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

Sanctuary West London

Salvation Army Captains Gary and Dawn Lacey came to Ealing in 2013 to set up a prayer centre and develop Christian community there. Dawn tells the story of what happened.

The concept of planting a house of prayer wasn't new to my husband, Gary, and I because we had previously set up centres in Durham and Liverpool. In fact, the vision was very much that we would set up a national network of these prayer houses.

However, almost right from the start in West London, we have felt ourselves to be in a really tough spiritual battle. Church planting, or being involved in fresh-expressions-type work, is never the easiest thing to do – and we've had that calling about houses of prayer over the past ten years – but everything seemed to step up a gear when we came to Ealing.

We still hold on to the prophetic words that God gave us about houses of prayer so whether Ealing is the final one for us to be involved in, and someone else then takes up the mantle, we don't know. We just seek to keep going wherever God leads us. All the settings we've known have been so different. In Liverpool, the prayer house seemed to help disgruntled Christians come back into relationship with God though we did also do much street work there – and praying for the city. In Durham, a lot of young students got involved.

Sanctuary - groupThe vision for a house of prayer is to create a place that is based on prayer, mission and justice. Hospitality and pilgrimage, creativity and teaching are also very important to our missional approach. Here, the focus is on serving those in need, people who are experiencing homelessness and those who use the building we're based in during the week. A few organisations rent the space but they are still very much aware that it's a Christian house of prayer. Gary and I pray that we're faithful in simply opening the doors and seeing what God does.

There are four designated prayer rooms, a hospitality area, a community room, spaces for creative prayer and a worship/gathering room.

Our main meeting is on a Thursday evening, we are not doing a Sunday morning service. What's happening is that we are building a community of people happy to meet together on Thursdays to find out more about what it means to be a Christian; it's almost like a home group. We have recently been looking at, 'What does God to say to us in the silence?' That same group will eventually form a new church; there are about twelve of us at the moment – some of us are staunch Salvationists, others go to an Anglican church. It is a great mix of people.

We probably have about an hour and a half together during which time we have coffee and listen to a talk before we leave it open for discussion and just go for it! As a community, we have a daily rhythm of prayer at 10am and 12noon and that forms the basis of what we are about. That very much feeds into this place being somewhere for people to become more effective in the development of a lifestyle of prayer; that's why we have prayer cards out on the table for everyone and teaching on subjects like personal prayer life, spiritual warfare, street prayer and prayer ministry. When people come in and talk to us about experiencing homelessness, or desperation, or whatever it may be, we always ask them if they'd like us to pray for them.

Sanctuary - celebrationWe have a paid worker, who is brilliant, and we have loads of volunteers. We certainly need them because we run a charity shop next door as well.  Our café is open from 10am to 3pm, Tuesday to Friday, and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays. We've got a luncheon club, a kids' club, and also have a particular call to those who are experiencing homelessness. Our goal this year is just to stabilise everything that's happening because at the heart of everything we do is the desire to see people come to know Jesus.

It's interesting to look back at the history of this place because there was a Salvation Army Centre in this building from 1909. In the past it was a very traditional corps but, by the time we came, there were only about 10-15 people left and they knew that something needed to change; they just didn't know how to make that change. It's all about bringing people into a relationship with Jesus – whether that's done in a traditional or contemporary way.

I totally understand that it can be very difficult to take on board why things need to be so different, particularly if you've always done something a certain way. All I can say, here in Ealing, is that this is growing; people are coming to a knowledge of God because he is doing new things and we have just got to join in!

Sanctuary - rooms

Mitcham Missional Community

Salvation Army officer Mark Scott tells of building community, and a Rule of Life, in the London borough of Merton.

My wife, Emma, and I were appointed to Raynes Park Community Church three-and-a-half years ago with a remit to start a missional community in Mitcham. The Salvation Army had conducted some research prior to us arriving because they were working predominantly on the west side of the borough of Merton and they wanted to work more coherently across the borough as a whole.

The borough, in the south-west of London, is very diverse from east to west and Mitcham borders Lambeth, Wandsworth and Croydon.

We live in an amazing part of Mitcham called Eastfields and have loved getting to know our neighbours and people who work in the community. Before we made the move, The Salvation Army hadn't been in this area for about 70 years but their support has been fantastic. The great blessing to us when we first arrived was being given the gift of a time of listening. It was amazing to hear stories and learn what it is like to live and work in Mitcham. We heard about the great depth of history that Mitcham holds; both the documented and that which has been passed on from generation to generation.

Mitcham Missional Community - loveA fact that stayed with us was that the name Mitcham comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning 'Big Settlement' or 'Big Home'. A representative of the Jeremiah Project – a Churches Together in Mitcham initiative – shared this with us and it is not insignificant as they have been such an amazing support for us as a couple and now more significantly our church community.

Churches Together in Mitcham is like nothing we've ever experienced before, there is a real heart to work together and serve Mitcham. When we first moved here as a couple with two small children, their love for us was vital and the way in which they welcomed us with open arms for us was a true representation of Mitcham being a 'Big Home'! They've not only shared their love with us but their knowledge and networks too.

Around this time we also spoke to the Urban Expression mission agency, with whom Emma and I had a long-term personal relationship with, and sought to become team leaders. This provided more specialised support for us and a network of people who were able to understand and speak into the life we were living.

After being in Mitcham for 16 months we moved into a house in the Eastfields area and it was around this time that a friend of ours began asking when we were going to 'start our church'. Our friend was interested in exploring faith and who God is after being part of a faith community as a child but no longer called herself a Christian. God had this in hand and, at the same time, brought more established Christians into our field of vision and they, in turn, decided they wanted to support us as well.

Mitcham Missional Community - litter-pickingWe began gathering in our kitchen as a group of eight, sharing in creative forms of worship, some interactive teaching and finishing with a shared meal. This continued for about six months.

As our gathering has developed so has the format, although we have always retained the shared meal, seeing this as a vital part of sharing our lives together. After a further six months, things began to feel a bit more established and so, as a gathering, we wanted to put some structure (although some would see none!) to what we did. I've been very interested in the concept of urban new monasticism for a number of years and it's from here that we became interested in a Rule of Life.

For nine months we carried out research to try and glean how different places were living a Rule of Life before deciding what was applicable to us. The Rule is conceptual in the way we live our lives out but it's practical too – including the scheduling of an annual retreat and committing to laugh together regularly. Our hope is that, as a gathered community of believers, we can continue to learn what it means to 'Seek God' and 'Display his Love' wherever we might find ourselves. I think it's fair to say that we have been changed by the people who have opened their lives to us in the short time we've been here and we hope we will continue to learn from them.

Mitcham is such an amazing place to live; we have felt such openness and kindness since moving here. We love that our children are growing up in an environment that is honest and accepting and while the organic nature of it can be difficult, we’re looking forward to all that lies ahead.

E1 Community Church (Cable Street)

It began as an Urban Expression church planting team 15 years ago in London's East End but became E1 Community Church (E1CC) after the merger of three Urban Expression church plants (including Cable Street Community Church). Phil Warburton and Alex Alexander are Baptist ministers who lead the church and they explain more.

Things have changed a great deal since the original Cable Street Community Church was featured on expressions: the dvd – 1. E1CC now covers the south west of the Borough of Tower Hamlets and is based in Shadwell and Stepney.

Originally led by Jim and Juliet Kilpin, we were a small team on a steep learning curve made up of a group of people trying to figure out together how to follow Jesus and love our neighbours.

E1CC parachuteWe remain a small church that struggles in many ways with the seeming chaos of life and messiness of church but there is also a lot of joy along the way and much hope for the future. Today E1CC covers the same geographical area and includes Sunday meetings in the homes of two families from the church and Wednesdays at 6pm in the hall of St Mary's Church on Cable Street. Once a month we have celebrations which are all-age, messy church, café-style, with a meal to finish. We have active children's and youth groups too, who bring us much joy and often speak nuggets of truth to us 'grown-ups'! You will rarely hear a sermon here but we hope, pray and trust that people will hear plenty of what God is saying.

Alex Alexander was called to lead the church alongside Phil in July 2009. Along with other churches in Tower Hamlets, we have set up a Mission House initiative to encourage and enable people with a heart for the inner city to live and minister here. Four local churches are part of the Mission House at the moment and each church has a volunteer who joins in with the life of the church and the local community. Rachel Fergusson joined us a year ago as part of this initiative and it is great working with a team of people passionate about the community and church of Shadwell and Stepney.

E1CC gardenWhat are we about? E1 Community Church have five key distinctives. We are a Jesus-centred church; worshipping and following Jesus together in our daily lives. We are a church at the edge, seeking to be a church of people who have too little rather than have too much and of those who often feel marginalized by society and sometimes by the church. We are made up of people who live in the local neighbourhood and our worship, discipleship and decision-making aim to be relevant to the area in which we live. We aim to be multi-voiced in order to discover together what God might be saying to us. We believe passionately in being people of peace and we try to work at this both within church and within our community.

Each year we have a focus on a particular topic and we work on getting funds together for a charity specialising in that particular field. This year we are focusing on the Olympics to highlight issues of justice, inequality, disability and human trafficking. We are using the Baptist Missionary Society's Undefeated resources.

We are also involved with other churches in Tower Hamlets to run a winter Night Shelter and Foodbank based in various locations through Tower Hamlets, as well as youth and children's work both within church and in our neighbourhood. We are really excited about what God is doing in Tower Hamlets and we want to continue to join in with bringing his kingdom here!


Helen Shannon is an Ordained Pioneer Minister in the Diocese of London, serving at St Barnabas, Woodside Park. She oversees church@five and has plans for other estates in the area.

church@five - generationsStrawberry Vale, East Finchley, is in the top 10% of the most deprived areas in England and I moved here with my husband Mark and family in 2008.

I'd been a young, single mum on one of the estates locally and had gone to church throughout my childhood but no-one had introduced me to Jesus. Then one day I walked into St Barnabas Church (known as St Bs) and I realised straight away that they knew him, they knew who they were worshipping and I came to know him too.

I got involved in children's work and did a lot of children's evangelism, eventually becoming the church's first full-time children's worker. I met and married Mark and, when I gave birth to my second son, we lived off an estate for quite a while but we were in a house on a busy road which had no soul, no heart and no community – I missed that strong sense of belonging! Strawberry Vale is not the estate where I lived in my late-teens and twenties but it's not too far away and I value all that it offers to us as a family.

I realised that it wasn't the case that people didn't believe in God in this environment; it was because they hadn't been introduced to Him – as I had been at St Bs, a New Wine Network Church. At the start I would have said that the gap was geographically too wide for people to come to church at St Barnabas; now I would say that for some the cultural gap is an issue too.

In the early days it was all about seeing what God was already doing here and serving the people; we hadn't decided that a church plant or a congregation plant was what we were going to do. I remembered what a blessing it had been to me to come into a church where I wasn't 'pigeonholed' as a single mum; I wanted that same experience of 'come as you are' for the guys on the estate.

church@five - face paintingIn the end we set up a community congregation called church@five rather than a church plant; this gave me a large amount of freedom as to how it developed. If those who come along end up going to the 'big church' at St Bs, that's fine. It's also fine if they put down their roots with us.

I use the words 'community congregation' because the people here wouldn't have a clue about what 'fresh expression' means. The phrase, fresh expressions, covers a plethora of things and I don't think it would have helped the team either. I also went for community congregation because, from the start, I wanted to be able to replicate what we had done here elsewhere – that whole business of starting with the end in mind.

Encouraging indigenous leadership was also very much part of our thinking when the whole thing got off the ground. We really wanted to be a bridge between the estate and the church so that the people weren't isolated in their faith.

This is also about broadening horizons; one of the things about being in this sort of environment is that people can have very low expectations. We want to demonstrate that all of God's wonderful world and life is fully available to them whereas society would build estates with one road in and one road out to corral the people in there.

Well-meaning people can think there's a real problem communicating the gospel on an estate but I find a latent respect for the church here. The word 'church' is not an issue with people but communicating the gospel in a very real and honest way can be because they want to know, and quite rightly, how the gospel can change lives and make a very real difference day to day.

church@five - hatWe have five or our six children at home now, ranging from 8 to 15, and my husband Mark is involved in every way in what we're doing here. He had to leave his work in the City because of chronic back problems but I haven't ever seen him so fruitful in ministry! If I'm out and about at meetings, more often than not he's the one who's around when people knock on the door with their problems or questions.

It all started by gathering people around us from St Bs who had a heart for the same kind of thing, we prayed and ate and talked and began to serve the community. We work with a partner charity called Hope House and started some youth and children's activities in the Green Man Community Centre which is run by the residents.

We joined the Centre's committee and, as we served, we heard God telling us that it wasn't to be just about children or young people; it was to be for the whole community – for us – bringing people together in community is a move of the Kingdom of God and by putting Christians back into the estate we reckoned that the whole place should undergo a shift, a change, after all it only takes a little bit of yeast to make the whole batch of dough rise.

We don't preach the Gospel at these things, instead we work together to see people achieve their goals and visions. It took about two years before the regular gathering together of a worshipping community. We had done Christmas and Easter events but it was always in our minds that the vision was not just for Strawberry Vale but also for neighbouring estates, The Grange and Market Place. But we got to the stage where we had built community, found people of peace, were talking Jesus with those people and had been praying with them. It was then very natural to bring that together in a weekly gathering.

church@five - Green ManChurch@five now meets on a Sunday afternoon at the community centre. We have lots of cups of tea, an informal service around tables with sung worship, share community news, someone prays for our church and community, and then we have the offering because we wanted to build in the value of giving back to God right from the start. We read together from the Bibles, we always put Bibles in people's hands as soon as we can and we give away quite a lot of them, have a short interactive talk and prayer ministry time and drink more tea and then eat together.

We have got quite a lot of people from the estate helping with the midweek kids' work. It's hard going when developing indigenous leadership because some people live quite chaotic lives and to put them into a structure can be difficult.

One of our trainees had found it quite difficult to ask people help at in their midweek group, praying for them was fine but requesting that they might give us a hand was something else. But I told her that it was a very middle class way of thinking about things because most middle class people are working all the hours God sends and are struggling to find the time to do all the things they want to do with their families and everything else. However many of the people we're living alongside are jobless and society says to them they can't do anything.

One of the real issues they face is boredom and a lack of purpose. I encouraged the trainee to think of asking them to help as a fantastic gift, the chance for them to know they are contributing something.

Our team is made up of people who live on the estate, others very committed to the place but don't actually live here and a group who we call our 'scaffold team' – these are good, solid Christians who support the new Christians, encouraging and nurturing their growth. There are also those who come and serve on our teams or who act as Godparents, people who pray regularly for us.

church@five - table laidWe have already got some indigenous worship leaders, someone else who coordinates prayer and another who's taking a lead with hospitality. We are currently looking at how we might develop a discipleship year for some of the young people on the estate.

When we moved on the estate, we said that unless God moved us on, we would commit ourselves to being here for 10 years. We are still in very early days but we are now looking at how we gather another team to move on to the neighbouring estate at The Grange which is very different to Strawberry Vale. Every estate has got a different history and it's important to take that on board, it's so, so important. So, at the beginning, it's all about listening to people, doing research, and finding out what local people think of that estate, it all takes time.

St Bs has been absolutely brilliant about all of this. If I had done a church plant route I would have had to look to becoming self-financing and self-governing; but this way we can be missionally quick because St Bs is very generous with finances and provide governance/oversight for us. St Bs has always been missional but our experiences on the estates have sharpened that missional focus and helped form new ways of looking at things.

Hopefully this is a model that other big churches could apply, particularly in London where richer areas and poorer areas are cheek by jowl. If they can afford to finance it, they could put people in to live on these sorts of estates on their doorstep; people who will build community around them and look to see what Jesus is doing and then join in with Him.


Praise@Platt is a time of worship that has evolved for all those involved with Regenerate-RISE, a charitable organisation that cares for all those who would otherwise be housebound or isolated, living in either high-rise flats in Roehampton or the more wealthy area of Putney. RISE facilitates outings, activities, lunches and a support service with practical help, home and hospital visiting, along with emergency shopping and prescription collections.

Held on a Sunday afternoon, Praise@Platt is low key, simple and about 45 minutes in length. It includes Bible readings, prayer, a time of reflection, worship with members playing musical instruments to modern songs and a short talk. The Gideons have provided large print New Testaments, and the words of the songs – from Songs of Fellowship for Small Groups – are on the wall via an overhead projector. CDs or DVDs are played as musical accompaniment, with appropriate sound levels for the hard of hearing. 

The service is followed by a meal of sandwiches, crisps and cakes, whilst the worship songs continue to play in the background. Each time, the members are given a picture postcard with a Bible verse representing the theme of the service to think about during the week. This is because the majority who attend do not have any basic Christian teaching to fall back on. 

One member of RISE was recently baptised, whilst other members cheered and clapped when he gave his testimony as to how he became a Christian, and a 92 year man was confirmed after giving his life to the Lord at a specially adapted Alpha course. Praise@Platt hopes to expand in the near future to welcoming older people from the local community to encourage them in their faith and give them a new experience of church.

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.

Threshold Church

In 1996 GP Pete Atkins and his wife, Kath, planted a new church called Threshold, with a vision to strengthen church in the villages of their home county, Lincolnshire.

Operating along the cell church format, Threshold grew and in 2006 separated into four separate congregations. Three were based in a different village and one in inner city Lincoln. There is a bi-monthly meeting of all four.

The congregations draw members from 15 local neighbourhoods and range in size from 20 to 100 members, who gather together in village halls and Lincoln YMCA.

But for Pete and Kath, this is not the end of ten years' work. They have given each congregation the challenge of multiplying further through prayer and planning. 

We are vision driven,

Pete says.

The vision has always been to establish church in the rural situation, with a focus on neighbourhood planting rather than network planting.

Pete believes that the success of Threshold lies in discovering and training new leaders.

The key thing is that by the grace of God we have managed to multiply leadership,

he says.

They have given each congregation the challenge of multiplying further through prayer and planning

Those who have perhaps led a cell have also been on a 'Mission-shaped leadership' training course [now developed into mission shaped ministry]. Leaders meet together bi-monthly and in between are supported by regular contact with the main leaders of Threshold. The Atkins' own role has moved to supporting the main leaders, who in turn support cell leaders.

All our developments are consistent with our original vision of seeing the kingdom of God re-established in the villages,

says Pete.

The leadership communicates this vision through preaching, through a slogan and by holding welcome evenings for newcomers to the villages.

Moments of multiplication, such as the division into four congregations, become opportunities to revisit the original purpose of the church.

By keeping in mind at every stage what they originally set out to do, the Atkins and the members of Threshold are achieving their aim of multiplying church.

Sunday Sanctuary

Moving out of a church building into a tower block may not be everyone's idea of progress but The Sunday Sanctuary in Portsmouth is proving to be a hit with newcomers to this fresh expression of church.

Revd Mark Rodel, Portsmouth's city centre pioneer minister and associate priest at St Luke's Somerstown, Southsea, led the way when the 20-strong congregation set up base at Wilmcote House to encourage newcomers. And encourage them they did. In the first month, 24 extra people came to get-togethers at the 11-storey high-rise. Mark is encouraged but aware of the challenges ahead.

This is about taking seriously the call to be where people already are, rather than expecting them to come to us. We often expect people to cross the threshold of our churches and immediately start singing or speaking words that they don't yet believe or understand. Our gathering is much more conversation-based.

We don't always judge our success or failure on the basis of numbers, as the quality of relationships is also important. But I'm very encouraged; we moved locations specifically to encourage local people to join us, and they have. Several of them have been more than once. And the people we're meeting seem to be genuinely open to what it is that we're doing.

In fact, we had thought people might pop in and out for just a few minutes of our morning get-togethers. In fact, many of them have stayed for the entire morning.

Sunday Sanctuary - gingerbreadWe had a trial run at Wilmcote House on four successive Sundays earlier in the year. As a result of that, one family – who live in Wilmcote House – decided to join us. At Christmas we had the Wilmcote House Nativity. All ages were welcome and children had the chance to dress as an angel or shepherd to hear the Christmas story, enjoy a free breakfast and take part in some craft sessions.

Our vision is to be a mission community that plants congregations, and ultimately we'd like to see a network of small, local congregations in this area. In the meantime, this is a massive step and there is excitement and trepidation. We recognise that it's a risk, but we think it's a risk worth taking.

Worship is continuing at St Luke's church building from Monday to Saturday, and the venue is still being used by community groups. There are lots of other things going on in the area too. Across Portsmouth diocese, there are multi-media 'Blessed' Eucharists at St Thomas's Church, Elson, in Gosport; Messy Church at St Wilfrid's Church, Cowplain; meditative alternative worship called 'Ethos' at St Nicholas Church, North End; and a Café Church will launch in Waterlooville's Costa Coffee from January 2010.

I have also started a new thing on Sunday nights when I offer a chance for 'spiritual-but-not-religious' people to meet up at a local pub to talk about faith, spirituality and life over beer.

Weatherspoon's kindly set aside a table for me at the Isambard Kingdom Brunel pub from 8pm-10pm. The evenings are called 'Sanctuary' and are publicised as 'spirited conversation and skinny ritual'.

It isn't a church in a pub. There's no worship or preaching involved. It's just a chance for people who would feel uncomfortable in church to talk and think a bit more deeply about what they do believe. My aim isn't to get them into church, but simply to give them space to explore these issues. So far I've chosen some fairly broad discussion topics, like life after death, or what things we might regret.