphasise listening and making discoveries for ourselves,

explains Chris. The service, attracting around 25 young adults, lasts about 50 minutes, then moves to the café for refreshments. Sundays also see an afternoon discussion group on faith issues and an evening service of Christian meditation.

Young adults are introduced to any of these events through friends, and through actions such as peace vigils in the city centre, work with campaign groups, and a bike repair service run by church members jointly with a local squatters' collective.

Our aim is to encourage real discipleship, to show that the kingdom of God is about showing love, and that we can make a difference in the world,

says Chris.


Methodist minister Andrew Pakes began to develop an emerging congregation, called 3six5, in October 2000 – alongside his ministry in a traditional setting. He describes how things have moved on since then.

I became a 'minister without appointment' in September 2004 in order to concentrate on emerging congregation. In 2000, I took a sabbatical to reflect on what the church may look like in the 21st Century.

As I fed back the findings to my congregation, about five people came to me and said they would like to be part of the church I had described. The five then grew to 10 and in a few months we asked our circuit's permission to begin forming the church we imagined.

3six5 meetingThe small congregation developed through friendship and community involvement. In the beginning we encouraged each other to take an active part in the local community in various ways, such as becoming a school governor, joining the local PTA or attending the local residents' association meetings. If there was a local quiz night, they would enter a team. This helped us to make friends and to get to know and love the community of which we were a part.

As 3six5 we agreed to keep meetings to a minimum and free ourselves to spend time with family, friends and colleagues. Making and building friendships is all important – as is praying that those friendships will go on to see the development of a relationship with Jesus.

There is a real sense of the Spirit of God abroad in the community and we find His Spirit wherever we go. And it isn't just locally; In nearby Kingston-upon-Thames we can see God's creativity all over the place.

3six5 - mealTogether, 12 years later, we continue to grow in faith and make friends as we meet twice a month. We will firstly get together once a month on a Saturday for food or to take part in an activity together and we frequently share bread and wine. Then the adults also meet for supper at another time during the month at someone's home to share in a discussion about life and faith and important matters of the day.

It has been a difficult journey for me to become a 'minister without appointment' to lead 3six5, but God has been faithful and kept His hand on the work that we are involved in. As a result, 3six5 has become a congregation within the community.

We will never know how many people have become Christians through 3six5, indeed it's not a question we would ask, but – in terms of the number of people with whom we have shared stories, experiences and time – the numbers must run into hundreds.

This is a movement of ordinary people and it's not easy to define or pin down as it is constantly changing. We try to view everyone as being a member of 3six5; it's a matter of opting out rather than opting in!