Alistair Birkett is a farmer and lay pioneer leading fresh expressions of church in the Scottish Borders.

Day by day my time is largely spent developing fresh expressions of church whilst running Norham West Mains farm near Berwick upon Tweed. The fresh expressions of church, which are collectively known as Gateways, meet in various different contexts around a monthly cycle.

I am married to Ruth and we have two sons (Sam 23, and Jonah 19). It was after a change in Ruth's family farming business that we moved to the Scottish Borders 10 years ago. I had trained at Moorlands Theological College from 1995-98 and was then involved in leading a community church Cheshire, but we then felt the call to move to this area. Ruth's family had farmed up here for many years and, at the age of 38, I started running this 550-acre arable farm. Our aim was always to make it work alongside some sort of ministry.

Norham West Mains is a reasonably large arable farm, and I use a local agricultural contractor to ease the workload and allow me to develop Gateways.

We had some difficult times when we first came to the Borders, both personally and in trying to discern what we should be doing in ministry – and where. I was working with a local evangelical church for around eight months and I began to feel that I needed to re assess my involvement there. This time then prompted us to ask a lot of questions about what it means to be church in our modern world, and how to minister effectively.

A few years before that the local Church of Scotland minister retired and a locum minister was appointed to serve the rural Parish of Hutton, Fishwick and Paxton. Bill Landale is a visionary guy who has a real understanding of the inherited church model but was exploring the question, 'What else do we do?' He put together a working group to look at future plans because they were down to about 15 people attending and realised that if they didn't engage with the under 50s, the church in this area was completely bust!

Gateways - walk

Facing up to what was a clear missional challenge, that working group carried out an extensive community survey which showed that people in the parish were interested in spiritual things but were not sure about exploring those things within a traditional church model. Those results formed the basis of the Gateways project, starting in January 2011.

Another turning point in the journey came when I attended the North East mission shaped ministry course at Berwick upon Tweed. Sessions also took place with a course based in Tyneside. We knew that Fresh Expressions had been running the mission shaped intro course for a few years, so I took four people along to msm, thinking 'it will be good for them'. I'm sure it was good for them but, in fact, it was I who fell in love with the course! The teaching really helped me in the early days of Gateways because, in our community, we were growing increasingly concerned with inherited, attractional models of church. For years it seemed that I'd been trying to do what we did better instead of asking, 'How do we completely re-form this?'

My role, as project leader, was not to get bums on seats in the local parish church, but was to form a team which would seek to reach families and young people in particular – people who had no formal contact with church at all. The cultural gulf is massive between what happens in a traditional service in the Scottish Borders and a family with kids in their teens!

The Church of Scotland graciously granted us a three year funding package via their Emerging Ministries Fund, and we were tasked to listen, get involved in the community, and begin the journey that has now been going on for over four years. As the work has developed, we have sought to create a fresh expression of church embracing a mixed economy way of working. When we first began Gateways, we were encouraged by the Church of Scotland to be experimental; some things have worked, some have failed but being given permission to fail in an environment of mission is liberating.

There are about 550 people in the parish in total. In terms of population, we live in the 'big village' of Paxton where there is a village hall and a parish church but there is no school and no shop. The smaller of Hutton has a village hall and a church but no other community facility. Fishwick is a hamlet. A new estate has recently been built in Paxton, and although the development only amounts to only around 30 homes, the impact is large in such a dispersed rural area.

We are seeing our Gateways communities develop in different ways with a number of elements, a number of expressions of church life. During 2015 we will see funding from the Church of Scotland Go For It fund tailing off, so we're looking at different grant-making bodies However, we don't want to get into the fundraising trap of trying to find the money to simply exist. Our longer term aim is to be sustainable on a local level, and progress towards this has thus far been very encouraging.

Gateways - quad

The Church of Scotland has been very, very helpful and we still have a close relationship both with the local church, the regional Presbytery, and the team at Go For It. For instance, I recently gave a presentation about Gateways to the local Presbytery which was attended by John Chalmers, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and we're hoping that Gateways will continue to have a close relationship with the Church of Scotland.

Gateways has become constituted as its own church through OSCR (Office of Scottish Charity Regulator) and the key to what we do is serving and developing and growing our different gatherings of people. Gateways started as a 'bolt-on' ministry to the local parish church but, as things moved on, we believed it important to take a step forward as a church in our own right. The Rural Ministries organisation, which also gives us some funding, helped us with the basic framework of a constitution and we then drew on The Church of Scotland statement of belief before taking it to the Scottish charity regulator.

There is no formal link to the Church of Scotland in terms of constitution but four of our five trustees are elders of the local parish church!

We like to run with ideas that we can get people to facilitate. so our young people, for example, suggested that we get involved in Comic Relief. We started by asking the question, 'Would Jesus wear a red nose?' That prompted great discussions and the young people then went on to organise and run coffee morning for Comic Relief. Looking back at the very different areas of Christian ministry I've known, Gateways is the smallest, most fledgling thing I've been involved in, but probably the most exciting!

In our small, rural parish we very much see Gateways as being the local church with two congregations. My wife and I also worship in traditional, inherited church – not only because we believe that's the right thing to do, but also because it reflects a genuine sense of mixed economy in our ministry.

Our monthly Gateways Gatherings take place at 3.30pm on a Sunday afternoon and is aimed at families with young children, food is always a really important element, we always eat together, read Scripture, pray, worship, and have some sort of craft activity linked to the theme. The Gatherings alternate between Hutton and Paxton village halls.

Gateways - sack race

Gateways Fellowship is an opportunity to further the discipleship journey. It began in January 2015 at Paxton village hall and it takes place monthly, at 11.15am on Sunday. Although still focussed around the family, the Fellowship is aimed less at younger children. In terms of style, it's like café church but instead of serving lattes and flat whites, we serve steak sandwiches! The format includes more teaching, questioning and small group discussions.

I'm excited to see that the people coming along to Gateways Gatherings are predominately unchurched, I'd say around 60%. The remainder are de-churched or those fed up with the way church has been, as well as those who are genuinely embracing mixed economy and are also involved in other church contexts.  So far, with the Fellowship, I'd say it's attracting more of the de-churched because it's the most 'church-like' thing that we do. Not everybody that goes to the Gathering would go to the Fellowship.

We also have a fortnightly Discipleship Group in people's homes. We have developed a core team from a discipleship group of 10-12 people; all of whom help to share the load and widen the vision. If everyone comes to the Discipleship Group, we have about 15 people in total and around 6 of them would say that for them the Tuesday Discipleship group is their church.

Developing indigenous leadership takes time but, as we continue in the fifth year of Gateways, we have got to get beyond the stage of, 'If Ali and Ruth don't do it, it won't happen'. Our core team are fantastic, but we haven't made a big thing of who they are and we haven't used a Sunday gathering to introduce them to everyone else; we've deliberately kept it all very low key. I believe that's the right policy because, as has been said to me, 'In many other churches we wouldn't be allowed to give the hymn books out, never mind be on the leadership team!'

Gateways - building

We are regularly forced to reflect theologically, dynamically, on what's happening here. People ask us what Gateways will look like in future. I don't know but we've got to the point of knowing what we wouldn't want to look like! The aim is to be fleet footed and be flexible enough to go in different directions, according to where the Holy Spirit guides us – and all of this is to happen under our three values of hope, creativity and inclusivity.

Word is spreading about Gateways, and I am increasingly being asked to lead infant dedication services and wedding ceremonies. That, in a way, I see as a real sign that we are becoming the church in the village.

I'm not an ordained Church of Scotland minister, but I worked with Bill Landale, as the local minister to do an infant baptism recently; we both just commit to making it work. When there was a baptism in the River Tweed, we both went out and took a shoulder each – again we were committed to working together for the kingdom!

There are always challenges and ours centre on developing local leadership and our long term financial sustainability. I'm only contracted part-time to lead Gateways and on occasion it all seems too much, but God has blessed us, and brought the Core Team together; all of this is nothing to do with our own abilities or strengths, it's all to do with him. I try to keep that in the front of my mind whether sowing seeds of faith or grain.


Just over 12 months ago Ben Edson became Vicar and Missioner to a parish in south Manchester. He had been in the city for 10 years, during which time he pioneered Sanctus1, a fresh expression of church and helped set up the Nexus arts café. Ben tells what has happened since his appointment to parish ministry.

My appointment to St James and Emmanuel, Didsbury, in 2011 meant that I was moving into a more settled expression of Church. I found this quite a challenging move as I asked myself questions such as was I selling out to the institution and how was my experience of pioneering innovative Christian communities going to impact on a more settled expression of church? Perhaps this was one of the reasons that I moved into this post, I'm of the firm belief that fresh expressions of church need to be fully integrated into the life of the Parish church community and I sensed an opportunity to do this.

Abide tables and kitchenI'm sure that many people will have read Ralph Winter's and George Lings' papers on sodal and modal expressions of church. The sodal and modal framework creates space to innovate within the existing structures and also highlight that innovation has always been part of the character of the church of God.

A few months into my appointment I found myself asking, 'How can we affirm the modal yet at the same time search for something more sodal within it?' So I started to search, I started to listen, I continued to pray.

We're a medium-sized church of four congregations. One of those congregations was struggling for a sense of identity and yet alongside this there was a desire for authentic community and a deeper life of commitment to God and to one another. Over the first few months of my appointment I worked with this congregation to listen to God and to one another and also to dream, to open our eyes, to envision and inspire about what we could become.

An early realisation was that the attractional model that had been operated on for so long would no longer work; it would mean be a slow and painful death. Yet, we also recognised that we wanted to be committed to one another in a common lifestyle, in mission and in prayer. And so we went away together to explore what we could be.

Six months on and 'Abide' is what has come into being. I'm never sure how to describe it, it's a community, it's missional, it has new monastic elements to it but I think that the reality is that it is ordinary people with ordinary lives, exploring and learning how to walk an extraordinary path together. We're not experts, we're certainly not spiritual gurus, we're just normal people trying to work it out.

We've found our sense of identity in three places:

  1. The Five Rhythms of Grace
  2. Gatherings
  3. Mission and Prayer

Five Rhythms of Grace

Abide logoThe Rhythms of Grace have been developed by the community of St Chad in Lichfield Diocese. We found them and liked them and so we've adopted them! We think that they encourage us to live as believers in the real world, not in some kind of holy huddle. The term, Rhythms of Grace, is taken from Eugene Peterson's translation of Matthew 11:28, 'Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace'.

The five rhythms are:

  1. By God's grace, I will seek to be transformed into the likeness of Christ;
  2. By God's grace, I will be open to the presence, guidance and power of the Holy Spirit;
  3. By God's grace, I will set aside time for prayer, worship and spiritual reading;
  4. By God's grace, I will endeavour to be a gracious presence in the world, serving others and working for justice in human relationships and social structures;
  5. By God's grace, I will sensitively share my faith with others: participating in God's mission both locally and globally.

These are not rules that dictate behaviour but a starting point to help us to understand who we are and what we need to do to grow as disciples of Christ. As our community takes shape these rhythms will provide the framework that some of us chose to live by.


As Abide we get together in a more organised capacity twice a month. On the second Tuesday, we have a shared meal in Emmanuel Church, Didsbury, where we encourage and support one another in our desire to become people rooted in God and grow in spiritual maturity.

On the fourth Sunday of each month, at 6.15pm – also at Emmanuel – we host a service which is pretty experimental in nature. It could be contemplative, a jazz mass, alternative worship or Taize but, quite simply, it's a space to experiment and to be.

Mission and Prayer

Abide group eatingFor us, mission and prayer go hand-in-hand. All we want to do is follow the example of Jesus in his life, death and resurrection; demonstrating and reflecting God's love. It's our aim to enable and encourage people to do this where they live and work.

At midday each day we encourage people who are part of Abide to recite the Lord's Prayer. We're grateful to the 24-7 Prayer movement as this is something that we borrowed from them. The whole idea of praying at 12noon is that it allows God to interrupt our day. Whether you're into a regular time of prayer or not, disciplining yourself to pray slap bang in the middle of the day means your mind turns to God, irrespective of how busy your day is.

So that is Abide. The journey started about a year ago but we've only just gone public. We think that we're in the process of discovering the sodal within the modal, and in this process of discovery we hope and pray that we become a community that helps to bring renewal to the modal.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St Ives Café Church

Matt FinchSt Ives Methodist Church, Cambridgeshire, hosts Café Church once a month. Minister Matt Finch explains how the church's new website has also helped to 'open the door' to newcomers.

We recently launched our new site and it is fascinating to see how it is being used. I'm finding that it acts as more of a front door than the church's real front door; I'm getting regular emails from people asking things like, 'how do you come to church?', 'Is it all right to just turn up at church or do I need a special invitation?' The internet allows them to step across the church threshold and allows us to step across the threshold into their world too. In time I hope the website will become a real focal point for what's going on so that it will create a community outside the building.

At St Ives Methodist, the journey has always been about a mixed economy approach. The pressure with that revolves around working with those folk used to established ways of doing things and those who bring in newer idea. I'd like to say that all parts of the church at St Ives are finding renewal in what we are doing but there are always going to be difficult and honest discussions about the best way forward.

St Ives Café Church - teapotFor us at the moment, fresh expressions is about seeing what can be done with a real missional intention in this church setting. Café Church is a case in point; it is now attracting an average of 100 people – sometimes up to 130. For those folks there's no doubt that it's a real blessing; we've got an all-age band together and it's interesting that – apart from me and one other person – the Café planning team is made up entirely of people who weren't in the church three years ago.

Discipleship is developing through those planning meetings because we talk about faith as we look ahead and talk and work things out. We engage with people where they are and try to answer the questions they have.

We don't have to advertise the Café Church at all because it's all about drawing together different networks and making them feel welcome. Email is important and Twitter increasingly, because just one email will be sent around to everyone's personal network of friends. You just have to have the trust and confidence to let the information go out there and be distributed. It's a real joy to see how things develop; someone who has been on the fringes of church and is now café regular recently said, 'I want to be confirmed'. I'm still trying to work out what that would mean in a café context.

St Ives Café Church - globeCafé Church takes place from 10.30am on the 3rd Sunday of the month with tea, coffee and pastries served from 10am. We also offer a podcast from of every service Church for those who would like a taste of all our service without committing themselves to coming.

There is space to talk with others, join in the activities, reflect quietly, sing a song if you like or just read a Sunday newspaper. We know that lots of people want to talk about faith, even want to come to Church, but find a traditional service hard to understand, or boring to sit through, or just plain confusing.

As a church the children stay in every week because we had recognised that a traditional Sunday School wasn't working for us any more. We also understand that weekends are precious times for families to be together so we wanted to create a fun, engaging space where children and young people can feel welcome too.

We provide good quality children's toys and activities in the back corner of the church so, yes, it can be noisy at times but that's the way it is with children. I appreciate that some people can find that difficult but I've also had messages from others saying, 'The reason we have stayed with you is because you don't send our children out.' When they are encountering church for the first time they really don't want their kids to go out to another room with a stranger. They want to be together. I suppose we are making a stand for how families operate these days and changing our way of doing things in order to accommodate those who know nothing of the way that churches traditionally work.

St Ives Café Church - buildingFor those looking for a creative and engaging place to think about God, we have a monthly alternative worship service called Breathe. Some of those who come along have been Christians for many years while others would struggle to identify themselves as Christian and are just looking for a place to reflect on spirituality.

We also have a young adults group known as Phos (Ancient Greek word for light) trying to think through life and faith in the 21st Century. They meet in people's homes to look at various topics, talk about them together and pray. If I'm honest this is struggling a bit but trust that the Holy Spirit will guide us in what is next.

I've now been here for nearly four years and the idea is that St Ives Methodist Church should become a centre of excellence, a place which could inspire and change a whole Circuit. We have run the mission-shaped intro course for instance; we provide café resources for other churches, I meet with leaders and try to offer a central hub where people can find out more about this thing called fresh expressions of church. What does it look like in reality? What does it mean to be a place for waiting on God? We look at these things constantly and we know there is no such thing as a 'quick fix' as we see how God shapes what we do and around those who seem to like the idea of joining us.

Tas Valley Cell Church

In the Tas Valley Team Ministry, there are six traditional parish churches and a cell church comprising six adult cell churches and a youth cell. This 'mixed economy' reflects the nature of rural networks, some of which cross the villages through social links, others of which are village-based.

It is mixed here,

says Tas Valley vicar, Sally Gaze. She gives the example of a young mothers' cell which grew out of an Alpha course.

It was the easiest Alpha ever because they were all very alike and opened up to each other very quickly, but they were from three different villages. If we had focused on one parish we wouldn't have got enough people together. By enabling certain groups to come together, we strengthen them to be part of the church as a whole.

Sally explains that the Tas Valley group of churches is still working out what it means to be connected to its different parts, both village to village and cell to traditional church. Cells have about ten members each, the parish churches between six and 45 members. Many of the cell members are also members of one of the parish churches – but new Christians usually join a cell in the first instance. Sometimes they later start coming to Sunday parish church services as well.

Sally believes that the presence of cells in the mix helps to create unity. The success of this approach is reflected in the supportive presence of four members of a very traditional ('Book of Common Prayer') congregation at a cell-led monthly seeker service. The cells also contribute towards their 'parent' churches' finances.

Respecting both the traditional way of doing church and the needs of those outside it 'to discover Jesus, too'

If you're in a cell it's much easier to think that you can't be church on your own than when you have a medieval building,

Sally says.

Cells are more fluid so members think benefice-wide. Often the members of a cell will come from three or four different villages and help to draw the congregations from those villages together in understanding.

We don't bring the six parish churches together with the cell church very often  because we've tried to maintain the witness of Sunday church in every village. When we do come together we can do something of a higher quality.

United benefice services happen about three times a year. Benefice-wide events focus on socials, outreach activities such as holiday clubs, training events and 24-7 Prayer.

Respecting both the traditional way of doing church and the needs of those outside it 'to discover Jesus, too' has seen this rural benefice celebrate and share in the life of faith in all its members.

The cells, says rector Sally Gaze (in mission-shaped and rural: growing churches in the countryside, CHP, 2006),

worshipped and loved, they related to the wider church and respected the authority of its leaders, and participated in the sacraments… they engaged in mission.

Putting the cells together, the cell church was also as strongly attended as some Sunday services with around 8-10 members in each cell (making 40-50 members) compared with 6-45 in each parish church.

In a mixed economy benefice, the question arose: how can a growing number of cell churches find their legal standing alongside the traditional churches?

We felt it was time to help the cell church grow up and take responsibility,

says Sally, who also wanted to give the cells a secure place within the benefice.

We felt that cell church members should give to the cell church. It also makes a statement that giving to church is not just about keeping buildings going – our cell church doesn't have a building.

So the benefice discussed with the diocese ways in which cell members could give to their church that would enable it to claim back tax as in traditional offertories. In 2005 a cell bank account was set up, an important step in acknowledging the Tas Valley cells as part of the Church of England as a whole.

The bank account, says Sally,

encourages us to sort out giving, to encourage Gift Aid and teach stewardship. The cells pay a couple of thousand towards the benefice share. This is less than their numerical strength would suggest because a number of people are brand new Christians who will take a time to sort out financial stewardship, and others are members of both cell and parish congregation.

We didn't want to reduce the income of parish congregations so where people are members of both cell and parish church, they either stick with their parish giving or give on top of that to the cell church. The proportion of benefice share that the cell church and all the PCCs pay is kept under annual review.

The cell church has a cell leaders' meeting rather than a PCC and is still

a peculiarity on the edge of the diocese. But in the benefice itself it is treated as an equal member of the team of churches and represented on our equivalent of a team council.

Barney and Judes

Tim Sanderson leads a café church for 18-30s at St Barnabas and St Jude's, Sandyford, Newcastle. Organisers feel they have been 'running to keep up with God' since Barney and Judes got off the ground in 2010.

One year ago, we were exploring closing our building in this community as the Sunday service had seven regular attenders and building costs were mounting.

Barney and Jude's - MosaicSandyford used to be a family-based community but in recent years has become a place known for cheap student houses, a place where 83% of the local community is aged between 18 and 30. Working with the existing church membership and in partnership with Holy Trinity Church, Jesmond, we converted the building into a cafe space to reach that 83%.

Our aim was to establish a fresh expression of church for those unchurched 18-30s in Sandyford by creating a welcoming and vibrant living space; planting and growing a worshipping community and serving that community.

Renovating the existing facilities has resulted in the cafe-style venue, comprising a warm, relaxing 'lounge' for those in multiple occupancy dwellings. The flexible area, where coffees and cakes are served, is furnished with sofas and offers free Wi-Fi. Students and other young adults are invited to drop in and use the space for chat, performance, art and so on whilst building relationships with the team.

Our café style fresh expression of church runs on Wednesday nights and we have a parallel new work amongst seniors called 'vintage' on Thursdays. The café space itself opens from 4pm to 11pm every weekday evening. We also have teams going door-to-door in the community offering to clear up front gardens and remove graffiti. These teams are drawn from Holy Trinity and Agape student ministries – and a few local residents.

Barney and Jude's - foodWe feel we are running to keep up with God and are delighted at how well the work has started. In a community dominated by multi-occupancy dwellings where no-one has a lounge any more, we are providing one! As part of a community in which seniors and students clash over noise issues and untidy gardens, we are working with both groups and pray that Barney and Judes will become a venue for communication and reconciliation. It's early days, but the first signs are promising.

The Wednesday night fresh expression is intentionally missional and is becoming a new congregation for unchurched and some dechurched. At this stage it's just a small number but they are attracted to the café space and the team who run the fresh expression. We offer many alternative worship opportunities at Holy Trinity in the next parish and have been encouraging any Christians who turn up at Barney and Judes to go there rather than stay with us.

Barney and Jude's - crossNewcastle has a number of large student/young adult churches which do great work but we are interested in the students and young professionals who are put off by large church initiatives, or who would never think to go near them, even when invited by their friends. These are people who struggle with hierarchies and up-front driven programmes. Taking a café style approach seems to be working; it means we not only come together as a fledgling community but also keep in our small groups around tables. This distinctive and focussed missional approach means that regular use of the venue by other church-based student/young adult groups is not encouraged.

We really want to engage with what is called the 'Urban Intelligent'. That title comes from a socio-economic analysis system known as MOSAIC which classifies UK households by ward or postcode. The April 2010 MOSAIC profile of South Jesmond ward, indicates that 83% of the population are ‘Urban Intelligent’: these are students or young professionals living in multi-occupancy dwellings (42% short term student renters; 29% economically successful singles; 15% well educated singles and childless couples). They are the dominant constituent of the local population and therefore the primary focus of mission.

Some 15% of the population here are active older people. The current inherited churches between them cover an extensive local network of seniors. This is a secondary focus of mission.

Barney and Jude's - posterThe church centre is still faithfully used on a Sunday morning at 9.30am by a small group of older ladies – three of whom have just celebrated their 90th birthdays. That operates as a completely separate congregation. What is fun is overseeing a mixed economy in the same building. I'm also interested in how the two congregations might talk together in future about some of the inevitable tensions between students and seniors in this area.

We want to continue planting and growing a worshipping community within the context of a weekly meal, grouped around small group discussion, creative worship opportunities, and some input from the front. Collaborative working is at the heart of this venture. The congregation of St Barnabas and St Jude's have offered significant finances to help with buildings improvement and the part-employment of a parish assistant, but personnel for this venture has been more widely drawn from two main sources: Holy Trinity Church, and Agape Student Ministries.

I lead the small steering team representing all three partners which reports back to each meeting of the PCC of St Barnabas and St Jude. The wider diocese has offered a level of financial support and is kept informed as the initiative develops. The steering team is committed to work flexibly, holding structures lightly and engage in regular review/assessment of the work. In that way we want to model flexibility and openness – in all that we do.

Barney and Jude's - Band


Church of England minister Nick Crawley knew that he wanted his next post to be about mission not maintenance. So he wrote to the Bishop of Bristol to suggest launching a network church. After a series of meetings he began work on his new 'parish' of Bristol-based young adults in 2004.

We have no church building, no parish, no PCC, no inherited congregation,

Nick says.

I had no weddings or funerals to do so I was free to start from scratch.

An original team of three families drawn to the network church idea began meeting in Nick's family home in central Bristol. As the new church grew, it began to rent space in Starbucks. It now meets in a larger coffee house on Tuesday evenings attended by an average of 30 people who eat, worship, discuss and pray together. Roughly half of these were not previously attending or committed to a church.

One-to-ones and training teams continue the work of discipleship.

Nick attributes the growth of this network church, Crossnet, among students and young professionals to 'word of mouth'. The church has seen four conversions and others growing in their faith.

The two emphases are mission and discipleship,

says Nick.

There is no doubt that the commitment people have to loving one another is growing.

Crossnet aims to be self-funding by the end of 2009.

Kairos, Harrogate

Kairos – previously St Mary's Low Harrogate – was launched when the Rt Revd John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, gave his blessing to the latest Bishop's Mission Order church. What does it mean to be a BMO? Pioneer Minister Mark Carey outlines the story so far.

We launched our radical form of network church in October 2010 so obviously everything is still very new. It's a fledgeling community but we are very excited about the opportunities opening up.

In saying that, we are very much in a transition stage with elements of inherited church in the midst of all the other stuff going on – it’s a classic mixed economy encapsulated into one setting!

Kairos Harrogate - picnicFormerly Priest in Charge at St Mary's, I have been here for three years with the first being taken up by testing and seeing. Two years further down the line and there have been some really encouraging things along the way, not least the development of Kairos, but now we need to try and embed a new vision and work out how it looks to be in a way that's centralised – yet decentralised. We're in new territory here so things take time – but that's fine.

Some things look familiar, such as our using a hall in Harrogate for Sunday worship once a fortnight and a weekly 9am Communion service but other things are very different. Kairos, while one church, is also a group of smaller network churches, small to mid-size groups of up to 30 people known, officially, as mid-sized/mission-shaped communities (MSCs). Each of these communities is treated as a church in its own right, meeting not in a church building but in all sorts of places like homes, cafes or pubs.

Kairos Church is about becoming a new kind of church which focuses on releasing communities of followers to live out the mission of Jesus. This is being worked out through people who are good news in our workplaces, families and friendships.

Kairos Harrogate - Meeting

In saying that we very much value our place in the Church of England as a fresh expression of church within the Anglican tradition. We are:

  • influenced by rule of life of the Order of Mission;
  • involved in the New Wine movement;
  • focused on prioritising partnership in mission with other churches.

But the history of St Mary's and how things have changed in this area can find echoes in CofE parishes up and down the country. This parish was originally established to serve an area of Harrogate from the centre near the Pump Rooms right up to Harlow Hill at the edge of the town. Two worship centres were built, St Mary's as the main parish church and All Saints – a chapel at the top of Harlow Hill for the surrounding area.

St Mary's was closed in January 2007 due to severe problems with the building. At almost the same time All Saints had to close its doors, again because of concerns about the building, and it was formally shut down in 2009. The church continued to pray and work towards effective discipleship and mission and St Mary's moved into Harrogate Grammar School for Sunday services until Summer 2008.

By then it had started a significant transition from parish church to a fresh expression of church serving the whole deanery of Harrogate. Fully part of the Deanery and the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds, St Mary's became Kairos Church because Kairos is a Greek word of great significance for Christians as it speaks of the appointed time in the purpose of God.

Kairos Harrogate - Winter Gardens

We continue to meet together twice a month in a hall that houses the Kairos Church office and various activities. It is also used by a number of local community organisations.

Our vision is to release communities of followers to live the mission of Jesus, encourage many communities of followers of Jesus released to do what they think Jesus would do – and is doing – see all ages engaged in the joy of being the church on the move people and learning together how to be disciples as they go.

We have got a great bunch of people here with some joining us because they fully support our vision while others have taken the journey from the old St Mary's into the new Kairos. There are those who just take it on board instinctively and others like being part of it but who are struggling to understand it or only understand elements of it. Most get the fact that if we don't function in a number of different ways we are unlikely to be able to engage with the large percentage of people who won't be attracted through the doors traditionally.

There is no hostility but there is a real mixture of uptake on the vision and very different interpretations within the mission shaped congregations themselves. People do have very, very, different understandings of what we're doing and why but I'd expect that at this stage!

Kairos Harrogate - Oasis

Some of our MSCs are developing well. Wanderers are led by an early retired couple with experience and real passion for the Gospel. They also have a deep understanding about what they are doing in that they are going out on the streets and are very purposeful. People coming to that tend to be from mid-30s to early 50s.

They have been developing this community long before Kairos became a BMO but the group is developing with regular attendance up to 18 and another 10 people who consider themselves to be in relationship with them.

We also have Eucharist in a pub by using a family room in Wetherspoons for Curry and Communion. Our MSCs do all sorts of things because they are in the sort of environment where they feel free to fail. Some of our MSC leaders, from a traditional church background, are happy to no longer be drawn into any of the 'performance' that can accompany what it means to be church.

One of my hopes for 2011 is that we will get our first multiplications of MSCs this year. I also pray for fruitfulness from all the sowing of relationships across this area. We are going to start a new MSC at the start of the year which will take us to six and I would like to see another couple of MSCs. Some of them are very small but they have a very real sense of purpose.

Kairos Harrogate - candlesEcumenical relations are very important to us and we welcomed quite a lot of church leaders from the area to our launch in October. Among the denominations there is a great deal of understanding and we get a lot of support as a deanery initiative.

One of the key concepts we have worked with since the earliest days of the transition to a fresh expression of church is that of being a tent community with a tent mentality. We have found ourselves without church buildings, enabling us to develop a mentality that is at heart simple and flexible. Only time will tell how that mentality will translate into the life and work of Kairos.


Grafted - Paul LittleRefresh, a fresh expression of church in the Scottish Borders, has grown out of the Church Army's Grafted project. Established in 2003 by Church Army officer Paul Little, Refresh continues to develop new ministries in the region.

I came to the area in 2001 straight out of Church Army college and my first post was as an evangelist in the outdoor centre here which belongs to Barnabas Trust, now known as Rock UK. We are 25 miles north east from Carlisle and 20 miles south of Hawick in the Scottish Borders, the very furthest tip of Edinburgh diocese. There's somewhere around 800 in the traditionally agricultural community though there is a lot of tourism in the summer.

I was placed with another officer and my brief was to be an evangelist on the site to the 9,000 people who visited very year but it soon became clear to me that the future job would be very different. God had called me here but it was to be for another reason and this started to take shape after I ran a 10-week course for six people recognised as most serious offenders in the youth justice system. During that time one did reoffend but otherwise everybody had a clean sheet and the police would ring up asking where they were! Basically it worked because the young people had something to do on a Friday which appealed to their sense of adventure and helped them develop skills at the same time.

Grafted - bikeThey ranged from 12/13 year-olds up to 16 and were basically pre-prison status. It was an experimental last ditch programme and things have developed a lot more since then. Many of the young people I have met along the way are now in their early 20s and those relationships bring lots of opportunities.

Those first few years saw me heavily involved in networking with youth work, social justice projects and drug agencies so that when it came to running the stuff we are now running, there were already strong relationships in place and they were prepared to trust us. It may have appeared to be quite unfruitful at the time but those early links have become vital. Many of the people I first came across are now key decision makers and budget holders in the area but it all takes time and you have to allow that time if things are going to be effective. These days we get a lot of referrals from social workers – even though they know we’re Christian and we're trying to tell the Gospel. The local council also funds us to run the youth work in the village.

Grafted - BordersGrafted (Giving Hope to those Without Hope) is known locally for its work with people struggling with drug and alcohol dependency. Using outdoor activities such as canoeing, mountain biking and mountaineering, Grafted's Window of Time project helps to develop leadership and self esteem in those with poor basic and social skills, or those with learning disabilities or emotional and behavioural difficulties.

The project runs 5 days a week, including a drop-in on Tuesdays at Hawick Youth Centre. This provides a safe and supportive environment with opportunities to talk to others who have been able to overcome their own addictions and hear their stories. There is also a discussion group for those wanting to talk about issues of faith and the bigger questions of life.

Each Wednesday we encourage people from the drop-in to join us for adventurous outdoor activities which help promote an active lifestyle. These include hill walking, canoeing, kayaking, archery and mountain biking. Throughout the rest of the week, we support people in a variety of ways by attending appointments, accompanying them to court and showing kindness and support where needed.

Grafted - drop-inWe have an open access policy and anyone over 18 is welcome to attend.

Referrals and recommendations also come through social workers, health professionals and the Criminal Justice system.

The other strand to all of this is the fact that my wife and I joined the Presbyterian Church when we moved here. In fact I was actually preaching in a Presbyterian Church when I felt a strong calling from God to leave and begin another one. What sprang to mind was, 'Leave the 99 sheep and look for the lost one' from Matthew 18 and Luke 15. It sounds simple but I went through a year without going to church as an 'event' and instead learned about 'being' the church rather than 'doing' it.

Grafted - signpostRefresh Community Church in Newcastleton was the result of that period. About three quarters of the people who have come over all are non-Christians and we have grown to about 20 in number with some 60 people from the community involved in one way or another. There are also groups that meet under the banner of Refresh, all of which are missional because the people who make up the leadership are locals who have been through Alpha.

It's normal for them to do things that are missional but that is something else that has taken time as well. We had to be strong at one particular point because we found there were a lot of people who were already Christians attracted to Refresh and they wanted things to become more settled and comfortable. It meant we had to be quite firm in saying that we were called to be a mission group in the village. We work well alongside the Presbyterian Church but have always had this vision of Refresh as a lifeboat and we do our best never to become a cruise ship. That doesn't suit everybody but some people just want to cruise and enjoy all the benefits that brings.

Grafted - paintsWhen we meet for Refresh, there is usually discussion and some sung worship. We don't have anybody at all who is ordained – we never have had on the leadership team. Children's work didn't really take place in the community when we started Refresh but it is flourishing now.

Stepping Stones is church for two to four-year-olds and their parents and carers. This takes place each Monday and has become an integral part of the week for many.

Other children's activities include Boulder Gang on Thursdays and Rock Solid Crew. The groups are run in six week blocks and there are social events in between, things like games nights, activity sessions, movie nights and adventure walks. Each week we follow a theme based on a Bible story and a memory verse and we include games, worship, and prayer. We have an average of 25 primary school children coming along each week, with 16 of those not attending any other form of church.

In June we took a group of 32 of these young people to a Christian residential weekend called 'Spree'. They all had a great time and are already looking forward to going back next year.

Grafted - NewcastletonMore recently, and as part of Refresh, Deeper was developed for 14 to 19-year-olds in the village. Deeper is a home group for teenagers, which meets each Sunday in a Church Army house we have here. The aim of the group is to disciple the young people who come along and encourage them to grow deeper in their relationship with God. The evening consists of games, a talk and discussion with food. On average 12 young people attend regularly. We see youth work as a priority so we are looking at new ways of developing youth work for 2011.

At the other end of the age range, another group came about when Mary – a member of Refresh – felt called by God to invite the elderly people we visit each week to come to a regular tea party. Mary serves a home-cooked meal with plenty of cakes and scones for afters. Our guests chat to their peers and lifelong friends who they haven’t seen for years and this is sometimes followed by a short time of worship and a speaker talking about some aspect of their Christian faith.

Some of those at Refresh are still involved with their local church and we did come close to meeting on a Sunday because we wanted to reach families but we decided that wasn't the right way forward. We have explored, and continue to explore, a lot of options but the important thing is that we see ourselves as part of the one Church with Jesus at the head of it.

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.