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

When you have nothing, the sacrament is everything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

authentic (?)

Alex SmeedA docklands regeneration project in Glasgow is now home to hundreds of people – and The Glasgow Harbour initiative known as authentic (?). Church of Scotland minister Alex Smeed, one of the authentic (?) leaders, explains how churches in the area set it up in response to a call for new ways of 'doing' church.

We started by asking ourselves the question, 'What does living out God's kingdom look like for the people here?' The 'how' of listening led us to observe and investigate our surroundings through an 18-month mission audit – not only to understand the culture of individuals moving in but also what their homes, cars, and the type of local shops being built said about them.

authentic (?) - flatsThe audit firstly focused on qualitative data which included us intentionally spending time in the area itself to try and ascertain who the residents were, what kind of culture they came from, what hours they kept and where they worked.

The second, quantitative, aspect was a much more book-based analysis. We looked at old Ordnance Survey Maps of the area, researched history books as to previous land ownership to glean how it had changed over many years and to see where we could go in the future – to find what were the 'keys to the gospel.'

One of our key questions was, 'How do we take the mission audit's conclusions and turn them into a positive reality?' A hankering for community was identified as important but the design of the buildings, with many security features for residents, actually inhibited community – particularly as there were no communal meeting places in the development.

authentic (?) - walkingSome of our team moved into a flat in the harbour to have a place on site where people could be invited for a meal and generally practice hospitality. We continue to explore ways in which they can gather people together, including the launch of our authentic (?) curry house as a 'pop-up restaurant' and the development of a greater internet presence in order to promote online community.

The authentic (?) curry house runs one Saturday night in every month from 8pm to 10pm, usually at The Annexe in Partick, where there's room for 30 people to have a four-course vegetarian meal and drinks. We charge £10 for the food and drinks, including our home made mango lassi and chai! I am the chef and my wife Sally does everything else.

authentic (?) - lightsAs authentic (?) we're also looking at things like having a regular running community. We would also love to offer free, organic, fairly traded beautiful coffees to people as they leave for work in the morning. All these sorts of ideas are things that we are pursuing, we believe in a God who blesses and so we want to pursue that, we want to embody that in everything we do.

Eventually we hope to grow the team to round about eight. Those who do join spend quite a long time with us as sort of a journeying process, making sure that we share values and vision and that our basis of faith is common before we start working together. We like to be very close within the team, that we spend a lot of time in one another's company and nurture and care for each other but we also want to maintain our outward focus and keep that missional outlook in everything that we do.

authentic (?) - plateWe are doing all of this hand in hand with other Christians in this area so that we can be as effective as possible, living out the unity of that body. Part of our vision is to see people reconnected with God, seeing that relationship restored and so we're going to be intentional about the way that we invite people to experience God, to live a life that is transformed by a relationship with him. It's about having the integrity to talk about that, to invite people into a place where they can explore in a contextually relevant way what it means to follow Jesus in this area.

If you feel you might be being prompted into a new missional context and would like to find out more about joining the authentic (?) team, contact us on

3.08 @ Kingshill, Nailsea

When the Bishop told Associate Vicar Steve Tilley he would be comfortable with a few ‘heroic failures’ he gave permission to those wanting to start fresh expressions of church to experiment in a daring way. The leaders at Christ Church, Nailsea in the Diocese of Bath and Wells, took him at his word. Here Steve takes up the story.

Why didn't Christ Church, Nailsea reach families in one of its more distant estates effectively? 10 am Sunday, with a walk involving crossing the main road, may not have been an attractive proposition.

So we decided we would like to have a go at planting an all-age congregation in Kingshill School. It was easy to reach, and attended by the children of many of our target families. We opted for a monthly service and it didn’t clash with Christ Church's own all-age service. But what about Sunday lie-ins, local football teams and Sunday morning shopping trips? Inevitably this conversation happened:

'What time shall we start?'

'How about 3.00 or 3.30?'

'Why do church services always start at times like that?'

'Don't know.'

'Why don't we start at a strange time; then everyone will remember it?'

'What, like eight minutes past three or something?'

'Why not?'

And 3.08 was born. We expected everyone would arrive at 3.15. We planned that the first seven minutes of our event would be good, but never important. Over the next two years only once was anyone late. People tended to arrive for 3.00. We finished by 4.00 pm with tea, cake and chat.

Lesson one: start at a memorable time.

How did we try and attract people? We leafleted every house in the neighbourhood. We put an entry in Kingshill School parents' sheet. We advertised in the local paper. We used word of mouth. We gave everyone who attended a postcard with the details of the next two events.

On our launch 43 people turned up. Many had come to support us from local churches. There were few, genuine newcomers. That was disappointing and it  proved to be the highest number we ever got. Most of our guests over the next two years were folks from other churches interested in trying it themselves. That may be where it bears fruit, we thought.

The content? We went for simple teaching and worship with activity. For the first year we worked through the creed, in the second year the Lord's Prayer. We grew in confidence as a team and our mini-dramas were appreciated. A puppet, Russell (the crow) asked awkward questions by holding up laminated sheets with his beak. We used many of Dave and Lyn Hopwood's Telling Tales resources (CPAS). For our prayers we tended to split into three groups so that some could talk and meditate, some pray together and some work on a craft.

We planned carefully every month (we met at 6.08 for about an hour – the 08 was catching). One of us would bring an outline and then we'd put some meat on the bones, allocate tasks and fix the running order. Lots of the details were finalised by email.

Lesson two: a wise use of technology can keep preparation meeting time low.

Sadly, despite working really hard on our publicity, we never penetrated our target constituency. Maybe there wasn't enough personal invitation by word of mouth? Maybe the idea was flawed from the start? Perhaps it simply wasn't God's will for now. There will be many reasons why 3.08 at Kingshill didn’t work as we hoped.

Reluctantly we took the decision to stop after two years and 22 events. The all-age leading skills learned will be used at Christ Church. An afternoon event at that church is being mooted. A couple of us are going to try another angle and maybe target men.

Lesson three: if it isn't working, stop.