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

The Living Room and Franky’s Pizza

Tina Powsey tells of two new initiatives which may be at the start of a fresh expressions journey.

I am the Fresh Expressions Worker for the Southport Methodist Circuit, in the second year of a three-year post. I'm a lay employee of the Circuit and a lot has happened since I first took on the role!

When I started in the job, I prayed about what God wanted me to concentrate on because I was starting from scratch. One of the areas of concern that I felt he was talking to me about was people on the fringe – such as the homeless and vulnerable.

I'd been reading a lot about fresh expressions of church and the fresh expressions journey of listening, loving and serving, building community, exploring discipleship, church taking shape, and doing it again. One of the main messages that came home to me was that in order to serve a community you had to 'belong' to that community and be involved in it.

So, thinking about reaching those on the margins, I began serving at the Soup Kitchen on London Street, Southport – and finally the idea came to me to provide something more for the guests there so that they would have the chance to find out about faith in Jesus. I had in mind John 10.10, 'I have come so they can have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way'.

The Soup KitchenIt's odd because I had been praying about the right location to do it; I knew it had to be somewhere comfortable and I was initially thinking about all the different cafes and coffee houses we have in town. At first I felt embarrassed to raise the issue with the guy who runs the Soup Kitchen because I knew he already wanted the guests to have a relationship with God and I didn't want him to feel that I'd come along as the newcomer with the 'big idea'.

It was almost a year to the day since I began serving at the Soup Kitchen. We went for a church weekend away and the Soup Kitchen organiser was there. I didn't know him very well but I went to talk to him and said, 'I'd like an opportunity for the guests of the Soup Kitchen to have a time to chat, have somebody to chat to, and ultimately find freedom in Christ. What do you think?'

He was great, quite emotional about it all, and wanted to give his complete support. What had happened was that the Soup Kitchen had been given permission by the Council to open up for another day in the week but they didn't have enough volunteers to staff an extra day or resources to provide a meal for another day. That meant there was an opportunity for something else to happen at the venue, so The Living Room was created to meet at the Soup Kitchen on tuesdays from 11am to 1pm.

The people who come are of all faiths and none, some have been involved in church life in the past but others would find it very difficult to cope with a conventional church setting. Whoever, they are, it's important to meet them 'where they're at' and not try to impose something on them with which they're uncomfortable.

The Living Room - guestsAs the Soup Kitchen serves on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, The Living Room is seen as offering something different. It doesn't provide meals or practical support for instance, just a safe space to 'be' and for our friends to be welcomed with loving, attentive conversations and the same grace Jesus would show to them – and tea, coffee and toast.  At one point I got a little bit frustrated, thinking some were only coming for tea and toast, but then our other volunteers reminded me, 'You need to just serve them and love them and if that's through a slice of toast, then that's fine!'

When I think of it now, I was so naïve when we started. Cathy Walker, the first volunteer, and I literally put some prayer stations together and prayed that people would turn up. We didn't have any particular format to follow. Now it's on more of an organised footing because anyone who wants to volunteer must be DBS checked and go on a basic safeguarding course. They also have to serve behind the counter, simply handing out tea, coffee and toast, for three sessions before they do anything else; it's a great opportunity for them to get to know our guests. We're there every week and we are asking volunteers to commit to serving twice a month.

Our guests call The Living Room all sorts of things, including a lighthouse and a safe place; others come every single week and call it their church. Different volunteers take turns leading the reflections. There are probably about eight to nine guests there on average and usually three of us on the team.

The Living Room - paper chain of gratitudeWe open at 11am and have a reflection and worship time together at 12.15pm. One of our recent themes was 'gratitude'; we made a paper chain together on which we each wrote what something for which we were thankful.  It's encouraging to see everyone participate and learn new ways to have simple conversations with their Creator.

One of the guests who comes regularly now serves weekly at Christ Church, Southport ,and attends every Sunday; some have also decided to begin visiting a couple of the Methodist churches in the town – Leyland Road and Victoria Methodist. That's great too, though The Living Room isn't set up as a stepping stone to traditional church. We just have to respond to what people want to do.

It's a [Methodist] Circuit initiative that is certainly meeting a need and I really pray that it will grow ecumenically. We have got volunteers from the Methodist churches but we're having an open volunteer meeting on 16th March and I'd love to see many people involved from churches across Southport.

We don't know what God's going to do with it but it's just turning into something so special.

Another initiative which we have just started is Franky's Pizza, also known as 'Pizza Church'. Stewart McTaggart and I are the primary volunteers and administrators of the ministry and, after a few successful trials, we have now set the open days and times as the first and third Friday of every month from 11am-1pm at The Church of St Francis of Assisi, on the Kew estate, Southport. St Francis is a Local Ecumenical Partnership between the Church of England and the Methodist Church. It has very good facilities with a large hall and a beautifully equipped kitchen.

Franky's Pizza - making pizzaThe idea behind it is that it's a bit like the Somewhere Else 'bread church' in Liverpool. We wanted to attract residents of the estate to something and we thought that making something to enjoy together was a good option. My husband even bought a pizza oven for the ministry so that we can cook the pizza as it should be cooked!

Guests are first taken through the process of making a pizza dough. While it's proving, which takes about 20-30 minutes, we have a time of reflection and fellowship. The reflection is usually centred on the reading of a parable and we encourage people to tell us their thoughts on it and what it means to them.

It's a united project from the Diocese of Liverpool and the Methodist Church and both the diocese and circuit have contributed funds towards it. As a result, we provide all the ingredients, including fresh toppings, and people make one pizza and some garlic bread for a £2 donation. Everyone can then sit down to eat their pizza together and we have proper pizza boxes if people want to have it as a takeaway.

It is very early days for Franky's Pizza and The Living Room but I pray that many people will come to know Christ at these 'safe places'.

Ealing soup kitchen

Over many years, 13 churches and Christian organisations in Ealing, West London, worked together to provide a soup kitchen for people on the edge of society. The kitchen was held at St John's Church on a Sunday afternoon.

In 2004, the churches and organisations involved decided to fund a worker for homeless people to provide continuity of care and advice every weekend afternoon. Daphne was appointed. Her vision was to minister not just to individuals' emotional and physical needs, but their spiritual ones as well.

She began to invite soup kitchen clientele to the reflective evening service held by St John's upstairs. Those who came could be disruptive, and they tended to sit at the back and watch. But one evening, the service was held café-style. People on the back row became involved and enjoyed it.

The church decided to do this every Sunday. Numbers from the soup kitchen have grown steadily. The original congregation was always pretty small. Some members of it became helpers and leaders in what was effectively a new congregation. Others have found a home in the morning worship.

In 2009, between 40 and 70 homeless and disadvantaged people were attending each week.

The event starts at 5.45, as the soup kitchen is winding down, and lasts for about an hour. People sit round tables, eat doughnuts and drink coffee. A band leads the music. Someone may come to the front to tell a story or give a testimony. There can be a talk, followed by discussion at the tables. Each table is hosted by someone who takes the initiative in introducing people and engaging in conversation. There are about ten leaders and helpers involved each Sunday.

Among those who come are people with childhood experiences of church, some who are Christians, some who know nothing about Christianity, some from other faiths and others who have been hurt by Christians in their past.

It will be interesting to see how this café church evolves. At present it feels a bit like conventional church done café-style for people who are disadvantaged. This has been wonderfully fruitful, but can it ever become church-shaped and led by people on the margins of society? Given the emotional and physical difficulties faced by those who come, this would be a huge challenge.

Night Shift

Night Shift - MairNight Shift at Hereford Baptist Church runs on Saturday evenings from 12 midnight to about 3am – and was featured on expressions: the dvd – 1. One of its organisers, Mair Granthier, explains how things have changed – and some remained the same – since Night Shift started over nine years ago.

The church's front entrance is opened up so that those in local pubs and clubs can finish their evening with a hot cuppa or coffee and a chat. We have met hundreds of young people, and some not so young, over the years.

A small team of volunteers are on duty each Saturday night to provide a welcome for anyone who comes through the door. Since Night Shift was featured on expressions: the dvd – 1, the process remains the same and what we offer remains the same but there is a significant drop in the numbers of those coming in. This is due to several things: the licensing hours have changed so people filter out of the venues at different times and the local fast food outlets now have to shut by 1.30am so you no longer have huge queues of people waiting for their fish and chip supper.

Night Shift - outsideHowever, the fact that fewer people are coming in does offer greater opportunity for us to speak to them. Looking back on those early days it was more like crowd control! Week by week, we continue to feel that there is a reason why we are still around. The clubbers now expect us to be there – though it's not just clubbers we serve. We also have the homeless call in on us and people who would be seen as the misfits of society; they view Night Shift as their 'night out' or at least a place – maybe the only place – where they can feel welcome.

Another thing we've noticed more recently is the increasing call on team members' time, which unfortunately limits their availability. The needs of the people we serve don't change so the availability of sufficient staff is really important to us. We always try to have at least three or four on duty at any one time and there's probably about 10 people involved altogether.

We offer hot drinks, toilet facilities, and a safe warm place to sit, wait for a taxi, eat a burger or rest their feet. We've also had people who get thrown out of clubs; they come in to Night Shift and text their friends to tell them that they are 'at the church'.

Night Shift - visitorSome of them we see very regularly, in fact we know most of our visitors by name, but a lot of those we used to see don't tend to go out drinking any more but will occasionally drop in and say hello. We have built up a lot of friendships over the years and it's great to see how people are getting on. We've also had parents and grandparents of young people say to us how good it is to know that there is somebody trustworthy there to help their kids or grandkids if they get into trouble on a Saturday night out.

We have come to accept that Night Shift really is church to quite a few people, and even if they only come in for 20 minutes or half an hour they know who we are and why we do it and who we do it for. There was great joy at Christmas when we gave out carol sheets to them and we all sang favourite carols; they really enjoyed that! We pray that Night Shift will be part of people's faith journey; it may be that someone else does the harvesting, but that's fine.

We have a small prayer team of predominantly older people who support our work. We write a prayer request report for every Night Shift that they use to identify prayer needs; the report is also useful because it means that we have a record of who comes in.

Night Shift - policeOur greatest desire at the moment is to recruit more volunteers – even if it's just to do one stint every couple of months. Our team members are all getting older and so we would like to encourage others to be part of the welcoming team. They could come along to 'taste and see' what it's like; if they do they could well become hooked on it – just like us! We recognise that very elderly people or those with young families couldn't help us in this way but it would be good to see some new volunteer faces.

The people we meet at Night Shift wouldn't normally consider going through a church door and it's a privilege for us to be there for them. We believe that the church more and more has to be prepared to reach out to where people are, rather than expect them to come to what we call church and 'fit in'.

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.


Andy NiblockHelping to create church for those who find most Christian gatherings too slick and professional is not easy. But that was the challenge facing a group of Sheffield Christians when they formed StreetWise, a fresh expression of church for those on the margins of society.

The aim of St Thomas Philadelphia's Restore ministry is to take the power of God's love to the very edges of society and bring people into the heart of God's family. That doesn't mean getting more people to come to conventional church. But it does mean reaching out to the poor and the marginalised of the city including people who are homeless, those with life-controlling addictions, women working on the streets and people who have been in prison. Those involved in this challenging ministry and mission are committed to a holistic approach meeting practical, social, spiritual and emotional needs.

StreetWise - signAndy Niblock leads Restore, and along with Danny Wilson, heads up StreetWise, a fresh expression of church which meets in parallel to St Thomas' main Sunday morning service in a room in the Church's training centre. He explained that StreetWise has a high proportion of members with a variety of personal and social needs and also includes those who 'felt uncomfortable' in many church settings. The aim is to create a weekly worship and fellowship gathering for those who may be intimidated by the way church can sometimes feel  middle class or is delivered in a professional way. Andy says that services which may give the impression that 'people here have got it altogether' can often be offputting for those whose lives are not really under control.

Around 50 people meet each week, sharing food together before a simple time of worship, in which everyone is encouraged to participate, and many do. Stories are shared of how God has helped during the week, or of friends who have got difficulties or of ways in which addictions are slowly being overcome. It really is fully church for those who attend and those who go along to be with them. There is down to earth support available from the team during the week too, and that is vital.

StreetWise - handsOne man in his thirties is a regular. He describes himself as once being a violent football hooligan. He knew he couldn't change himself but his two and a half years at StreetWise has shown that God can change him. He has learned how to love other people too, for the first time in his life.

Another man lived on the streets and sold the Big Issue, was addicted to heroin and had 'lost his way'. But when he went to StreetWise he says he genuinely found God and God found him. He knows many of his problems stem from a difficult childhood, but has valued the one to one sessions on offer through Restore ministries. Now he believes he has given all that was weighing him down to God and knows there are so many better things in life than those things that once attracted him.

StreetWise - congregationAndy Niblock believes that one of the strengths of StreetWise is the way it combines practical care and support with the truth of the gospel. This holistic approach has been developed over a number of years, as StreetWise was originally set up to simply feed and minister to people living on the streets. But soon members of the Streetwise team realised that there was a real openness to faith issues too and wanted to demonstrate a lifestyle which said 'Jesus can make a difference to you'. And in the case of many who go along each week a real difference is being made, despite the significant challenges in their lives.

Cameron House

Cathy StoneRevd Cathy Stone is a deacon in the Diocese of Toronto and executive director of its Rural Outreach Committee (ROC). She describes how helping those on the edge of society has led to blessing for herself and the inherited church.

We have always worked closely with Cameron House, a shelter for women in Peterborough, Ontario. Cameron House staff answer the Rural Outreach Committee's crisis line at evenings, weekends and holidays and it is not uncommon for us to share cases and information.

During one debrief, a member of staff mentioned to me that it would be wonderful if I could "bring church to Cameron House." I asked permission from Bill McNabb, executive director of Brock Mission – which owns and operates the shelter. Trent Durham Bishop, Linda Nicholls also gave me the green light.

I first met a group of six to eight ladies at the facility two years ago and they all expressed a strong desire to learn more about Jesus and God. Although a few had attended church in the past, they really had no idea of why they were Christians. They acknowledged that they were burnt out, sad, and hoped that there was something "out there" in the way of spirituality that might help them.

We began with a basic Christianity course, which I adapted especially for our group, and we took time for prayer, worship, bible study and discussion. It then became clear that most (if not all) of the ladies had suffered from sexual, physical or emotional abuse as children, and also later as adults. Many had addictions to drugs and/or alcohol. They had families that they could not connect with or who didn't wish to connect with them. Others had been "hurt" by the Church and didn't trust the corporate church system or church people.

Cameron House with bibleWe worked our way through further courses and a Christian friend bought us 12 Life Recovery Bibles. By that time our group had grown to 10. The results have been wonderful and we have seen God at work in these lives again and again.

At first we would meet around the dining room table at Cameron House (not always perfect because other residents tended to walk in and out to use the fridge), but now we have our own beautiful room. It is our "God space." The house itself has changed too. Where it was once quite messy and dirty, we now see women helping each other to organise rooms and tidy things up. Instead of blank stares or frowns, I notice smiling faces when I drive up to the home of what has now become my second family.

One woman who was homeless and poverty-ridden when I met her in 2008 has now received funding to complete her Masters of Social Work; three of those who met with us have been baptised; another requested that her new apartment be blessed; still another revealed to me recently that she has stopped drinking and smoking and will be attending a recovery programme as well as continuing on with our group. It is not just the residents we help, but those who find shelter elsewhere continue to come back on Wednesday evenings to learn more about God's word and how it is relevant in our everyday lives. We share very personal concerns around the table and what is said in the room stays in the room. This has built a strong bond and trust with each other. We laugh, cry, pray, discuss theology, study the Bible and sing worship songs.

Cameron House laughingWhen I first told the women that I was an Anglican Deacon they were amazed. One Sunday, a lady asked me to take her to one of our traditional church services. During the drive there she told me that she was a crack addict and had only stopped using the drug two nights ago, but she still wanted to go to church. We had no sooner arrived than she needed to use the bathroom to vomit. I helped her up from her knees, washed her face and took her up to church, but she was just too sick to stay so I drove her home. Afterwards, when I returned to church for coffee, one parishioner told me of her own problem with alcohol and another spoke of an adult son with addictions. This lady's presence at church had helped others open up about their own struggles.

This fresh expression of church can help not only society's outcasts, but also society itself, by offering those who live on the edge a second chance to become healthy members of our communities and to bring to them the Good News of Jesus Christ in a safe environment.

The church family at Cameron House is a beautiful thing to witness and I feel blessed to be a part of their lives.

St Luke’s in the High Street

St Lukes in the High Street - pouringSt Luke's-in-the-High-Street focuses around the weekly Walthamstow Farmers Market in north-east London. It is one of 40 Christian churches based in Walthamstow but team vicar, Revd Tony Cant, says it is a unique form of missional experiment in the diocese of Chelmsford.

The Sunday market opened here in September 2007 and we run our Holding out Hope community stall during trading hours from 10am to 2pm every week. I have the grand title of Market Manager.

Our main focus is on serving people outside traditional church life. Our own building is for sale, so we are now a fresh expression of church that has grown out of inherited church. Also on Sundays, if people want to chat with their children, they can join some of our crew for a late breakfast from 10.45am-11.45am at the Pop-in Café, which is located in the High Street.

St Lukes in the High Street - caféSt Luke’s-in-the-High-Street is part of The Parish of Walthamstow Team, which also includes St Gabriel's, St Mary's and St Stephen's. The churches all work differently, complementing each other in working for the common good and helping to shape the future for this area.

Tony continues:

We very much believe in participating in the life of the wider church by being involved in its traditional structures including Bishop's Council, Diocesan Synod, Diocesan Mission and Pastoral Committee, Deanery Synod and Clergy Chapter. These structures have been very supportive and really blessed us as a result.

St Luke's in the High Street - BiscuitsAs part of their discipleship in building their own faith, St Luke's meets at one of their members' homes on Wednesday evenings for reflection, prayer, Bible study, worship and Holy Communion. And the last Wednesday of the month is given over to enjoying a meal together.

Andy Campbell, an Ordained Pioneer Ministry candidate, based with St Luke's, adds:

At the moment we’re spending some time looking at the Fruits of the Spirit. Love, of course, is at the top of the list. At St Luke's, one of the simple ways that we express love for others is by offering free drinks to the other stall holders. Such a small thing, and by no means revolutionary or radical, but real and appreciated nonetheless – particularly on those cold and miserably wet days.

Why do we give free drinks? They are small gifts of love, given because God first loved us. These tokens, alongside our commitment to be present at the Market each week – whatever the weather, are significant because God is within them.

St Luke's in the High Street - refreshmentsTony says that some weeks St Luke's members find themselves simply huddled in the stall, looking out at the driving rain, and wondering just quite what it is that they are doing. Yet on other occasions have had hugely significant conversations with stall holders or customers about life, the universe and everything. Both extremes are expressions of love; both dependent on a willingness to be present; and (much more importantly), both resourced by the true source of all love that they have been grafted onto.

Street Church

Street Church - serviceStreet Church in Northampton welcomes up to 90 vulnerable and homeless people at its weekly get-togethers. David Bird describes how Christians from various denominations work together in developing the work and ministry of this growing fresh expression of church.

Our early experience of homeless people here at St Giles involved them coming along to Alpha courses for the free food before disappearing pretty quickly. They'd also turn up on the doorstep of the vicarage and I would have a chat with them. At one point, a guy came along with a spiritual understanding of God who asked me to pray for him; at that point I knew that I had to do more than offer him a cup of tea and a sandwich.

A member of the congregation is involved with the Hope Centre, a project that serves what is quite a large homeless community in the Northampton area. When one of the community died, it was a social services funeral and none of the rest of the people who knew him from the streets had any idea when it was or what had happened.

They wanted to have some sort of memorial service and the Hope Centre volunteer asked if I would go in and do something for them. About 50 people turned up to that. It wasn't a recognisable service as such, but we played his favourite music, talked about what he was like as a person, and they lit candles to remember him.

Street Church - meetingA lot of homeless people find Sunday the most difficult day of the week because there is nothing open specifically for them so we got together with other churches to arrange a weekly Street Church drop-in service from 1.30pm to about 3pm. It takes place at the Salvation Army Northampton Central Corps community hall, and the majority of helpers are from St Giles but there are also people from Kingdom Life New Frontiers International Church, the Salvation Army, the Roman Catholic Church, and another Anglican Church. Each takes it in turn to provide the all-important catering.

We use multi-media material from The Work of the People, an American organisation which highlights Christian issues – usually through visual images rather than words. There is very little 'preaching' as such, it's more a case of sharing testimonies and stories but a lot of it is one-to-one relational stuff. We also invite guests to come along and sing to us as performance worship. Some of the homeless have got musical gifts too so they're also getting more involved in that now.

Street Church - manicureEvery six weeks or so we offer pampering when people get their nails and hair cut. Some prostitutes also come in and we do their nails too, just to serve them and show that we care.

Street Church began in Easter 2008, and some of the people later started coming to our traditional church service in the evening as well. One man who did that now wants to be baptised. I have been quite precious about it in some ways because it feels like something that is both the work of God and a tender plant. The direction we want to take it in is to help these vulnerable people get a lot more stability in their lives, and set up mentoring for a number of individuals.

As ever, money plays a key role because the project is being run entirely by volunteers at the moment though we have recently applied for a grant for a part-time worker. It is nothing like church as many would think of church. You can't ask our regulars to give by Direct Debit for example, and that means it will never be self-supporting. Instead we see it as part of our mission to Northampton, our church supports it and other churches support it in that way.

Street Church - dogIt is tough work but worth it because there is a huge mix of people at Street Church. Some of those are kids thrown out of their own homes by their families; they can be into drink or drugs so that can be quite difficult. There is a guy called Dancing Joe who always turns up smartly dressed though a bit 'crinkled' round the edges, and there are quite a few Eastern Europeans who have had jobs in the past but are now sleeping rough.

One of our volunteers is an ex-Army guy, and he deals with a number of men who have come out of the forces and – for one reason or another – just can't cope.

I often say that many of the homeless we deal with are no different than anyone else; it's just that their sin and their weakness are much more obvious than other people's. Those who come to faith at Street Church and begin to sort their lives out often say they no longer want to be part of the community because they are keen to move on. That's understandable but some have remained and carried on helping as volunteers and that's a very powerful message to those who come. It says, 'just because I live on the streets doesn't mean I will always live on the streets. Just because I haven't got my life sorted out now doesn't mean that it will always be that way.' It gives them hope.

Wolverhampton Pioneer Ministries

Faith and fries - Richard MoyRichard Moy, ordained pioneer minister explains how church is forming amongst those who have never been involved before, through Wolverhampton Pioneer Ministries.

When the Methodist and Anglican churches in Wolverhampton realised there were 23,000 people involved in the 'night-time' economy of the city, most of whom had no Christian commitment, they decided to do something about it. Richard Moy was appointed to start to form church with those who often only came into the city to bars and clubs after 10pm. The first thing he did was go to a monastery – to pray hard! Then he visited St Thomas' Crookes Church in Sheffield to find out about their 'Life Shapes' program and that visit was followed by 40 days of prayer and fasting.

Faith and fries - foodA small team of three gathered to pray every week in a local church and then gradually others joined in. After a year they began to gather in a café location in the centre of town and now a pool of about 50 people meets regularly for Sunday evening worship. On any one occasion 30 or so will gather together. Church 18-30 has been born.

Richard is particularly pleased at the mixed nature of this new missional community. The age range is about 16-32 but members come from all sorts of backgrounds. Some are graduates, others come from 'very difficult backgrounds in terms of education'. Some are unemployed and others are destitute.

Faith and fries - flierEarly on Richard decided that one size would not fit all. Based on differing learning styles, this fresh expression of church offers deliberately varied learning and worship opportunities. There's a gathering for 'reflectors' which has a real sense of the 'spiritual'. Another event is aimed at 'theorists' and encourages those who attend to think why they believe what they believe. A third gathering has a contemporary worship style and a fourth is based on food and sharing communion together.

But Richard's eyes light up when he mentions 'Man Night'. Every Monday a group of men meet to share a simple form of communion, watch a DVD or get to work on a Playstation! This is church literally out of the box! 10-15 attend regularly and Richard is seeing real discipleship growth amongst the group.

Richard believes the venue is vital. There's a weekly midday meeting in McDonalds – an opportunity to share Bible, burgers and fries! Yates' Wine Lodge provides another meeting place, along with a city centre church café. Recently Wolverhampton Pioneer Ministries has acquired a flat and that is slowly becoming a centre of ministry for the church.

Faith and fries - mealAnd Richard believes what he is doing really is church. They operate as church – with regular worship, gathering around word and sacrament. People have been baptised as a result of joining Church 18-30 and mission is very much at the heart of things. If you see a couple of people sitting on a sofa in the middle of Wolverhampton, it is likely to be members of the church sharing their faith or offering to pray for passers by. And in a network church, 'some bits of the church will only last for a season and some bits will last forever', says Richard and that's OK.

Wolverhampton Pioneer Ministries grew out of local Christians' concern for those who had no connection with church. It's still growing and Richard Moy is very open to what surprising things God might have in store for the future.

I love going to Church 18-30's Vitalise service because it does what it says on the tin. It really revitalised my relationship with God through John's Gospel and smoothies.

Katie, 18

I went to Church 18-30 because my faith was at a really low point and needed strengthening. Church 18-30 helped me to rediscover my faith and strengthen my relationship with God having fun along the way with the most amazing people!!!

Helen, 22