Lady Bay Mission Community

In a first for St John's College, Nottingham, a group of students are now getting to grips with life in a 'mission laboratory' in the city's Lady Bay area.

The Community Mission Pathway has come about through the College's partnership with the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham. Its leader is Mark Rodel who is Tutor in Pioneer Ministry at St John's, and Pioneer Minister in Lady Bay – or to give him his full title there, Pioneer Minister and Vicar at All Hallows, Lady Bay with St Edmund, Holme Pierrepont and Adbolton!

Six students, all of whom are Church of England ordinands, signed up for the first year of the Pathway which sees them become part of a new monastic community, sharing together a rhythm of prayer, learning and mission. Their studies continue to be based at St John's but they all live in, or near, Lady Bay in West Bridgford. They are on 'continuous placement'.

Two of the students live in a three-bedroomed Diocesan house in West Bridgford – with potential for two more people to join them later. The other four, all married, live in their rented homes nearby.

Mark RodelMark Rodel: Nobody wants leaders in mission who see themselves as 'lone rangers'; this work really needs to be shared  if we're going to get away from the idea of everything being dependent on just one person with a specific set of gifts and talents. We're looking to model a way of living and working and discerning that will very much be seen as putting into practice what we are learning.

For me, it's a juggling act. How do I balance my role at St John's with being a pioneer and a vicar? There are a lot of demands but what I have been working on is greater and greater integration, drawing together a community of students so that my practice here – with others – is the means by which students are trained and formed for ministry and the base from which I reflect and teach.

It's also a mixed economy setting in that the dispersed mission community will be able to engage with churches in the area and see how the inherited church and fresh expressions of church might work together. We're calling this a 'mission laboratory' in its scope and size.

Sharing their lives so closely, discerning God's call as a group and learning more about the context they find themselves in together will help prepare them to get new mission communities off the ground. This might result in new forms of church emerging or existing congregations could be renewed and re-energised in mission.

Our Community Constitution and Rule makes it clear that the Lady Bay Mission Community has been established for two complementary and integrated purposes:

  1. the renewal of Christian mission in Lady Bay, through the renewal of the parish church of  All Hallows, and through starting, developing and sustaining one or more fresh expressions of church;
  2. the training of Church of England ordinands, ordinands of other churches, lay ministers and independent students for pioneering ministry and leadership in mission.

As we develop a vision for a fresh expression of church in the parish, we will relate to the national Fresh Expressions movement through the regional FEAST (Fresh Expressions Area Strategy Team).

When I first arrived at All Hallows, Lady Bay, it was a real learning curve because they weren't specifically asking for pioneering or fresh expressions. So, for them to hear that they were getting someone who would be a vicar and a pioneer was quite difficult.

The first year was pretty tough, there was no honeymoon period, but then we had an event at which I read out part of my job description and it was quite clear to everyone that the role I'd applied for was all about change. That was the breakthrough.

Some of it was also about adopting a different pastoral approach. The full scope of my role hadn't been as widely understood as it might have been and some people thought it was my job to mediate the situation. Thankfully, I had a lot of support from the Diocese, the Director of Ministry and Mission, Nigel Rooms, and the former Archdeacon of Nottingham, Peter Hill, who is now the Bishop of Barking.

The other thing that has helped us to open that up is our involvement with US-based organisation, Church Innovations, and its consultancy service, The Partnership for Missional Church (PMC) founded by Patrick Keifert.

Through PMC, we join together with a small group of congregations from our Diocese (Southwell and Nottingham) and the Diocese of Leicester in a three year process which explores what part we might play in God's future for our local communities. St John's College supports us in that and we meet as a cluster three times a year, to reflect on what we're learning and prepare for the tasks we do locally between each gathering.

This has already helped us to ask the question, 'What can The Partnership for Missional Church and Fresh Expressions learn from each other? There is lots of crossover. PMC is asking us to consider that if we're investing in new things, does the inherited church just roll over and die or do we invite them into newness? It's a process of what we call adaptive change rather than technical fixes. We ask what we need to be and take the steps to get there.

Along the way, we learn and practice six spiritual disciplines or 'holy habits'. So far we have learnt two – Dwelling in the Word and Corporate Spiritual Discernment.

The mission community also demands a lot of attention and care but I'm not going to be a sort of 'Daddy Pioneer'. Instead, we'll meet and mutually support each other as a part prayer, part reflective practice group.

The conviction to me is about community. I haven't tried to establish a fresh expression, the process of looking and listening needs to be a long and engaged one. It's important that we discern these things together. I have got lots of bright ideas so I can all too easily say, 'Come and join me to make things happen' but what is God calling to come into being in this place? That's the sort of thing we'll be considering as a group.

Darren (Howie) is the only member of this community who has been through pioneer panel – but the way I have launched the course to them, even if they're not pioneer, is to say that it's for anyone who would look to be pioneering in their approach. After their time here, there will be a range of destinations for them, some of which may look more like what a pioneer would look for or it may be a conventional parish.

It's about being a community where we develop the skills and convictions and aptitudes to lead the church into new engagements with a wider community and possibly into churches.

It's hugely exciting. I have been working on this for two years  and we had no idea in January whether anyone would come; I thought maybe we'd get two or three but when six people said, 'yes please' – six people with their own richness in learning, passions and giftedness – I was staggered.

The rhythm of life is the heart of it; it's that coming together every day but also being part of the wider family at St John's. That has made such a difference already. Being serious about disciplines means a commitment to prayer – and commitments in both attitude and practice when living to a community rule. That involves rhythms of:

  • eating, including Eucharist;
  • praying;
  • sharing/generosity;
  • learning;
  • growing and working together – looking to see God's Kingdom come, see church grow in depth and numbers and new forms of church to emerge.

As part of our corporate spiritual discernment, we are working with an established monastic community to hold us spiritually accountable to our Rule. Our  'visitor' is an Anglican Benedictine Order, based at Mucknell Abbey, Worcestershire, and we will meet every year with a representative or representatives from Mucknell Abbey to review the Rule. We also each have a spiritual director with whom we meet at least once a term.

It's important that we are not just 'making this up' as we go along so it's wonderful to be linked in with the Order as a group who have done this for a very long time!

Community Mission Pathway students

Gail PhillipGail Phillip: I trained as a teacher and worked with a pioneering Singaporean missionary couple in Thailand. I was with the Anglican Church, based at Christ Church, Bangkok. I came back to the UK four years ago and worked with children in full time residential care but there was a strong sense of calling to ordained ministry so that's why I'm here.

I'm pioneer with a small 'p', working through translation! One of the things that attracted me to the Community Mission Pathway was that it was not just dismissing the people who have gone before but discerning how is God working so we can move together. There are lots of opportunities here; this is an area of 4,000 people with two pubs used for all sorts of community activities. 

Jess McLarenJess McLaren: I started my career in Human Resources and I worked my way up a corporate business ladder for seven years. I became a Christian in 2010 and pretty quickly felt a call from God. I started to look around and see other doors opening up. Within a month I found myself working for my bishop (Bishop of Kensington, Paul Williams) with a project in the diocese of London. It all happened for me on a night when we were commissioning 2,300 young people at St Paul's in April 2012; that night I really felt that God was calling me. I tried to push it down but the thought wouldn't go away and I went into the discernment process in 2012.

In the last year, I was working as a parish assistant for St Mary Magdalene Church, Littleton, and helping with chaplaincy work in schools.

Andi ThomasAndi Thomas: My wife, little boy and I live just outside Lady Bay because we couldn't find a house right on the doorstep but it's great to feel part of this Pathway of pioneers. I have just spent about 20 years doing inner city youth work and managed a youth church plant. We were all part of Aston Parish Church, Birmingham.

I didn't plan to do any of this and I remember when someone had a message from God that they believed was for me. The message was that I should consider full-time ministry in the church and I started the discernment process in 2011 but I swore I'd never become a vicar but, more and more, I had the feeling of wanting to be in the glasshouse rather than keep on throwing stones at it.

Darren HowieDarren Howie: My wife and I have been involved with St John's studies for several years now and I've been pursuing the call to ordination; got through Bishops Panel in March and decided to stay because we're really excited about the Community Mission Pathway. This is a great chance to discover about community living at first hand.

I originally knew that St John's was the place for me because, after a very difficult time involving church, I went to the chapel service and Nick Ladd simply said, 'We are just going to wait on God'. Well, the presence of God in the room was overwhelming. I was in the right place. Now, we'll look to see what happens as we learn to live in community with others.

Ivor LewisIvor Lewis: This process has been quite a long one. I was a youth a community regeneration worker in Aston, Birmingham (the same parish as Andi) for quite a long time so I'm really out of my comfort zone here! I'd never really thought of ordination before but I was at my youngest brother's wedding when this minister, who I didn't know, came up to me and said, 'You are going to be a vicar'. He said it in front of my family so I couldn't even pretend it didn't happen! I tried to brush it aside but I went to an urban youth work conference in 2008 and what I came away with was the conviction that God was asking me to take the call of leadership seriously.

I finally did that in 2011/2012 and I made links with DDOs and people like that but all the while I was thinking, I know how hard these guys work, I know they have no life outside that, do you really want to sign up for this? But then I did the paperwork and I felt as if a weight was taken off my shoulders. At the Bishop's Advisory Panel, I felt the Lord was with me. I still wondered what type of ministry I wanted to be involved in and what sort of training that was to be; it was the rhythm of life that attracted me here. This is not inner city Birmingham and I am out of my comfort zone in a sense.

Ed SauvenEd Sauven: I'm from London and have been there for the last eight years. One of the things my wife and I have been thinking of more and more is authentic Christian community. What does itlook like and what does authentic Christian community doing mission look like? I've been involved in lots of things to explore that and I've also tried to get involved in lots of things to explore that but – for one reason or another – they didn't work out.

At one point we were part of a network church looking to connect with 20s and 30s but I struggled with the network setting and not having a sense of place. In trying to discern how you might build community, I heard how these things will come from communities of prayer and I found that new monasticism really resonated with me.

I had a Bishop's Advisory Panel coming up and I was travelling the ordination route but the new monastic movement seemed to be something of a tangent. I hadn't considered prayer to be the centre but then we came to St John's and talked to Mark and found out what he had been doing here. I sensed a very clear answer to prayer. I really wanted to develop community with prayer at its heart and it's from that you go out and do mission. I feel that from a place like that you can do mission sustainably.

St Benny’s

Pioneer Minister Nik Stevenson, and his wife Shelly, are based in Oakley Vale, near Corby. Nik tells how 'St Benny's' has developed.

I was licensed as Pioneer Minister on the Oakley Vale estate in March 2011 and that's when we moved on to the estate. We were given a house and then told to get on with it!

We had two years of getting to know the folk of Oakley Vale, organising various activities and serving the community before we launched St Benedict's (known as St Benny's) public worship in September last year.

The first thing we got into was the school summer holiday Oakley Vale Lunch Project (LUNCH). This was providing lunch for children who would normally get free meals at school. We set up a gazebo on a local playing field and made lots of sandwiches. What was interesting was they just didn't want food, they wanted to play as well – so it was sandwiches and french cricket. We've run that project several times since.  

St Benny's - Nik and ShellyWe are also involved in running a weekly Food Bank distribution centre on a neighbouring estate with Churches Together. I'm chaplain at Corby's Stewart and Lloyd's RFC and I also play tight head prop for the Veteran team – that means I'm one of the big fat guys in the front row!

More recent projects include Storytime for primary school children in our front room and a 'coffee stop' at the school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The 'coffee stop' is where parents can go after school drop-off time. We have coffee, pastries and chat – and all sorts of interesting things happen as a result. All of these projects are part of building relationships and trust in the community.

It took a while to get to the point where people wanted to meet together as a fresh expression of church. But we now have people of all ages who come fairly regularly; we are also now seeing people coming to know Jesus better. It all begins with our Community Café that runs from 10am to 4pm on Sundays at the Oakley Vale Community Centre. We offer home baked goodies and bacon sandwiches at the start of the day. Later on, the café slows down and morphs into church when we have:

  • a couple of active, 'kid friendly' songs at The Gathering with actions and dance routines;
  • a craft activity or game that links in with the story;
  • a dramatically told Bible story;
  • three- to five-minute Bible thought;
  • a gathering up of the ideas in an attempt to make it applicable to late primary/early secondary level;
  • a more contemplative song;
  • time of creative prayer;
  • more coffee and goodies;
  • a chance to pray individually with the team.

St Benny's - craftWe have a core group of about 20 people, but we normally see between 35 and 45 people weekly. The last Sunday of the month is based around a bring and share meal.

By the grace of St Michael's, Great Oakley, I am working in their parish but I have no formal ties with them. Their church is in a small village nearby but, by road, it's a long way and quite difficult to access.

The Rural Dean, Ian Pullinger – vicar of St Columba's, Corby – has been very supportive. Two of the families that form part of our core team have been sent to us from St Columba's and he commissioned Richard and Cathy Smith to be missionaries to Oakley Vale, here at St Benny's. Liz and Noel Harding and their family are also part of the core team and they have been a great encouragement and support to us since we moved onto the estate. There are other people on the fringes of St Benny's – some are happy with what we are doing but are not sure about God yet; they are starting to understand that we are kind of God's 'community workers'.

We are up front and honest and we talk about God a lot. I think, if we didn't do that, it would be a huge mistake. Once people see that you compartmentalise your life, you're in trouble. If Jesus isn't at the heart of it all, I wouldn't be here and the whole reason we are here would disappear. Jesus needs to be central to what we are doing. Authenticity is something that people respect. It's about being humble and honest.

St Benny's is now a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) – which is basically a halfway house between a company and a charity. Being a CIO means we find it easier to attract funding even though we are still very clearly a faith-based organisation. This has led to funding for the LUNCH project and a series of interns to help with the work on Oakley Vale.

St Benny's - mealShelly and I have daily prayer using three fold Benedictine office. We are working to stream the offices as part of St Benny's Radio so that others can join in. Shelly is a Benedictine Oblate (Wikipedia: Oblate) and is doing her PhD in Digital New Monastic Communities so will be leading on that. We've put in a funding bid for an app so that the liturgy will be available on smartphones. St Benny's Radio will allow people to access a daily rhythm of life with us.

I think the hardest thing about being a pioneer is that you are always inspected, always scrutinised. I'm going through ordination at the moment so it can feel like you are being assessed to death! I am aware that it's hard for some people in diocesan structures to understand what we're doing because they spend so much of their time in a more traditional environment. It can be hard to get St Benny's as it looks so different to traditional church. How is it going to work? How is it going to cope?

I was quite defensive about it all when I started working here, but now I see I need to be willing to explain. This is what God is doing. I need to help them to understand that and not just expect them to 'get it'. It's important not to be a rebel on the edge of the diocese; we will always work differently because we are pioneers.

I'm studying part-time through Eastern Region Ministry Course and I learn online one evening a week. I will be ordained deacon in 2016. The hope is that my curacy will be here on Oakley Vale so that I will have ten years in this area before someone else takes it on to the next level when I go.

Open Doorway Community

A fledgling new monastic community is looking to create a space in Dublin city centre. Rev Garth Bunting explains more.

I have been Residential Priest Vicar at Christ Church Cathedral since September 2010, leading the cathedral's spirituality programme. I live in the Deanery at Werburgh Street, Dublin, and it's from there we are developing a new monastic movement that aims to look at the traditional monastic ways of life and reinterpret them for living in today's world.

We are at the very beginning of this journey but we are all longing to see what emerges. Basically, we are currently a group of seven people and we have been meeting together as community over the past year, fortnightly, over a simple meal. During that time we have felt our particular mission emerge from our discernment and recently took the decision to open a space for silence, meditation and reflection in our area of Dublin.

Open Doorway Community - sculptureIt all started when I went to do some study in Christian spirituality. I have always been interested in some sort of monastic way of life and am a tertiary of the Anglican Third Order, Society of St Francis. While I was studying I came across the stories of a new monastic movement that seems to be happening across the world. I began to look in more depth at new-monasticism and the way in which it interprets the traditional monastic model for today's society and culture. I am very interested in how that might create community, and possibly a fresh expression of church.

I came to work in Christ Church Cathedral when I had the opportunity to focus in on this world of spirituality. One of the things I got to do very early on was to host an evening when we looked at the monastic tradition and the journey has really gone from there. Six or seven people became a kind of community wanting to explore the tradition, we are now interested in creating something as community. We have spent the last nine months getting to know one another, supporting one another in life, ministry, jobs, and so on.

Then we started asking ourselves, 'how can we share what we do with others living around us?' We want to continue creating community but centre it on some sort of spiritual practice or spiritual way of life – though we would also want to emphasise that it is a spiritual way of life that is Christian. People can be looking for all sorts of spiritualities but ours is clearly focused on Christ and that's very important.

Open Doorway Community - doorsSomething interesting that has emerged for us in all of this is the recurring image of a doorway. We see it as an invitation for people to come in and it's also about us going out into our own local area and getting involved. As a result of this we have tentatively named ourselves 'An Doras Oscailte Community' – that's Irish for the Open Doorway Community.

We are an ecumenical group: Anglican, Roman Catholic and Lutheran. We meet around my kitchen table and that regular, two-hour, meeting in the same place has been very important to us; we all live in the centre of Dublin and feel it's right for this community to be in the heart of the city.

As we go on to create community we are not even going to ask if the people who come to us have a faith or not. It's about sharing our life. Now we want to create a physical space for reflection and looking for God in the midst of people's busy lives. We are still not quite sure where that space is to be though. Christ Church Cathedral is a two minute walk away from where I live and there is also a parish church close by  – or it could be somewhere else entirely. We are looking to create this space over the summer so we have something to offer to people wanting to explore more of this new monasticism.

The Gate Faith Community

Baptist minister James Karran is looking to develop a new monastic community at a Cardiff arts centre. He tells the story so far.

I used to be part of a fresh expression called Solace, a bar church in Cardiff that I started with Church Army officer Wendy Sanderson in 2007. Sadly, Solace came to an end four years later but what didn't come to an end was my vision of incarnational Christian communities that meet in pubs!

The idea of setting up a new monastic community was inspired by a retreat I went on to The Northumbria Community in August 2011 at a time when I was considering where God was leading me next. While there I was thoroughly impressed by the type of community they modelled: namely one defined by openness, acceptance – and, most of all – hospitality. It was this coupled with a long-standing desire of mine to see pubs and bars in Britain 'redeemed' from the bad reputation they currently have that led me to the concept of a new monastic community that was based in a pub or bar.

After the initial inspiration, I began prayerfully pushing doors and this led me to a conversation with the executive director of The Gate Arts Centre in Cardiff, Paul Hocking. Paul, a retired evangelical minister, shared the same vision for authentic, hospitable and incarnational Christian community. The idea of starting a new monastic community at The Gate emerged out of this conversation and the proverbial ball started rolling.

The Gate - cross and communionThe Gate is perfectly situated to be the soil in which a new monastic community could grow because it has all the key elements – a good reputation, people who regularly come in, existing Christian connections and a bar! There are also amazing opportunities for ministry amongst the groups already connected with the venue.

We had our first community meeting in September 2012 and there were five of us, none of whom really knew each other or had much of an idea of how this would work. All were Christians, but mainly Christians who had been wounded by – or else fallen away from – mainstream church in the past. Since then we have grown to 11 members; some are already followers of Jesus but others have never been to church in their life before. We are currently developing a rhythm of prayer and a 'way of life' for the community to live by, as well as learning in general what it means to be a community of spiritual pilgrims who come from diverse backgrounds.

Our meetings take place on Sunday afternoons at 4.30pm in the Cafe Bar of The Gate and they are always based around a meal. We each contribute an item of food and fit in elements of worship, prayer and reflection around our eating, laughing and chatting together. In this, the meetings resemble something of the Sedar meal of Jewish tradition. The meal element is extremely important and illustrates the emphasis on hospitality that we want to place. Jesus is the ultimate host, inviting us into the great celebration of his resurrection, and we want to incarnate this in the small corner of the world God has placed us in. In this way, the meal also becomes central to our understanding of outreach.

As a community we live by a code of three principles:

  • learn from Jesus as best we can – become an apprentice;
  • serve others selflessly – become a host;
  • never judge anyone for where they are on their own life journeys but to help them discover where God is leading them to next. – become a pilgrim.

The Gate - FeastThis whole venture is non-stipendiary so I have no regular income though I do run a tentmaking enterprise called Solace Ministries – as part of which I conduct religious and civil weddings, blessings and funerals. I am still exploring a vision in the longer term to see a new monastic community that is based in, owns and runs a cafe bar/pub. The 'abbey' or 'Monastery Pub' would be a home, hub and base for the community, providing a centre for meeting, mission and ministry. It would provide a centre to go out from and come home to.

A number of 'new monastic communities' in Britain are geographically dispersed but bound together by a common rule and set of core values. The community I envisage would be of this type. Some members would (by necessity) be geographically located in proximity to the 'abbey', but many others would be elsewhere and find their sense of identity through adopting the community's 'way of life', taking an avid and prayerful interest in the life of the community and 'returning home' to the abbey for family worship celebrations at certain important seasons during the year.

As well as the dispersed community, eventually local communities would be established around the country for localised accountability, prayer support and worship. These smaller communities, known as 'cellae', would be bound together and to the larger community by the way of life, but would also undertake pilgrimages to the abbey at certain times. Establishing these local discipleship communities would be the primary focus for the community's missionary activity.


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.

The Odyssey Mission Community

The Odyssey Community began four years ago with six members. So far there have been seven new Christians as a result of Odyssey members and two of these have gone on to join the community. The others are also members of local churches.

Current areas of mission include: theatre company, alcoholics, drug addicts, sex workers, vulnerable adults living in a particular street, young gay people, family and friends, people with eating disorders and survivors of abuse.

Meetings are kept to a minimum so members of the community are freed up to spend most of their time working in their area of mission. Members are encouraged to venture into one another's mission fields to offer prayerful support to one another.

The community follow a pattern of prayer and hold a rule of life; both of these have been developed as they have journeyed together as well as sharing in the support of one another practically.

Food, fellowship and honest relationships are the key to the community.

The Community of St Jude

In 1994, Tom Gillum went with 35 others from Holy Trinity Brompton to revitalise St Stephen's Westbourne Park. The sending and destination were equally clear – to grow a new congregation in the tradition of Holy Trinity Brompton in a redundant building.

Ten years later, Tom had another strong sense of call, but far less idea of what it might grow into. That is becoming normal. The call was inspired thirty years earlier by his visit to the Sant'Egidio in Rome. Some well-educated young Romans wanted to live out their faith and connect with the poor. They met to pray and started to befriend poor people.

These dynamics have become a rule for this movement. The combination of a mission call and a living spirituality is always a good starting place.

At the invitation of the Bishop of Kensington, who knew of this growing interest, Tom, Joanna and their five children moved to Earls Court in Autumn 2004 to lay the foundations for a non parochial new work based on these values. They were given the vicarage and church of St Jude, which, it was decided, had more future as a specialist ministry within a wider group of churches than as one small congregation serving a small parish.

New work entering new territory needs clear minimalist values and flexibility to what will emerge. The values come partly from Sant'Egidio, but are also shaped by the dynamics of the Trinity and the Body of Christ. Both emphasise the prime nature of being Christian as communal.

The first and central task is to grow quality community with those who are prepared to be committed 'to live with the poor and to pray'. Twenty years ago this might have been a specialist ministry by the likeminded from an existing church. Now a specific mission calling is creating a fresh expression of church. This is a practical example of mission-shaped church.

A prayerful community that shares a passion to be with the poor, which enjoys being together and models everyone joining in, helps break the false divide between rich and poor.

Commitment to Christ is expressed by making a priority of the rhythm of prayer (which operates each midweek day – in the morning by arrangement in members' homes; in St Jude's Church at 12 and 3pm for 15 minutes; and on Tuesday and Friday evenings), and by proactively making friendships with those who are unlikely to have met others. As much as possible, The Community of St Jude volunteers help with existing projects, charities and local institutions.

To emphasise that discipleship is a way of living and not primarily defined by attendance at Sunday worship, The Community of St Jude organises nothing on a Sunday. However, they do have celebrations to mark the major festivals of Advent, Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. It is at these celebrations that new members are received.

St Jude's expression of a new monasticism is intentionally less sophisticated than some other UK examples. They are exploring patterns of synagogue (teaching, festivals, family) as well as monastery.

St Jude is the patron of lost causes. In busy time-poor London, in notional communities that may be person-poor, starting communities of St Jude is far from a lost cause.

The Anchor

The Anchor - HayleyPioneer minister Hayley Matthews is chaplain for MediaCityUK at Salford Quays and coordinator of The Anchor, the chaplaincy's on site base. The site is associated predominantly with the development of BBC North but The Anchor serves a much wider local 'audience'. Hayley explains:

Everyone always thinks of the BBC when MediaCityUK is talked about but, by the time everything is up and running here, there will be lots of different businesses associated with media and production – people like caterers, set designers, web specialists, costumiers and make-up artists.

There is a lot of interest around the BBC personnel just about to make the move into Salford because some are coming from what was the Manchester base in the city's Oxford Road while others are transferring from London as this area develops into a national, and international, media hub. New businesses are arriving every week. Work is also going on to create a 'new' Coronation St here because ITV is also moving to Salford and the old set will no longer be used.

The Anchor - complexWhen I saw this job description last year I knew it was 'me' but I didn't think there was any way I would get it. I was just coming out of my curacy and was very aware that there were lots of Christian people involved in the media, including many priests, who were very clued up on who's who and how the whole thing worked. I didn't even have a TV but, as soon as I heard I got the job last autumn, I bought one and got Sky installed at my new vicarage!

My office with The Anchor is based in what was an old pie-making factory which now houses full-sized studios. Morning prayer takes place at 9am daily and we celebrate the Eucharist at 12.30pm every Wednesday followed by a time to sit and have lunch.

The Anchor - studiosWhen people begin to move on to the 220-acre site, owned by Peel Holdings, we will also hold some of our worship in the University of Salford building and the multi-faith spaces provided in the BBC areas.

Any new company that moves here has to satisfy a requirement that 40% of their jobs will go to local people. Some of these people will have had three generations of worklessness in their families and MediaCityUK will provide the opportunity for a real change in fortunes. It can be easy to think that the only people working on site will be high-profile broadcasters earning impressive salaries. In fact there will be lots of people on modest incomes.

This is a three year post through Greater Manchester Churches Together with major funding coming from the Diocese of Manchester but, despite its Christian leadership and funding, The Anchor is open to people of all faiths and none. Its role is much 'bigger' than simply serving the BBC buildings and people, important though that is.

The Anchor - insideMy job is very much about creating a sense of community. As part of that we now have a monthly film night at a restaurant in The Quays and I also arrange The Big Business Breakfast, involving the free Big Bacon Buttie, for anyone working on site to meet their neighbours and maybe even swap a couple of business cards first thing in the morning. It's for people on their way into work – otherwise they tend to get immersed in their work and don't come out too much at all.

Outdoors too there is lots of scope with this work. We held a Christmas carol concert on the piazza outside the main studio buildings last year and about 80 people joined in with us on that, even though it was bitterly cold at the time. I'm already planning ahead for this year's event on 15th December when there will be upwards of 2,000 people on site.

The Anchor - plantersBefore then, on June 5, BBC Radio Manchester is making its first live broadcast from MediaCityUK and I will preside while Chris Edmondson, Bishop of Bolton, preaches and a number of other local faith representatives take part. It's all a great opportunity for creating that sense of community by integrating MediaCityUK with the surrounding areas. I have been to all the Deanery churches to preach and preside so they have a contact here because it's all about people feeling that they can come on site to see the regeneration of their own area.

I have also started a community gospel choir so that lots of different people feel they have a foothold in MediaCityUK. The idea of priestly presence is really important in this context so I wear my dog collar wherever I go. Overbury, the developers, even gave me a personalised 'chaplain' hi-vis jacket and hard hat so that I could go on site and be instantly recognisable. I am not there with an agenda or to Bible bash; I am there to support them in whatever impacts on their work.

The Anchor - jacketA turning point for me came when the Archbishops of Canterbury and York both came to bless The Anchor and officially open the bridge which links MediaCityUK with Trafford where the 'new' Coronation St is going up. When I gave my presentation I looked out to see a couple of hundred people there and I had met them all. These are people who really care about Salford and its people and who are working hard to make MediaCityUK meaningful to everyone.

I would very much like to encourage the formation of an ecclesial community here but it's too early as yet. To do anything remotely churchy for the unchurched would be offputting as we are surrounded by churches so people are spoilt for choice as all traditions are catered for. However there is a need for something for those who are perhaps exploring their faith and how it might affect their lives from day to day.

The Anchor - buildingsI'd rather see a catholic, incarnational, charismatic encounter that supports people in developing a rhythm of life that they can take with them into their own routines. This new monastic approach is the direction I'm going in but I'm still at the discerning stage because the commercial outlets aren't open and the people aren't here in any great numbers as yet. It's important for me to have an idea of the ebb and flow of MediaCityUK on a day to day basis.

The sense that I get is that it's not about providing a church on site; instead it's enabling people to be disciples – whether living or working here. There will be a lot of transience at MediaCityUK and some of the people will be based at Salford for just two or three days a week before returning 'home' – wherever that may be. You have to ask, 'Is it going to help them to have a fresh expression here?'

When the people have moved in, maybe the Holy Spirit will say something different; I'm very open to however things may develop!


The Moot monastic community (featured on expressions: the dvd – 2) offers hospitality and welcome in the heart of the City of London to 'questers' or 'spiritual seekers'. Vanessa Elston, one of the community's core team responsible for developing mission and evangelism, describes its work.

Moot - banner

As a monastic community we are seeking to deepen the ways we encounter God, ourselves and others in community, spiritual formation and mission.

Our worship draws deeply on the sacramental and contemplative traditions, bringing together the ancient-future dimensions of the faith. We aspire to a common rhythm of life that expresses our commitment to living sustainably, holistically and justly. We also explore spiritual practices, postures and virtues as means to the transformation and inner liberation required to live out our Christian vocation.

Hospitality and welcome are part of our rhythm of life; they represent a significant strand in the monastic tradition and have a long biblical and Christian tradition of practice that best describes how we are called to engage with the 'other', our 'neighbour', the 'stranger' – particularly those who may lack resources to support themselves.

Through our presence in the City, we regularly meet those who are increasingly dissatisfied with the assumptions and lifestyle offered by secular modernity. Many are looking for resources to support their quest for meaning, spiritual experience and practice but are not turning to the traditional church to do this. Our society is increasingly post secular and open to exploring the spiritual dimension of life but the Church has been slow to effectively engage with this shift in the culture. As a result we have been experimenting with two forms of welcome and hospitality on offer to those who are looking for more to their lives, but are resistant to traditional forms of church and evangelism.

Moot - circleOn Wednesday evenings at St Mary Woolnoth's Church, opposite Bank Tube station and the Bank of England, you will see banners on the railing offering 'Free Meditation' to those who are 'stressed in the city'. Inside the church a group of 15-20 people meets every week to be led through a series of relaxation exercises into a 20 minute silent meditation, following the sacred word approach of the Benedictine Monk John Main. We are encouraged not to worry if our minds seem to leap about like monkeys at first, but to keep drawing ourselves back to our 'anchor word' or 'image'.

This method is to help us still our minds, so that we can begin to get beyond the surface clutter and distraction that prevents us from encountering ourselves at a deeper level and going beyond ourselves to encounter the divine. After the meditation we reflect on how our stress levels have, or have not, been lowered and there is an opportunity to share thoughts, reflections and questions on the process. In this way, those who are spiritual questers experience stillness and transformation. As a result some become regular visitors who are now in a process of opening up to Christian spirituality.

Twice a month on a Wednesday evening, in a large pub near St Mary’s, city workers share a drink or meal while a group of people meet in a back room for what we call a ‘Serum discussion’ based on one of the bigger questions around life, God and spirituality. The group starts with an icebreaker in which everyone introduces themselves and then there is a short 3 to 5 minute thought-provoking discussion starter which ends with a question.

Moot - tableWe then split up into smaller groups where the conversation is facilitated so that everyone participates on the same level, feels listened to and respected. The ground rules of Serum are explained so that the goal is not 'to win the argument', or 'get the right answer to the question' but is about mutual learning. If you listened in to one of these groups you would become aware how this approach can take the discussion beyond an intellectual debate about ideas into something far more personal involving heartfelt searching and consideration. It is amazing how honest and open people can be with others they have never met before.

You would also notice how this approach works best when the Christian presence and voice is in the minority and how people find it much easier to listen when they no longer feel threatened by an atmosphere of dominance or control. A trainee ordinand described Serum as ‘unique in his experience’ in that the church was hosting an event where it was not asking people to move towards it but providing a genuine space of mutual encounter and dialogue.

In these ways Moot is seeking to engage with those who may be a long way from traditional forms of church but are searching for ultimate reality through spiritual experience and finding safe spaces where beliefs and perceptions can be explored and discussed in a non-threatening and non-argumentative environment. The meditation group has been meeting for over a year while the Serum discussion groups are a newer venture – both are attended by a majority of non-Mooters.

One of the challenges of living in a big city is sustaining and growing community and Moot is no different in this respect. We have big ambitions for a small community and are looking for new participants to help us develop our programme of spiritual and missional events in the heart of the City of London.


Mark BerryDoing mission and ministry in the context of fresh expressions of church, requires creative imagination and an incarnational approach to evangelism. Mark Berry, a Lay Pioneer Minister, tells the emerging story of safe space, a fresh expression of church that draws on celtic spirituality, radical hospitality and a form of new monasticism.

Safespace was born in 2005 from a converging of a small group of diverse people (about 10 of us), people who had a yearning to serve and to transform the place we find ourselves in. I came to Telford as a Lay Pioneer Minister, challenged to do something new by the diocese in a town where the vast majority of it’s youthful population had or seemed to desire no contact with Church. Others already living in the town drew together with a desire to step outside of their comfort zones and to connect with new people and new challenges, to engage. So we found ourselves jumping into a boat together – inspired by the local leather fishing boat of St Brendan the Navigator – turning our backs on the comforts of "home" and pushing out into the chaos and danger of the ocean of culture. We have only the Trinity as our model, the Creator as our provider, the Spirit as the wind in our sails and the Christ as our navigator.

In the boat

Safespafe - exhibitWe see the community as itself an embodiment of the Kingdom inwardly and outwardly. The community is a small but rich tapestry of Christian expression seeking to live in shalom and self-surrender. We actively allow space for different views and interpretations of the Christian faith in the context of relationship and community.

We believe that a big part of our living is to celebrate unity in diversity, to model community rather than being a club or niche expression, in a culture where family and community are strained and struggling we believe a major part of a missional response is to model real community and love. Becoming family is hard, but wonderful, committing to share such intimacy with each other raises all sorts of issues and hang-ups which we cannot hide or ignore. Doing it in a way which is deliberately exposed makes it even harder.

Safespace crossIt has been important for us to develop a rhythm of living which ripples out from our main gathering – The Table, where we have a meal, spend time in prayer/reflection and share communion – so we have  developed a weekly rhythm which has seven aspects:

  • See and appreciate something new in Creation;
  • Explore something about Jesus;
  • Listen in silence to the Spirit;
  • Bless and be blessed by someone;
  • Listen to and share a God story with someone;
  • Pray for and ask for prayer from someone;
  • Rest.

Amongst the islands

Safespace candlesPerhaps the best way to describe who we are is as a new-monastic community, a community of followers who are seeking first and foremost to be equipped, resourced and supported in living a life that exudes mission, to reflect a mission and holistic spirituality and to live that life alongside those for whom church has no meaning or real life connection and to be focussed on being agents of transformation in the world in which we find ourselves.

Safespace - shoesWe took to heart the instructions in Luke Chapter 10, to step out, to go lightly and to offer peace where we meet community. So we began to get involved in community: in AFC Telford United Football Club – where we help sweep up after games, spend time in the bar with staff, players and supporters and have got involved in the Trust which owns and runs the club; we regularly have a stall/prayer corner in our local Mind*Body*Spirit fair; we organise children's creation walks – a mix of nature hunt, learning about the environment and Bible stories; and in partnership with our local council and the Methodist Church we run sank•tuary, a safe haven/chill out venue for Clubbers from Midnight to 4am every Sunday morning. In each of these situations we have encountered "people of peace" who welcomed us in: the Chairman of the Football Club, the nightclub owner etc. all of whom have no connection with Church.

Safespace - tablesOur emphasis then is not to grow the core community but to "share lives" (1 Thessalonians 2) which reflect the Gospel and model a different way of being.  We seek to be people of shalom, to begin by offering peace and by living in the wider community rather than "reaching out" into it and drawing people "back in". Brueggemann writes* that the "Towel and the Basin" are the tools of Shalom, and that the Towel only becomes three dimensional when it is wrapped around the foot, so we believe our faith and church only takes on a third dimension when it serves, when it is lived for the Kingdom.

The destination

Safespace sanktuaryWe don’t know where we are going, we are a pilgrim people. We know that we hope to keep going, to keep serving, to keep challenging, to keep being people of shalom, the destination is up to God. We long to take bigger risks, to live deeper in the love of God and each other, to see individuals name God, to see community restored and to see culture transformed. The things we do follow from who we are and where we are, the particular winds and currents that lead us.