Church of the Good Shepherd

Trish Calvert explores the story of the Church of the Good Shepherd in the Shrewsbury Methodist Circuit and their desire to serve the mission and ministry needs of housebound older people, ‘congregating in a new way’.

In 2006 the Shrewsbury Methodist Circuit birthed a new network church called the Church of the Good Shepherd, aimed at older people. The vision centred on addressing the needs of a growing number of elderly and housebound people. I was employed as the Circuit Pastoral Worker to housebound people for two days a week. The aim of this ministry was to offer prayer, comfort and spiritual support in addition to that given by pastoral leaders, and to take the church into the homes of members who were no longer able to attend church. Opportunity to receive 'extended holy communion' was to be an important part of this ministry.

Several months were spent, simply visiting and getting to know new people. Listening to them and discerning their needs was a vital part of this process, together with letting them get to know me. The giving of prayerful support and encouragement was all part of building relationships within the network of the Church of the Good Shepherd.

Within the first year a quarterly service of extended holy communion was offered to everyone who wanted it, in their own home (most people who live in residential accommodation already have the opportunity to receive communion from local ministers). I make a point of giving special attention to the detail of extended communion. We produced specially printed service booklets containing a message from the Superintendent Minister, a starched lace cloth, a cross and a proper communion set. All serve to make this a special occasion.

Church of the Good Shepherd

The introduction of hymns and carols (using CDs and a portable player) to begin and end the service has also been enthusiastically received. On these occasions, I can often bring together small groups of friends, family, neighbours and pastoral visitors who all add to the fellowship of the occasion.

During the first year, special prayer cards were made and circulated to all the housebound members. These contained topics for prayer as well as a specially written prayer based on words from John 10. This prayer is often incorporated into our extended communion services.

During the second year, I introduced a quarterly newsletter to help keep the members in touch and informed. It is called 'the Flock' and members contribute short articles and testimonies about themselves and their experiences on a regular basis. We also share special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries.

Through the information contained in the newsletters we have enabled many of the housebound to participate in other Methodist circuit events such as a 'Pray without Ceasing' event and a week of prayer. I am always looking for ways we can include the housebound in the life of the local church.

The housebound members are also encouraged by me to use the Methodist Prayer Handbook which they can order through me. This is also one of my most used resources when visiting.

For the future, we are planning a special one-day event during the summer, to which we shall invite the more able and mobile of our elderly members. It will be a day of fun, fellowship and entertainment, in a lovely venue with all meals provided, and an opportunity for church fellowships to be involved in supporting this day.

The Community of Aidan and Hilda

The Community of Aidan and Hilda is an internationally dispersed community of Christians following a Way of Life and a Rule of Prayer.

Sixty members, described as Voyagers, and over 100 Explorers, who are testing out their membership, keep in touch with Community Guardians in places such as Lindisfarne and London from their homes in the UK and around the world. A sister community in the US has over 100 Voyagers.

Founded in 1994, the Community is the fruit of regular meetings and prayer between seven church workers who discovered a shared vision for

a new way of being church,

says the Community's International Guardian, Ray Simpson.

Meeting overnight once every three months at a Christian centre in central England, they developed a Way of Life. After three years, this was presented at a symposium where they attracted their first 27 members.

Annual gatherings in central England continue. Voyagers also take an annual retreat together at Whitby. Regional groups are developing, with a particularly thriving group in Zimbabwe. Community houses in Birmingham and Lindisfarne provide 'spiritual homes'.

They're very important as places anybody feels they can come to,

says Ray. There can also be linked ministries, cells and churches.

Aside from face-to-face meetings such as these, the community stays in touch through the internet, a magazine, prayer, and hospitality in members' homes

A quarterly magazine and prayer diary lists every Voyager and Explorer, while detailed prayer requests are received at the Lindisfarne home of the community, the Open Gate, where they are offered at the midday and night prayer services each day.

Ray describes these daily prayer patterns as

most important.

Members know that there is prayer at midday and 9pm at the Open Gate,

he says.

The daily rhythm of prayer is not prescribed; it is encouraged. The liturgical use the daily pattern; the non-liturgical use it as a resource.

'Aidan and Hilda is a bridge for a lot of people who are very New Age or neo-pagan and have a vision of Jesus or are inspired by contact with the community'

Voyagers have access to PALM on the community's website, a prayer and listening ministry where Voyagers can post prophetic words, insights and prayers.

As a mark of identification, every new Voyager receives a wooden Celtic cross inscribed with A and H, and a handbook. Each Voyager is accompanied by a 'soul friend' to help them on their faith journey. Ray keeps in touch with members individually by telephone and email. Each member works with a soul friend, and the community seeks to resource soul friends.

This close communication from the heart of the community means that people all over the world are finding a way to be part of church. Ray tells of a heavy metal band leader in Australia whose band is now a link ministry with the community, and of a cell church in Oxfordshire made up of members of different churches, which finds a coherence through membership of Aidan and Hilda.

And it is not just church members who find a spiritual home in the community.

Aidan and Hilda is a bridge for a lot of people who are very New Age or neo-pagan and have a vision of Jesus or are inspired by contact with the community,

says Ray.

One such woman was baptised in the sea after discussing the nature of church with Ray. Unable to commit to the church as she viewed it, she felt she could commit to the 'family and friends of Jesus' and even worship with them in places she might find difficult.

Until fresh expressions we would have said we were not a church, but I think now we realise that the universal Body of Christ is bigger than any one part,

says Ray.


When, in 2001, Deanery Youth Missioner Derek Spencer began researching youth work among the parishes in his Horsham area deanery, he found that nothing was on.

He invited young people connected with his 20 local, largely village churches to fortnightly meetings. One was held in a village hall, the other in a grammar school, both at different ends of the deanery to make the groups widely accessible.

With an emphasis on the social aspect of the Sunday evenings, the initial twelve members grew over a year to 35 Christians and non-Christians, who were keen to attend every week regardless of distance. As a result, the two groups amalgamated.

The best youth work is done in social events when the guards come down and they are relaxed,

Derek believes.

We built in a spiritual programme, but it was relaxed, not hard-line, a platform for their questions.

Further activities included a week's camping and a weekend away in a forest cottage, events still regarded as highlights.

'The best youth work is done in social events when the guards come down and they are relaxed'

Derek had also been visiting local schools, giving lessons and assemblies. The drama hall of the largest struck him as a potential venue for a service.

I spoke to the young people who were excited about using their school for God,

he says.

A meeting was held in Derek's own home – of those he had approached from among the adults of the deanery, including some parents – to pray and plan. A pilot service in 2003 led to Eden, a monthly, Sunday evening multimedia service, often employing zones (which people could dip in and out of), and with the freedom to grab coffee or coke at any time. While generally around 100, for special events such as a visit from Matt Redman, numbers can rise dramatically as young people and interested adults come from across the diocese.

In 2004, Derek was ordained in a unique training programme, a development in his personal journey, and this has enabled Eden to hold services of Holy Communion, often using material from the Iona Community. Derek's ordination to priest was held during an Eden service at the school.

Despite Eden's diocesan-wide appeal, Derek is concerned for the youth he began with, many of whom count Eden as their church and who were uninvolved with church previously.

'I don't want it to become just another church; I want to keep original and keep pushing the boundaries'

I want to make church for them,

he says. In 2005, Eden became a fortnightly service, alternating between a service and a 'talkzone' which takes the form of a public debate between local experts, followed by discussion groups and feedback. An extra service was held on Easter Day

to show that Eden is a church.

Derek foresees the ongoing youth groups amalgamating within Eden to become weekly cells and Eden itself happening weekly. In the meantime, it already has its own bank account and support from donations.

I don't want it to become just another church,

Derek says.

I want to keep original and keep pushing the boundaries.

What began with twelve local teenagers meeting in two different spots has grown into a fortnightly Eucharistic gathering held in a school, attended by around 100 young people and adults with a vision to grow into deeper fellowship.

New Song Café

New Song Café has been running at Bold Street Methodist Church, Warrington, for three years. Jackie Bellfield traces its story as a fresh expression of church.

It's amazing to think back to how it all got started and what our intentions were with it. The whole point was for it to be a stepping stone to some sort of gathering in a local Costa.

We did not anticipate that people would come in the numbers they did and we still welcome new people every month to the Bold Street Mission's church hall but we're not in Costa… yet! We're currently up to 125 and we'd struggle to fit more people in at the moment. About 30% of regular attenders now see New Song Café as their church and that number is increasing all the time. It's because New Song Café is offering them vibrant Christianity while creating community, building relationship and providing opportunity to explore issues of faith in a friendly, non-threatening environment.

New Song Café meets on the 4th Sunday of the month from 7pm to 9pm. In saying that, it never starts on time… we have local preachers who come along and point at their watches because people are still chatting to each other and having coffee at 7pm. They say they're ready to start but we tell them that we have already started because the chatting and the coffee and the being together is all part and parcel of it. That's what community is.

In a way, we are a bit unusual as a fresh expression in that the whole thing for us is about focusing on worship as the heart of what we do. Many fresh expressions discern that introducing worship may be later down the line for them in their development because so many people have so little experience of what it means to worship. For us, in our context, it is different.

When people arrive they'll get a coffee or tea and select from what is normally a mountain of cake on offer! They'll have a chat, I'll welcome them in – particularly anyone new, we may have a short video clip or something but then a worship band will lead us in singing 12 songs during the evening. We'll have a giggle and I'll tell a few stories and have a joke with people as we go on because it's important to celebrate people's presence.

New Song Café - bannerWe recently welcomed a special guest – Wolfie, the mascot for the Warrington Wolves rugby league team. People queued up to get a photo taken with him. Everyone really enjoyed that – except for fans of the club's local rivals, the Widnes Vikings!

Our band comprises drums, trumpet, keyboard and guitar. They really get things going and it's fantastic to see all the ages taking part – our oldest regular is 89 and the youngest participant was six days old. We've now got every age in between. There's also a great denominational mix among those with current and previous church links – mind you, some of those links have been very fragile; some have mums or dads who go to church but they have been fringe members themselves. New Song Café has helped them to get engaged on their own terms because of its very open environment.

We'll sing six songs, including two new songs every month, and then we'll have a break of about 25 minutes before singing a further six. In the past three years we have learned over 300 songs. If people are not accustomed to singing in public with others around them, they can be a little puzzled at the start of it all – but that's OK, we'll just give people time and space to get used to what's happening. After just one song, I can guarantee that the feet will start tapping and there maybe tears or they will be singing. People are really responding to the worship and those not linked to traditional congregations or fellowships now see New Song Café as their church.

We need to consider what we do next with New Song Café because we are at the critical stage of thinking about how we move it forward. One thing that is going to happen is that we will grow the New Song network to include a New Song Breakfast to again offer a very different style of church – though still in the context of worship. There will also be New Song Pub Church.

Some of those who come along have been disenfranchised or hurt by traditional church but they are seeing New Song Café as their future. In feedback from them they say they know they can also bring their non-Christian friends along with them because they know it's going to be consistently good and it helps them to start having godly conversations along the way.

There's no doubt that New Song Café is becoming a very loving and caring church. A key decision as things unfold is whether to create New Song Church as a separate entity or continue to operate under the authority of Bold Street Methodist. At the moment we decided to continue with the latter. This has been great and has really enabled us to see mixed economy in action; the established church has been really fired up because they see New Song Café developing. As a result they see the future of Bold Street – now part of Sankey Valley Methodist Circuit – as being more secure because of what we are doing. It really is mixed economy in action.

New Song Café - hallI love the traditional, I love the inherited but that alone is not going to be sustainable in its present form for the next 50 years. What will carry Bold Street through is the network of church communities developing. New Song has grown beyond what we ever imagined. Thinking back to the original idea for it all, we might well end up going into Costa and we have an invitation to do so but the next thing is Pub Church in a local bar on a Sunday night.

There are still so many questions of course. How do we grow this? How do we nurture it bearing in mind that some of the people feel disenfranchised with institutional church? How can we adapt our denominational system so that we can be more flexible in structure when things are developing? Could worship leaders, for instance, be licensed to a circuit rather than to a church? At the moment there are quite a lot of challenges around these things and it can be quite frustrating at times.

Sankey Valley Circuit has brought together the former Warrington, Widnes, St Helens and Prescot, and Ashton and Makerfield circuits. Its purpose is to release us for mission and it's wonderful that New Song Café certainly does tell others about Jesus. However, we know that New Song Café is not for everybody and that will also be true when we start up the Pub Church but we're happy with that because we are simply looking to create opportunities for godly relationships.

We have also set up discipleship evenings and between 18 and 25 people now come to that. Thirty five people also came on an away day to explore more about faith. People are being transformed by singing worship to God and the tears of freedom and liberation are phenomenal.

New Song Breakfast is just about to start from 9am to 10.15am at Latchford Methodist Church followed by a traditional Communion service. There will be half hour of bacon butties and then there will be a couple of video clips to prompt a discussion time. The same theme will be used for the New Song Breakfast and the Communion that follows.

Looking ahead, we have been discussing our strategy for future development and 20 people have made a commitment to the New Song Network. We are now exploring the future and are developing a variety of roles in leadership. To be honest, I'm just trying to keep up with it all. We've just given out a New Song calendar detailing what we hope to achieve in 2012. It says, 'Keep calm and pray on!'

Tulloch NET

Tulloch Net - teamThe vision for Tulloch NET came into being in 2004, three years before its official launch – and charitable status. Its Community Development Officer, Revd Richard Higginbottom, outlines Tulloch NET's development and future plans in north west Perth.

The aim has always been to develop a fresh expression of inclusive and indigenous church in Tulloch and for that church to be based on relational networking – not traditional ingathering.

We reach out to the Tulloch community which is an area of mixed social and private housing with a population of around 4,000. In partnership with several denominations and supported by Church of Scotland seed-funding and grants from various agencies, we have been working hard to build up relationships within the community before setting up any sort of worship centre.

Tulloch Net - row of peopleOur ethos is to have an innovative, creative and fluid relational approach to social and spiritual needs in Tulloch, listening always to God and engaging in a sustainable way with the community, especially the disadvantaged. Tulloch is classed as an Area Based Initiative; this is a local authority designated area for re-generation and help with deprivation. We do this through social action, prayer, liaison, visiting, listening, occasional events/Sunday activities, projects and hospitality. On our promotional material we say that Tulloch NET is a Christian network offering practical help and spiritual support to the people of Tulloch.

After mission audit research in 2004/05, organised at the request of the local Church of Scotland parish minister, I felt called to pioneer a fresh expression in Tulloch in 2006 and received the necessary permissions to start a pilot project on secondment from my then CPAS employers. We recognise this is a 'long-haul' initiative – at the start of it all approximately 10 to 15 years were suggested for the establishment of this new expression of local church. So by 2020 we will be looking to see what's happened!

Tulloch Net - kidsStarting with attempts at addressing perceived local needs through parenting seminars and partnerships with the local primary school and Council, we formed a team of volunteers and a small inter-denominational reference group. Some initial funding came from personal supporters and from the Church of Scotland, Baptist Union of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church.

The Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church (Diocese of St Andrews) are also our ministry partners – along with Crieff Baptist Church, Perth North Church of Scotland, Tulloch Worldwide Church of God and Perth Knox Free Church of Scotland.

Visiting local people, networking, experience and further research showed that local deprivation and social issues required a different approach which had to be long-term. A management group was formed, further funding was sought and eventually, I was appointed Community Development Officer at the end of 2008.

Tulloch net - planting

Ongoing networking and visiting is carried out by myself and an initial voluntary team of six (we now have 11), while traditional pastoral support is provided by the North Church – though bereavement care may sometimes form part of our brief, by arrangement.

We ended up initiating the Tulloch Lade environmental project in 2009 after local consultation, which had revealed the current neglected state of the Town Lade (an ancient man-made canal running through Tulloch) as a key social concern. We've been involved in all sorts of associated activities, including tree-planting, creating a community orchard and meadow, eco-exhibitions, wildlife habitat improvements and litter clearance.

Tulloch Net - shopSince 2007, we've also organised 'spiritual events' such as a Christmas carol service, a Songs of Praise and Christian stalls at school celebrations. These have had limited effect but our big breakthrough in 2011 has been to secure – in partnership with other Christian agencies – former shop premises as an incarnational base in Tulloch which we're developing as a community drop-in for local needy folk, including addicts. We opened in May and have since attracted an average of 20 visitors per week; a part-time Welcomer has now been appointed there. We have maintained regular local prayer-walking throughout our project history and a prayer box for specific prayer requests is kept in our Hub.

Tulloch Net - paintingOur core virtues remain Relationship, PRAYER, Creativity, Humility, Commitment, Bridging the Secular/Sacred Divide, Restoration, and of course… Jesus. Creativity under God is not based on strategies, but depends on moves of God. Our project is all about Jesus and Kingdom: it involves patience and God's timing.

As far as our timescales are concerned, our mid-term goals include the appointment of a second worker – possibly next year, strengthening of the volunteer team and the creation of cell groups as a nucleus for a new local community of believers.

St George’s, Deal

St George's - Shiela PorterSt George's, Deal, faced a major challenge in 2002. Shiela Porter – who shares oversight and leadership of the church with Chris Spencer – looks back at how they dealt with that challenge and looks forward to new opportunities through the development of missional communities.

We were looking at how to shape a church that could keep on growing – not dependent on the size of the building or how many professional leaders we had. St George's was full but we wanted to engage with those who would not step over the threshold of a church building at all.

So much has changed in recent years and now we have missional communities comprising mission-focused networks of anything from 15 to 60 people.

St George's - Reduce ReuseIt is about mobilising everyone to be missionary disciples and we've got a whole variety of diverse networks that are being reached through these communities. People who previously were sitting in the pews – along the lines of a 'provider client' type of model – are now doing all kinds of things that they never dreamed they would be doing. As they've gone out and taken on these new roles with new responsibilities, they’ve discovered the need to depend upon God. As a result they've grown spiritually and in their discipleship as well. This has brought about a release of 40 new missional leaders – a real treasure trove of talent.

One of our missional communities has already multiplied and we have gained a lot of insight from doing it. It came about when they were growing to such an extent that they thought, 'we are going to lose our sense of community if we continue in this way. What do we do about it?' This was the first community that got going and had a vision for reaching young families but, as time went on, the children of those families obviously got older so the community wasn't quite fulfilling their original vision.

St George's - Beach

They took the decision to become two communities, and one of those communities comprised those who held the original vision. They decided to develop their vision in a way that would connect into families with older children using a 'sporting' emphasis for active families. They have been involved in doing fun runs and half marathons together, serving as stewards as well as running, and are now looking into starting a family exercise afternoon to reach new families. New leaders stepped up for the second community which held on to the original vision but in a more incarnational way.

These two slightly different visions meant that they did 'lose' some people along the way but those people have been able to come back into the centre – the main church base – enabling them to become part of other missional communities when they are ready.

St George's - boatAnother important new community to evolve has been at the Church Centre. As the centre continues to be an 'attractional model' with newcomers regularly arriving, this central community called 'Shoreline' is able to invite new people into it and give new people time to experience and understand the concept of missional communities before stepping into one that is meeting outside. Shoreline is also there to support the work of the other missional communities, being on the 'shoreline' to support them in their mission events and as they come back into the centre.

In the past, St George's has engaged in church planting with the Carpenters Arms, which became an extra-parochial place in Deal and which then transplanted into a Sandwich school. This was positively entrepreneurial for those who had the vision to plant. However, there are lessons to be learnt as we look back 15 years on. The current situation is that Carpenters Arms Deal are now an independent church and Carpenters Arms Sandwich are the size of one of our missional communities but are saddled with churchwardens, deanery reps and parish share – a burden that has taken its toll. Their future is now being reviewed.

St George's - logo

As we engage in conversation with those involved, including Diocesan personnel, we are hoping our experience will be of value as plans are put into place for them. We note that this is a danger that what is a fresh expression, can be seen as a 'church plant' by the Diocese with the requirement for church structures that can take their eye off mission and cause them to falter. It is therefore vital to have those with experience around them who can stand in the gap and 'translate' what it means to be a fresh expression – not always an easy task.

St George's - pier

Immanuel Church

Graylingwell Chapel, in the centre of an 85-acre former hospital site in Sussex, had been derelict for years when Steve and Sarah Flashman first saw it. Now – as home to Immanuel Church – it's on course to be the spiritual heart of a landmark eco-friendly housing development. Ministers Steve and Sarah discuss the turnaround in fortune.

Immanuel Church - homes

Immanuel Church was actually born fifteen years ago, long before we were on the scene, when a group of people in Chichester started meeting in someone's home. The church soon grew and people felt that God was calling them to work in partnership with St Paul's Church in the Winterbourne Road area of the city. Meeting at St Michael's Hall, the church outgrew the facilities there and after a long period of consultation and negotiation moved into Graylingwell Chapel. The idea was to create a vibrant new community base open to all.

Immanuel Church at Graylingwell Chapel is not a Parish Church. We are in the parish of St Paul's, Chichester but we are becoming a Bishop's Mission Order and have been given a special brief as a 'network church' and 'missional community' to live out our Christian faith in ways that connect with people in this area. This means we can develop new forms of church whilst respecting Anglican traditions.

Immanuel Church - chapelSeven hundred homes will be built on this site over the next seven years. Graylingwell Chapel had been disused for eleven years by the time we first saw it; previously this late Victorian building had only been used by staff and patients of the NHS hospital here.

We came to Immanuel Church as ministers four years ago to live on the Winterbourne estate which is a mix of social housing and student lets. We chose to live on the estate because we felt it was really important for us to be incarnational and live with the people we serve, our home is right by what is currently a fence surrounding the Graylingwell site. It is possible to see the Chapel from where we live – though it was a bit difficult to do that initially.

When we first drove up to Graylingwell, the whole area was a mess and you couldn't really access the chapel building at all but we managed to make our way through the foliage to get to it and we could see the vision even then.

Immanuel Church - treesAs a result we started to establish a relationship with the developers, Linden Homes, and also got in touch with the architects and the site's owner English Partnerships (which became part of the Homes and Communities Agency in December 2008). A public consultation was held before moving forward with the development and some 200 people came to the site's old theatre building.

Plans were outlined for what will be the UK's largest carbon neutral development. All the homes are planned as energy efficient with heating supplied by a central heating and power plant as part of an on-site energy centre. The idea is that it would be a benchmark for future sustainable developments across the country.

The architects put up big sheets of paper and they asked us all to write our own dreams and visions for this site. We wrote that our dream was that Graylingwell Chapel would become the community's spiritual heart.

Later, during the consultation, the development team stood up in front of this packed crowd and said that when first researching their design ideas, they came to Chichester and could see the centre of the city was in the shape of a cross with roads from north, south, east and west meeting at the Market Cross near the cathedral. They had then drawn a line through the centre of a map showing the Graylingwell site and discovered – from aerial photos – that the Chapel building was at the centre of it all. They then said they hoped it would become the spiritual heart of Graylingwell and they drew a heart around the Chapel on their PowerPoint map.

Immanuel Church - heartWe were astounded that they used the same phrase as we had written down a little while earlier! The image of the heart has since become the church's logo.

The developers and architects also emphasised that they wanted to connect Graylingwell with Winterbourne, saying the communities needed to be interwoven. To illustrate this they drew a line to show where the cycle paths were scheduled to run – one was a direct route through what had been an old orchard from our front door directly to the chapel door. We took it as such an encouragement that this was definitely where God had called us and wanted us to be.

It helped us in developing relationship with all of these key people that we could point to the community work we were already involved in. Our Winterbourne Wonderland event on the streets of the estate involves games for the children, refreshments, food, a live band and a specially built grotto for Father Christmas.

And in the middle of the summer, we bring the seaside to Winterbourne Road with our Summersdale Seaside Special. We bring in sand, a huge Hawaiian backdrop and 'beachside' cocktails. Apart from the street parties, we also run a fellowship group in an elderly care home; have a social outreach clear-up group, and lots of other things.

There is no focus to the community around here. We only have one shop on the estate and it's the place where people meet – and kids loiter outside. At the time of building relationship we knew we couldn't develop a geographic focus but we could create a focus for something good. It was, and still is, important that the community feel they can 'own' what we do. Thankfully there has certainly been proof of that along the way.

Immanuel Church - inside the chapelWhen we moved in to the chapel building in Easter 2010, all the church turned up to clean the place and we came across a lady we didn't know doing the hoovering! It turned out that the church had helped her to clear and tidy up her garden and she wanted to give something in return.

We also have a New Community Rock Choir. Fifty eight people signed up for it and only a handful has any link at all with church but this is most definitely 'their' chapel.

The fact is that since moving in here we've had one miracle after another. Linden Homes put in a temporary electricity supply but didn't have permanent lighting. Then a member of our church was driving along when he saw lights being put into a skip. It turned out a school was being refurbished. He asked if he could have them for the church and he drove off again with all the lighting we needed.

A couple of weeks before we were due to move in, it was suggested that we might have to pay £10,000 a year to use the place! Some of our people were not at all sure about continuing with the whole thing but we said, 'This is the vision that God has given us and we will still move in on Easter weekend. If He wants us here, he will provide what we need.' The Monday before moving day one of the directors of the development company contacted us to say, 'We have decided we are not going to charge that figure. For the next two years you can use it for £1 a year.'

Immanuel Church - artWe are developing relationship as well as developing trust both with the community and those involved in delivering this scheme. We were able to put together quite detailed business plans for what was then English Partnerships and this really helped them to recognise that we were serious about the whole thing.

The idea of denominations or different streams of church is completely incomprehensible to many. If you mention to a lot of people in this area that we are from the Church of England, many wouldn't really know – or care – what that means. If people do have a view of what Christians were like, it would tend to be a stereotypical one of 'wet fish handshakes' and blue anoraks. There is no expectation of anything different.

It was at the Bishop of Chichester's invitation that we started on the route of becoming a Bishop's Mission Order. There had been difficult times before Immanuel Church was formed, its beginning was born out of pain, but Immanuel wasn't formed as an alternative to another congregation. Its growth was very organic and developed naturally. It had also always remained within the CofE's Canon law so the BMO offered an opportunity to embark on a new stage of Immanuel's journey.

Immanuel Church, in all but its direct governance, is sympathetic to the CofE and the BMO acknowledges that some churches are seeking a form of official recognition that falls into the Order's bracket. It’s all about restoration, reconciliation and healing.

Immanuel Church - busWe are very missional with Graylingwell and since we have moved here, the culture of the church has significantly changed. About 120 adults are now part of the church with attendances of roughly 100 on Sunday, plus children. We're now praying for new growth from people coming in as converts and there are good signs for future relationship building. Linden Homes has set up a Community Development Trust and a community development worker is using the Chapel for parties for new residents. Our youth and children's work currently takes place in a double decker bus parked alongside the Chapel. We bought it on eBay and later this year we do hope to go on the road with it.

The building itself will be restored by Linden Homes at an estimated cost of £300,000. They will start to do that when 150 houses have been built – 70 have gone up so far. We will remain in the Chapel while works continue, all of which will be in line with the carbon neutral development around it.

In thinking about the fresh expressions way of being incarnational in a setting rather than being attractional and bringing people back into a church building, it's all about knowing your context. For us here we recognise that one of the things that draws people in is the Chapel itself because they are curious to see what it's like. You can't always work to a formula of getting out and staying out. Many are coming to the church because of its community arts emphasis. You have got to know your own community and recognise where people are at as well as having a real Spirit-inspired vision.

Immanuel Church - chapelGraylingwell Chapel is the new community venue in Chichester but we can see a time, as the site develops, when additional communities could well become those little churches that are very typical of fresh expressions. This might be seen as 'Chapel Central' to a network of churches.

We still find it amazing that it was the secular community of architects and developers that set Graylingwell Chapel's agenda as the spiritual heart. They want to create something that is very contemporary, very alive. In turn, people have picked up on the welcome, the friendship, the atmosphere of the place. It is easy to become concerned that they will be put off by liturgy, the way we worship, what we say in a sermon or whatever but we shouldn't assume that these things are barriers. Instead, friends and friendship are often the keys to them coming in the first place and then coming back for more. We have got to live community and give people a glimpse as to what that means – that's the heart of the Trinity after all isn't it?

Immanuel Church - art


Reside - EllieReside is a Christian project evolving in response to growing housing developments to the south of Loughborough. It is led by Methodist Deacon Ellie Griffin, Reside's full-time paid worker.

The original vision for a worker on the development came from the Loughborough Churches Partnership and is mainly funded by the Anglican and Methodist Church. The rest of Reside's team is made up of volunteers from a range of denominations, most of whom live in the housing developments we serve.

I have been here for just over three-and-a-half years and am based on the Fairmeadows estate but also work on the new Grange Park housing development. Generally I attempt to co-ordinate the various activities of Reside and enthuse people to get involved.

Our vision is to be an evolving Christian network that provides safe and welcoming places, explores the Christian faith, cares for the community and collectively expresses each element of Church.

This is an affluent estate but we are in the parish of the Good Shepherd CofE Church which is based in a far more socially deprived area. In saying that, they still provide part of the funding for Reside and the vicar, Eric Whitley, is on our steering group. In some ways it's quite difficult to be taking support from a church with such limited resources themselves but, as often happens, it's those with less who tend to give more. They saw the vision of what we were trying to do and have gone for it – and we're very grateful for that.

Reside - buildingIt was only 25 years ago that the whole of the Fairmeadows estate was nothing more than a farmer's field. Eventually the community will consist of about 1600 homes. When the original plans for this development (known as Grange Park) were first set in place, the churches in Loughborough saw the need for the potential community to be developed and so looked to appointing a full time worker to live on the estate. I moved here with my family in September 2007.

It wasn't long before Reside was 'born'. We aim to contribute to community by enabling residents to be actively engaged in developing the area in which they live – whether that's through the residents’ association, involvement with schools, Neighbourhood Watch, litter picks or working with children and young people. The opportunities really are endless and the range of skills needed is diverse.

We want to get people excited about getting to know their neighbours and to provide opportunities for building relationships. There aren't many meeting places on the estate and so we are trying to be imaginative in how we address this so that all groups within the community can interact more with each other. Recently we made a trip to see a project near Malton which uses a council-funded facility called the 'Ryepod'. It is a converted mobile home hired out to various organisations for a range of purposes. This is the very beginning of our explorations but we are excited by the possibilities.

Reside - residents' association

In some ways, Loughborough has got quite a lot of pioneering stuff going on from Pioneer Network, New Frontiers International, student work and a huge variety of other churches. In saying that there is still an idea or expectation as to what 'real' church looks like; trying to convince those part of inherited models of church that Reside really is church can be quite difficult. Even if people can cope with Reside not having a building as a base they will still ask, 'why aren't you gathering for worship every week?' It can be so difficult for them to grasp that Reside may never have a big gathering for worship but it's very much church in a different way.

Reside cares about every aspect of community life and the individual lives of the residents who make up this community. This comes from our belief that God cares about every aspect of lives too and that the Christian faith has something to offer in each situation.

So far Reside has been involved in the Haddon Way Residents Association working with them to listen to the community's needs or concerns and hosting Community Fun Days, a Big Tidy Up event and an outdoor Christmas Carol service. We have also hosted Easter Fun Days on the Grange Park housing development two years running giving the families opportunity to meet their neighbours and have fun together.

Reside - Christmas

Through support from SOaR (Schools Outreach and Resources) we have been part of a prayer group for Outwoods Edge Primary School, led assemblies and delivered Easter lessons. Leading on from this we have been invited to lead the school community in celebrating harvest and Christmas and are currently exploring further ways of engaging with the school.

Offering the opportunity to ask questions about God and faith, we ran a six- week exploration course. In small discussion groups we used film clips, news articles and other medium to stir debate offering insight from biblical teaching and Christian thought. Reside has also hosted craft sessions, parties, a police drop-in, quiet space and Open House, all providing a variety of opportunities for residents in the area. All of our activities are provided free of charge as a gift to the community to express God's abundant, no-strings-attached love.

The Residents' Association was one of the first links we made into the community. At first they thought it a bit odd that someone from the church turned up and they wondered what we wanted from them. It was also a little confusing because I didn't 'fit' their idea as to what a church leader looked like! Once they became accustomed to the fact that I was attending as a resident and not just as a church representative, everything was fine.

Reside - police

It was interesting that after a community event run jointly by the Association and Reside, the chairman said to me,

I still don’t know what you're after. The church has bought the house you're living in and they're paying your wages for five years, what are they getting out of it?

It had taken him three years to ask that question directly and it was only because we'd built up such a good working relationship that he felt able to ask it at all. In turn I could tell him there was no catch; that it was all a gift to this community because God loves this area and the people who live here.

Over the next 12 months we hope to:

  • Develop the work we do with the local schools;
  • Explore the possibilities for a mobile meeting place;
  • Provide opportunities for residents to get to know one another;
  • Network those already actively serving this community;
  • Provide opportunities to explore the Christian faith;
  • Grow a number of 'Cell' groups;
  • Plan for long term sustainability of Reside.

Reside - hose

We are very much developing cells at the moment and we're just starting a pilot cell of people who will be leaders in different cell groups. We have got lots of good contacts now on the edges of the community but how can we take it a bit further? I think the cell church model, tweaked to this context, would be a very good model for us. I pray that it will take off and that the trust between groups will become stronger.

The work with the primary school has been awesome because initially it was closed to what we were offering to do. The vicar would go in for standard assemblies at key times of the year though they were a bit worried about taking anything further than that. Slowly they have begun to open up and this Easter we are working with them to host an exhibition of Hope where members of both the school and wider community can creatively offer their Hope for the future.

Again this has all taken time. Thanks to the gradual building up of relationship they invited me to be on their governing body and now they approach us to do things rather than the other way round. It's amazing to think that when I started here there was no link between anyone on the estate or anywhere to go so I used to sit at home praying, then walk around the streets and pray a bit more.

I was pregnant when I took up the post so that did mean I could meet other mums as a way of getting to know people. It also meant that any immediate expectations were lifted as to what I was to 'achieve' in the role; otherwise the aim was that I'd be involved in building a community centre by now because that was one of the points in my job description! The developers of the estate are providing space for a community centre of some description and I'm hoping that Reside and the residents will be able to work together on creating a special space where all sorts of activities can take place.

Reside - craft tableA five-year funding plan was put in place for us so we are now at the stage of looking at how things can be sustained in future. We are already starting to get some income from the local community but it's nowhere near enough for us to be financially sustainable – and that's in an affluent area! How can people hope to achieve that sustainability in poorer areas?

Also, the context has changed so much here in just a few years. Lots more people have moved in, mainly young families, but many head out for work early in the morning in their cars and the estate's almost dead in the daytime. The nearest shop is nearly a mile away and all of this can combine to incredible isolation for those left behind. There are actually quite a few older people here as well and the community – on the surface predominantly white and middle class – is actually quite a diverse one.

In serving them, Reside will never look like a 'normal' church. I think it will always be messy, an evolving network continually listening and continually responding to the needs of the community. I think that's why many traditional churches have come to a halt – because they stopped listening.


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.