Feltwell Chapel

When Matt Finch became co-minister of ten Norfolk Methodist chapels in 2002, he inherited a fortnightly Bible study among the largely elderly congregation of Feltwell Chapel. It was well attended by six members of the church and several others from neighbouring villages.

Matt describes the 15 members of Feltwell as having

a passion to do things differently.

The Bible studies provided helpful fellowship, but while undertaking a CPAS course on evangelism, 'Lost for Words', Matt became aware of a deep dissatisfaction among the chapel members. The course helped highlight the despondency people felt about the state of their church.

They asked, 'What can we do with this?'

he says.

'We can't do a mission course and not change.' There were lots of mumblings about church not being right.

What needs to change? 'We can't do a mission course and not change'

Matt took a big sheet of paper to a Bible study and brainstormed with the chapel members how they would like church to look in the future. He typed up the results, brought them along to the next meeting and presented the chapel members with a clear picture of their 'desire to be connected'.

They were there every Sunday but never connected,

he says.

They wanted to know who sat in church with one another.

At that time a building project was under discussion. Now it was scaled down – bar essential changes such as disabled access – in favour of instituting a new way of being together on Sunday mornings.

Feltwell Chapel - membersSuch was the enthusiasm that the new model of church began the very next Sunday with each member offering to take responsibility for certain elements. They each agreed to play their part in arranging coffee before the service, to sit around tables and to have an interactive sermon and shared prayer time. To meet all needs, traditional services happen on occasion, still around the café tables.

'They were saying they had always had baptisms and communion but not community. Now they are sharing each others' lives.'

Because I wasn't there every week it was hard, but a real understanding developed,

Matt says.

They were saying they had always had baptisms and communion but not community. Now they are sharing each others' lives. Some of the members pray together regularly, and they are in pastoral circles in which they each take responsibility for one another.

This recognition of a congregation's responsibility to care for one another without reliance on the minister is especially important in a rural setting where clergy are spread over several locations. A key lay worker has also undertaken a commitment to Feltwell to assist when the ministers are unavailable.

Matt describes the chapel as still

a long way from being truly missional,

but since its changes in 2005 several non-churchgoers have become interested. A baptism family was so 'blown away' by how the chapel had changed that the parents now want to marry at Feltwell and even, if possible, have a café style wedding.

Matt puts down Feltwell's growing success in building community to a new freedom on the part of chapel members to question and disagree with the preacher, and to a new involvement with one another.

They weren't happy with what happened on Sundays, but they still wanted to worship on Sunday mornings,

he says.

Feltwell's worship is culturally specific, but the underlying principle is of something that connected with them and helped them to love one another.


TANGO - Avril and ChrisThe TANGO community project at St Mark's, Haydock, has been running for 12 years. The project's chair, Avril Chisnall, and co-ordinator Christine Kay explain how a fresh expression of church has become part and parcel of the ministry there.

When we first started TANGO it was quite a difficult thing to know how we were going to bring God into it – especially when volunteers joined us from the community. We didn't want to impose something which involved us standing there quietly to pray so instead we always treated it as an invitation to come and reflect on why we were there as part of the project. And then we always finished with a prayer. Then people began to trust us more and started to join in different ways.

We now do have a cell in TANGO and cell is important to our church but that's OK for those people who genuinely want to go forward with God and enquire and learn more. That's the right environment for them but we've got lots of people in our teams who are sort of 'iffy' about God. We know he's in their lives but they've not acknowledged it themselves so how do we get them to move on?

TANGO - coupleWe've introduced what we call the 'Three Ps' as a way of opening up some of these issues. Chris and her team regularly meet with all the other teams once a fortnight to look at Purpose, Problems and Presence of God. We also have breakfasts when staff and volunteers, which we consider to be our church, get involved with a God slot.

I think people now realise that church isn't doing it to them but church is here as part of the community – and church is not a stuffy old place, a building they have to go to; instead people actually make the church, us and them together.

I've been a member of the Anglican Church for many years and love it but I feel very frustrated that the church is stuck in the way it sees how church should be done and they're still expecting that church can carry on as it is. Many churches are seeing their numbers dwindle but are still not prepared to change their ways of doing things. They might introduce some new songs and various creative ways of doing things but it's still very much traditional church and won't reach the people we live among.

TANGO - sorting clothesI appreciate that it's scary for church people and leaders to support a fresh expression because it's risky but Kingdom values are the important things. All those years ago, God asked me to do something different with a team of people and the result is that it is 'not the same church as I'm used to'. It's forced me out of a way of viewing church into seeing people differently and trying to communicate his way with them.

I get really wound up when people try to measure what church is. We certainly believe that what we have with our volunteers and community members is very much a church. The frustration kicks in when people come along, ask you to fill in a form, tick boxes, and say, 'How many people have you had in your church this week?' Most of the time I simply do not know the answer to that but we know that what we do here is very much a one-to-one with people. Thanks to God, we change people's lives by meeting them, praying for them or talking about God to them. We can't measure those sorts of things and that's really difficult.

TANGO - community gardenIt is often not measurable in an 'official' way but I'm looking at what happens here in Kingdom terms. As such, it doesn't matter that I'm a lay person; I will keep on doing this stuff because God has asked me to do it and pass it on to other people to do as well. We also know that's what we need to do and investment in other people with God's values is vital.

If TANGO goes on for another 12 years that'll be down to God and the investment we've put into the people's lives for them to want to carry on doing Kingdom business in an ordinary way. Lay people are so important to this type of fresh expression it's important to risk letting those who are not ordained take the lead and do what God's asked them to do.

I'd say, 'go out there and have a go and really listen to what God's saying to you.' We've passed the idea of TANGO on to three other parishes but it's not the same TANGO that we've got. They're doing the same sort of things but they are different people in different sorts of community. That's why it's very important to find God's heartbeat for the community in which you live but – for goodness sake – get out of your church and go and do it.

Coordinator Christine Kay adds:

TANGO - labyrinthGod is the heartbeat of everything that we do; without him it would just be impossible. Every morning, before we open at 9.45am, we have what we call Quarter to TANGO when as many of us as are free come together. It is not a formal prayer time by any means but we give out notices and things that are coming up in the week but there’s also a time to share.

In the past we've done lots of things which we've been brave to do but we've been even braver to stop them when they've not been working. Now we're looking to do something called TANGO on a Sunday. Lots of people find Sunday a very long and lonely day so we've decided to give it a go, it will be in our café – a chat over a cuppa about some question brought up in a very informal way. We're not really sure how it's going to pan out but I feel that God is asking us to do this and we're just watching this space at the moment.

TANGO - helpersYou are not going to get people into your churches in this day and age; they just want you to go out to them. They don't even want that, they don't know that they want that, the only way to be with them is to be where they're at; not threatened by anything that's churchy. That's why we try not to use churchy words at all. We are just ordinary people; they respect that and respond to it as well because they see we're not holier-than-thou. Hopefully they just feel comfortable and safe in the kind of environment we encourage here. God is opening this up for each of us to be part of other people's lives and for them to be part of our lives as well.


Kairos - Charlie NobbsThe Kairos Centre has opened its doors as a building for the community in Grange Park, Northampton. It's a dream come true for project chairman Charlie Nobbs and the start of another chapter in the story of Grange Park Church. Anglican minister Charlie tells the tale.

It has been such an interesting journey for us all at Grange Park Church. What started off as a germ of an idea has become a reality in the shape of a central place where people can get together from all walks of the community for all sorts of reasons at the same time.

We have worked with many people along the way but, most recently with South Northamptonshire Council, to transform an empty shell of a building into a much-needed facility. It is the vision of Grange Park Church to follow the call of Jesus to be the good news to Grange Park and beyond – and the Kairos Centre will certainly help us in that.

Kairos - posterAs an Anglican and Baptist Church Local Ecumenical Partnership we meet together on Sunday mornings in Grange Park Community Centre in a nearby part of the village but the Kairos building, in a parade of shops opposite a doctors' surgery, is the base for our church office and coffee shop.

The Kairos Centre is not a church – it’s a place where people can have 'kairos' moments. Kairos is ancient Greek for a critical moment in time, a moment when God draws near and the opportunity to take new direction or restoration is available. Jesus uses the word in Mark to announce the drawing close of the Kingdom as he starts his ministry.

Our vision is for a place that provides facilities and a home for the existing church family, provides services and relationships with the wider community and ultimately will be home to future fresh expressions of church. We are just relaunching a café style evening service and hope to develop an after-school club fresh expression and maybe even a film church – as and when we are able.

Kairos - balloonsThe larger meeting room can take about 60 people and there is also a quiet room; a place where people can have 'kairos' or just find some peace from the hectic pace of life. The lounge area also has a coffee shop currently open four mornings a week as well as a small meeting room and the church office. These rooms can also be used for affordable conference/meeting facilities.

Lots of people these days are concerned that new housing areas run the risk of becoming soulless dormitory estates, but we are working hard to combat that. We also hope to develop a menu of wellbeing and lifestyle events, such as advice on debt management, counselling, social events for adults and children's and youth activities.

Looking back, and I was just coming to the end of my curacy in 2001 at St Giles Northampton when it was suggested I could maybe do a church plant in this new housing area.

Kairos - girlsI gathered a few people together but the Baptists had beaten us to it! They felt that God had called them to plant a cell church at Grange Park and we had a similar sense of calling to what God was doing so we joined forces and started to gather a team.

Just a few hundred houses had been built at the time; you could walk around the place in an hour or so and knock on every door. I joined the parish council, while my Baptist colleague helped to set up Neighbourhood Watch in the area and got involved when the primary school was being built.

Initially we were church planting with a traditional Sunday service plus small groups model rather than a fresh expression, but we were keen to connect with those who might not usually attend a traditional church and focused on young families.

To launch the first public worship, we did a holiday club type 'thing' called Kidzone. There was no building to have anything in and all the issues with child protection were getting to be a bit of a nightmare so we set up a 'camp' around one of the school playgrounds – we had lots of gazebos and each gazebo was an activity zone. Naively we thought that all the children and parents who flocked to Kidzone would also flock to church the following week. That didn't happen but what we did notice was that groups of parents would be chatting together while waiting for their children and the conversations would be along the lines of 'Where do you live?', 'O I'm just round the corner from there, come and have a coffee.' We had stumbled upon community building as a means of being good news to Grange Park!

Kairos - crossKidzone has continued and grown as an annual event and we usually get 400 to 500 children over three days in the last week of the summer holidays. As our aim is to be good news in the community, Kidzone is something that has worked very well in letting people know there is a church, that it is good to have it and begin to build relationships.

The other area in which we have seen very encouraging results is through the work of health care professionals. We got to know one of the health visitors and she said that all of the doctors' surgeries were over-run with depressed new mums. We suggested she use our home for appointments with the mums and so Talking Point got up and running on Thursday mornings. My wife Charlotte has been very instrumental in helping to develop something that has become phenomenally successful.

Visitors are offered tea, coffee, cake and a warm welcome. They just meet and chat in our lounge, comparing birth experiences and sleep patterns. The Health Visitors love it because they can see eight or more at a time; the mums love it because they make friends and realise they are not alone. There aren't many babies born in Grange Park that haven't been through our house!

Kairos - toysThe good news is that the Health Visitors believe Talking Point has significantly improved the mental health of struggling mums as it is a network which picks up different people. We now have various Talking Point groups in and around Grange Park. We use cell principles and organise a social night for the parents without their kids; it welds them together as a cohesive group.

Midwives in the area have also picked up on Talking Point, telling mums-to-be about it as a place to go after the birth. Things shifted again when one of the people coming along to the sessions asked about getting their baby baptised; another wanted to do an Alpha course.

The upshot of that is a group called Stepping Stones which we now run fortnightly on Tuesday mornings in the Community Centre. We make it clear that it is run by the church but it is all very informal; we offer a breakfast of croissants and orange juice for carers, mums and children, hear stories told from the Bible in creative ways, and provide a craft activity. We say it's an opportunity to take a stepping stone towards God. I would say Stepping Stones is a fresh expression of church; it has been going for nearly four years and we regularly get about 50 mums and their children.

Kairos - cakeThat in turn has developed because several mums said they wanted to find out more; their children were asking questions they didn't know the answer to and the parents also thought of the Bible stories as being a 'good thing' to teach the little ones.

To meet that need, we offer a five-week introduction to Christianity course through a DVD series called Journeys. As a result, a number of people have come to faith, some continue in that faith and others disappear.

The Kairos Centre now offers further possibilities in our life together in this community. I believe God wants us to be blessed through it and in turn bless Grange Park and beyond.

Kairos - waving