Deeper Network Church

Andy Poultney is minister-in-charge of Deeper Network Church, based in what was a restaurant on Romford High Street.

Deeper Network Church originated as 'Deeper' six years ago at St James', Collier Row, with St John's, Havering-Atte-Bower. Deeper, a fresh expression of church, came together as I began serving as curate with a bunch of young adults; my plan was simply to see what God was doing and join in with it.

Following much discussion and prayer, we decided that we wanted to focus on other young adults in the pub and club culture of central Romford. Night-time economy is important here; about 10,000 to 12,000 people descend on the local pubs and clubs every weekend.

We had great support from the community of St James' and St John's and the result was that we launched The Deeper Lounge as a safe space, in Romford's market place, on Friday nights. It started in December 2009 and it has continued to run most weeks; we have served many hundreds of cups of tea and coffee since then and – more importantly – met some great people and had some great chats.

Deeper Network Church - caféWorking alongside Street Pastors, we set up under one of the market stalls and operated from there. After a while, the local authority recognised that we were providing a valuable service and wanted to help us a little more so they bought us a large, pop-up gazebo. It was about a year ago that we moved to a prime spot and now we regularly see about 100 people a night.

I'm part of The Order of Mission and, using missional community 'language', I was – by this stage – beginning to think about what was to happen next because the end of my curacy was on the horizon. The Friday nights were going well and there was also a youth project called DIY (Deeply Impacting Youth) which was engaging with about 60-70 young people.

There was a very strong sense that if we moved away, the work was not yet strong enough to be led by anybody else, and in 2012 we felt God was calling us to become a permanent presence in central Romford rather than just dipping in and out.

In April 2013, ten of us were released from St James' and St John's in order to establish a new worshipping community known as Deeper Network Church. Our office base, and home to lots of what we do now, is called The Deeper Lounge and it's on the high street in Romford.

Deeper Network Church - caféIt's owned by the London Borough of Havering and we rent it from them. It used to be an Afro-Caribbean restaurant but the building has been gutted at a cost of £50,000. It's always incredible to see what God can do, time and time again I've been in the building while work has been going on and as people walk past, one in five will stop and ask what is going on. It offers a natural opportunity to get into conversations with all sorts of people. We applied to the Mission Opportunities Fund to cover our salary costs but money is tight and we are living by faith beyond 2014.

The Diocese of Chelmsford granted us a Bishop's Mission Order and this has been important in how we, and others, view the work. When talking about The Deeper Lounge I like to say, 'this is not a youth centre, it's not a community centre, I want to start calling it home – to us that home is a church'. It's a venue and the idea is that we will continue to do a lot of outward focused work and to engage with mission with different community groups.

We have got a reception area, a coffee shop-sized space, a small kitchen, an office and a prayer room. The plan after Easter is to do a bit of everything in this space, including activities for young people, homeless people and parents. Deeper Network Church will develop for all these different people groups.

Part of my previous role was to act as youth adviser to the bishop but I am now stopping that work as my wife and I will be moving into a community house because I'm becoming Young Vocations Champion for the diocese. This will involve mentoring interns and four guys will live with us and take on placements.

Deeper Network Church - mealBasically, everything that we do begins with service. When we're out under the gazebo speaking to young people late at night at Friday, we'll say, 'would you like a free tea or coffee?' Generally the third or fourth question people ask is, 'why are you doing this?' You tell them and we get varying responses: from complete disbelief to 'oh, that's cute' or similar.

Everything we do is to move on conversations and relationships from 'Oh cute' to our vision of deepening life together as disciples of Jesus Christ. That can be a real challenge but there's nothing else I'd rather do.

The Point Church

Jules Middleton, Pastoral Assistant at The Point Church, Burgess Hill, tells how it is re-evaluating its role as a fresh expression.

We are at a very interesting stage in the life of The Point because we have been looking again at our vision for the church and really seeking God as to what we do and how we do it.

The church started in 2004 when our vicar, Will Kemp, and his family moved from London and a group of people started meeting in their home. The then Bishop of Horsham, Lindsay Urwin, offered great encouragement and support at a time when the Church of England was really starting to think quite seriously about church planting and 'fresh expressions'.

Bishop Lindsay initially also helped to guide our thinking about the BMO process. This was finalised about 18months ago but it certainly took a lot of time and effort to get it right! It's a five-year Bishop's Mission Order but, if all goes well, we would expect it to be automatically renewed at the end of that period.

The Point - crossIn the early days of The Point, it was very much 'café church' and low key in its style, focusing mainly on families and young children. What happened over the years was that a lot of what we were seen to be doing focused on a Sunday morning gathering with modern, contemporary worship. The result was as more and more people came, we struggled to maintain our original vision to reach the unchurched, and the majority of those we were reaching were 'de-churched' and some transferring from other churches.

It was time for us to review what had gone before and look ahead to something new by asking 'what have we got now?' and 'what are we going to do next?'. To do this, we went through a twelve month vision process in 2012/13 which included a whole church questionnaire, a prayer week and input from members of the church.

I also started ministry training in September 2013 at the South East Institute of Theological Education (SEITE) and this, in conjunction with the vision process, has really fed into my role as Pastoral Assistant at The Point, particularly in the area of exploring how we can be more intentionally missional in our approach.

As part of finding more ways to reach people who wouldn't set foot across the threshold of the church, we now run 'Church in a Pub' which meets every quarter at The Woolpack in Burgess Hill.

The Point - pubIt started in July last year at the invitation of the landlord who was really keen for The Woolpack to be seen as a community pub. We had over 50 people come to that first session. It's all very informal and we have a Church in a Pub team to coordinate the interviews or testimonies, songs from a small worship band and a thought for the day. It's early days but response has been very positive so far and we're looking at whether it could go into different places or roll out to other pubs in the area.

One of our existing projects is 'The Sanctuary'. It's much more than a parent and toddlers group, it's a place where a mum with pre-school kids can come and be 'pampered' a little. They can relax, have a chat, maybe have a hand massage, that type of thing – and a few dads enjoy coming along too!

The Sanctuary meets on Monday mornings in term-time at Hurstpierpoint Village Centre and it aims to be a really welcoming place to build friendships and community in that area. We are really excited about something growing from that, for those who might want to explore faith issues because people would find it a very big leap to go from The Sanctuary into what we would recognise as a church setting. There are some really interesting conversations going on at the moment about how that might happen and we look forward to seeing it become a reality.

The Point - treeAll in all, it feels like a very exciting time at The Point because we have regained our focus as to what and who we're doing it for! We want to be a transforming presence throughout mid Sussex and part of that involves pioneering authentic communities of Christians to reach out to those around them. We've been thinking a lot about context in recent months and being relevant to that context is vital – though it does throw up some challenges.

The vision process helped many of us to realise that we needed to be doing something different for the Kingdom but we reach about 300 people in the Sunday morning gathering at St Paul's Catholic College, Burgess Hill, and we have to ask if we will alienate many of those by taking a new direction? How do we release something new? How do we remain true to what God wants of us and help others to catch that vision too?

They're not easy questions to answer and much of it will only become clearer as time goes by. For now, we are looking to God to help us in this fresh expression as we reimagine what it means to be church in today's world.


Tim Nash is a pioneer minister with the Methodist Church's VentureFX pioneering ministries scheme. He, and his wife Hannah, have been developing a community called Garden-City for the past 18 months.

I started with VentureFX in September 2011 and am based in Sherwood, just north of Nottingham city centre. The first few months were a frustrating time as I was keen to do something; an event, a project, anything! Instead we sensed God calling us to let go of all our ideas, agendas and dreams and pray and discern what he was already doing in the area. So we prayer walked (and cycled) every street in the area a number of times, keeping our eyes and ears open to what God might be up to.

We slowly began to develop a picture of a place that was very open to spirituality, but one that at the same time was very suspicious of anything formal, organised, and in particular anything that appeared religious.

We then began to sense God giving us a way into this community. We felt God telling us to 'love your neighbour'. This took us by surprise a bit as it seemed so obvious, but we came to appreciate that there was something inauthentic about going out and about 'doing' mission in the area if we didn't even know the people we lived next door to. As a result we began to organise street parties and house parties for Christmas, Easter, the Jubilee or anything other excuse we could come up with. Then slowly we began to invite people round to explore spirituality in informal and creative ways.

Garden-City - Christmas

Another thing we sensed quite strongly was the need to embody the gospel. Again we knew we were meant to do this, but we began to realise that in order to do this authentically we needed to open up our lives to the people around us. Although by nature, me and my wife are quite introverted and like our own space, we began to open ourselves up by making sure that at least three or four times a week we'd eat with other people, invite people to join us on holidays, invite people round for Christmas or to simply join in with whatever we were doing. We also learnt the importance of not trying to put a gloss on our lives, but to allow people to be a part of our struggles; our mourning as well as our celebrations. That's when people really seemed to be looking at what difference our faith made.

We also came to realise that in our particular context what we offered people needed to be experiential. As I spoke to people involved in the New Spiritualities, it was clear they were involved because of a spiritual encounter of some sort. I also met a number of people who had left the church to explore the New Spiritualities because they hadn't found a sense of an authentic, experiential spiritual journey in the church. So we began to create spaces for people to experience Jesus, regularly putting on creative, meditative evenings in our home, community centre and the pub. We've seen God use these spaces to touch people in really deep ways, even if their initial experience wasn't a positive one.

At one of our gatherings, for example, we took a small group of people through a guided meditation that ended by encouraging them to engage in a conversation with Jesus. One man, who had been brought along by his partner, began to experience a deep sense of darkness and fear. Rather than putting him off, however, this encounter with (what he described as) evil convinced him there must be something good and loving out there. All his previous intellectual objections to the faith disappeared and he began to pursue Jesus. We recently baptised him – just four months after that initial encounter.

Garden-City - retreat

We also quickly realised that we had to offer an holistic faith. Any hint of a sacred/secular divide was a big turn off for people. As we reflected on this we felt God draw our attention to Jesus's summary of the law as a framework for our faith journey – to love God (Father, Son and Spirit), to love ourselves (mind, body and spirit) and to love our neighbour (humans, animals and the Earth).

One of the many ways we've gone about expressing this is through sharing an allotment. Every weekend a group of us can be found there digging, weeding and planting, as we explore what it means to live more in tune with the seasons. The local allotment association has been so impressed with what we've been up to they're allowing us to turn another plot into a community garden to create a sense of community among the other allotment holders.

This journey has led to the formation of a community called Garden-City. We chose the name because humanity is said to have originated in a garden (Eden) and will find its fulfilment in a city (the New Jerusalem). We live in the 'in-between' time, the hyphen of Garden-City. It also seemed quite apt as our community lives in a city but we spent a lot of our free time in our garden/allotment.

There are 15 of us, plus children (and a small group of people still on the fringes checking us out). Although we're increasingly exploring the idea of mission as a community, our present growth seems to be happening through 'attractive discipleship', as people in our social networks show an interest in the lifestyle we're committing ourselves to.

We recently celebrated Garden-City's first birthday by going on a retreat for the day. To help us reflect on the journey we'd been on we made a timeline on which everyone wrote something about what being part of the community has meant to them. One of the main themes that emerged was people's thankfulness for the sense of family they've found in Garden-City. That was a sign to me that we are seeing a 'church' emerge – a Jesus-centred, spiritual family.

Garden-City - meal

Although relationships are at the heart of Garden-City, a pattern of gatherings has emerged to help us on our discipleship journey.

On the first Monday of the month we all meet together in a pub function room to explore the life of Jesus. This is a very informal, discussion-based evening, where we look at an aspect of Jesus's life, and then commit ourselves to living it.

On the second Monday we meet in groups of twos or threes. This is where we get deeper into each other's lives, and hold each other accountable to loving God, loving ourselves and loving our neighbours.

On the third Monday we're all together again in the pub function room where we explore creative prayer and meditation. We've found this to be a good place to bring new people who are interested in exploring spirituality.

On the fourth Monday we meet in two groups to simply catch up, share how our journey is going, or to go deeper into any issues that have emerged at the previous gatherings.

We also all meet together one Sunday afternoon a month to share a meal.

What really strikes me as I look back over the last 18 months is that it is Jesus who is building this church. All we've done is commit ourselves to prayer and to giving ourselves to the people we've come into contact with, and sharing with them what Jesus has done for us. Out of this, Garden-City has emerged. That's not to say it hasn't been really hard work or that everything has been easy, we've certainly had our challenges, but there has been a very real sense that Jesus is going ahead of us, and we're simply trying to keep up!

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.

No Holds Barred

Stuart Radcliffe is minister to two Methodist/URC churches in Cheshire. He tells how Heaton Moor United Church, Stockport, is linking with the local pub to develop community links.

It all started when we were thinking about how we could make a difference in our community to remind people that we love them – and God loves them.

In some communities, the way the church can work to meet people's needs is pretty obvious. It is very different where we are in Manchester. Yes there are high levels of deprivation in areas on either side of us but we are actually in lovely, green suburbia where – on the face of things – people are not too badly off at all. Whilst there are those who have the daily struggle to make ends meet, many set off to highly paid jobs in the morning and come home much later that day to their very desirable, four-bed detached homes.

But the thought kept coming to me that appearances were deceptive and that people had lots of problems behind their front doors. On the face of it, they are going out to work and getting a nice salary but they can pay a very high price for those demanding jobs with enormous stress levels. Our question was, 'How can we as a church recognise those stresses and make it clear that we care for the people living with those anxieties?'

No Holds Barred - coffeeAt that point we were two churches, Heaton Moor Methodist Church and The Heatons United Reformed Church. We wanted to do something for people during Holy Week so we went out to where they were and gave out coffee and hot cross buns, to those on their way to the railway station. We also gave them a little booklet about Easter and a leaflet explaining why we were doing it. The URC building was about 50 yards away from the station and it was an easy way to break into the busyness of people's lives.

It also made quite an impact on the church members who took part because they understood that they too could start to 'do' evangelism simply by saying, 'Would you like a free coffee?' From that initial idea, working with the community where they are, much has happened and grown. It has been marvellous to share stories and build relationships.

Two years on and we had become one church, Heaton Moor United Church, but the same question remained as to how we might best reach out into our community. The answer came when a few of us including my colleague Rev Richard Parkes were in a local pub, The Plough, and we came up with the idea of having Beer and Carols. Pub landlord Ian was really supportive and so members of the church gathered in the pub and – in between rounds of Ian's festive quiz and fancy dress – we sang praise to God in carols. The result was that I had more conversations about faith than I'd had for months and we also raised £200 for Christian Aid.

No Holds Barred - singingWhat could we do next? Our thoughts turned again to Easter but we no longer had the building by the station for distributing coffees. However The Plough was in a perfect position. All we had to do was persuade Ian to open up at 6am, allow us to give away coffee and receive nothing in return!

Amazingly, Ian agreed and so from Monday to Thursday of Holy Week we met at the pub from very early morning and gave away coffee and hot cross buns and booklets about the Easter story. Social media also had a role to play and we let people know what we were doing via Twitter. I'd just started the church Twitter account and people picked up on three keywords that I used: Heaton Moor, Community, Caring.

That meant what we were doing was picked up by a lot of people doing things in our area about community or caring. At that time the messages were being tweeted to 3,500 people; they are now retweeted to about 7,000 people because we have hit the right networks – these included local radio which picked up on the momentum of church doing something good in the community.

I chatted to Ian about how we might continue to develop these growing links with community. The Plough already hosted a knitting group, Spanish lessons and the history society. I said, 'How about a monthly discussion meeting' and he said, 'what night do you want to do it on?! I want people to come in here and feel that they are sitting in their own lounge, the more we can offer them the better'.

No Holds Barred - carolsThat group is called No Holds Barred and it involves talking over a variety of issues with a Christian input but in a very informal way. We also put the discussion starter details on all the tables in the pub, not just the area we're sitting in, so that people can still consider some of the issues even if they don't join us.

It stands on its own as a specific community. In December the evening was called, 'I wish it could be Christmas every day? How do I cope with Christmas at a time of financial austerity?' Past meetings have seen us look at prayer through the story of footballer Fabrice Muamba who survived a heart attack and we have also discussed trust as a result of the Jimmy Savile investigations.

Some months there have been 10 to 12 people taking part and other times there have been four of us, we've just got to keep at it. We have also had other events, such as a curry and comedy night at the pub. I think we need to give it two years before we assess what happens next. If it's to continue to grow it will look very different than church as we know it today.

We have to think how we can be relevant in our service to people. Maybe they will then see a purpose and later a meaning as to why we do what we do. I have learned a lot from the pub landlord because we Christians need to recognise that the church doesn't have exclusivity in wanting to serve people. I know it's a matter of good business practice for Ian but he also wants to provide a place where the community can come together in different ways. I think sometimes people respect us more as churches in the area when we join in with what others are already doing, such as the local traders' association. We offered to do some carol singing for them and they were really pleased.

For the first two years of my time here, all I seemed to do was have cups of coffee with people. Now I know why. It's because you become friends with them and now, after almost six years, those relationships have started to pay off. The thing is you have to make yourself available. It does mean you can't go for a quiet drink in the local pub any more because people want to chat to you about different things but that's great! It just means you have to go outside the area if you want a quiet might out.

No Holds Barred - antlersI'm always reluctant to put 'labels' on something like No Holds Barred because it's organic and I don't know where it's going to lead. If it leads us to a fresh expression meeting in the pub I'd be delighted and I'd love that to be the direction that it takes. What I'm starting to learn is that I get more out of it by letting it go where it wants to go but I have no intention of it being an 'outreach' to get people in to our standard church services. That's not its purpose; we have been quite clear with our church about that and they're very supportive of that.

If somebody said they wanted to get more involved in my traditional church community as a result of coming to No Holds Barred then that's fine but the group doesn't exist to be a gateway to 'proper' church. I would say, 'You are more than welcome to come but it's nothing like this.' We have to get away from any idea that we are creating things that will appeal to people in a postmodern way but what we are really asking them to do is to sign on the dotted line and be part of traditional church.

There are lots of questions around fresh expressions but I think financial support is going to become increasingly important. At the moment fresh expressions are predominantly being funded by the established church but there has to be a point where fresh expressions fund themselves in order to continue.

I'm on the FEAST (Fresh Expressions Area Strategy Team) for Greater Manchester and I went on the mission shaped ministry course locally. One of the key things I learned from that was that we have got permission to fail. That means we don't say, 'it didn't work' but instead ask, 'What's the next thing? Just keep at it.' It's also very important to keep open to stopping some things as well as starting them. I'm enjoying doing stuff our way but it's important to discover what will work for you.

St Peter’s in the Pub

This is an exciting time for St Peter's in the Pub, Lincoln. It has been commissioned as a distinct congregation by St Peter in Eastgate Church and from October it will start to meet weekly instead of once a month. Its leader, Revd Nick Alexander, explains more.

St Peter's in the Pub - serving

St Peter's in the Pub started in October 2008 to serve a new, growing community in the Carlton Estate and Bunker's Hill area of Lincoln where, previously, there was no church or church building. St Peter in Eastgate Church had been looking at how best to reach that new community and St Peter's in the Pub was the result of several years of research, community engagement, and listening to local people.

Much of what we did took shape after I attended a mission shaped ministry course in the city. As a result, we organised events, carried out a community survey and started a café church service.

With the help of a consultant recommended by the msm team, our PCC matched the survey's findings with what we had to offer at St Peter in Eastgate. This led to the launch of a parent and toddler group at the estate's Lincolnshire Poacher pub which proved to be very popular. We later ran an Alpha Course on the back of our first Craft Creations evening, also at the Poacher.

St Peter's in the Pub - singingThe initiative is generally reaching folk who are 'coming back to church' after a while away but we are also seeing a small number of completely unchurched people coming to faith as well.

Almost three years ago, we started St Peter's in the Pub on the first Sunday of the month and we now regularly welcome over 65 adults and about 15 children. The idea has always been to keep everything simple, starting off with coffee and croissants at 10am and having a crèche for pre-schoolers as well as activities for older children during the service.

We run lots of other regular activities as well. These include our weekly parent and toddler group Family Hour which runs on Wednesdays in term time and a similar event once a month on a Saturday morning called Family Time. We have strong links with a local sheltered housing scheme and run Songs of Praise & Tea there once a month. We also have a number of weekday fellowship groups.

St Peter's in the Pub - sumoIn the summer we hold an outdoor community event. This year it took the form of an Inflatables Day at the Carlton Boulevard sports ground. We had Sumo suits, bungee run, inflatable boxing ring, gladiator duel and a bouncy castle alongside a free BBQ – the event attracted over 500 people. As well as providing a great community event for the Carlton area, the aim was to publicise a Christian youth event called 'The Bank' at the Lincoln City football ground. We also hosted two special Christians in Sport evenings at Yarborough Leisure Centre and hundreds of flyers were given out.

We were granted a Bishop's Mission Order in February of this year. This has expanded the geographical area that we are licensed by the Diocese to work in and provides us with even greater opportunities to share the Gospel with others.

Our continued vision at St Peter's in the Pub is to see the emergence of a Christian community welcoming and serving the people of the Carlton Estate and Bunker's Hill areas. We are looking to achieve this through a range of community-building activities, evangelistic events, Bible study, fellowship and our times together at the Lincolnshire Poacher.

St Peter's in the Pub - menuFrom October we will begin meeting every week with a whole-church joint celebration at Eastgate at the end of every month. We will also have the opportunity to come together once a month for an evening Praise & Prayer meeting.

Earlier this year the vicar of St Peter in Eastgate, Revd Edward Bowes-Smith, set out the Church Council's 'Vision for Mission' for St Peter's. The idea centres on being one church family (St Peter's) with a variety of different congregations – including St Peter's in the Pub – each with their own worship styles and mission priorities.

The new arrangements began with the commissioning of St Peter's in the Pub on 18th September 2011 and the first whole-church celebration on 25th September 2011 was a Confirmation Service. The fact remains that wherever we are and however many times we meet, what we value remains the same, namely Worship, Word, Witness, Welcome and Work.


Cre8 is a fresh expression for children, young people and their families, at Carlton Colville Methodist Church, Lowestoft. Deacon Ian Cartwright explains how the range of activities include a gardening club, health and fitness programme and special events.

Our purpose is to build lives and build community and to serve beyond our gatherings. Cre8 has been going for about three years around a flexible mix of activities in our church building based on a very large, private housing estate. Among the most popular is a cinema and film club where the children choose the movie to be screened and dish out the popcorn and everything else!

Before launching Cre8, we wanted to try and find out what the community wanted rather than what we thought they wanted. Our first piece of research, done in conjunction with the University of East Anglia, started with focus groups from which we developed questionnaires. We asked things like, 'Would you like to meet?', 'If so, what time would you like to meet?', 'What activities would you like to see in this area?' The questionnaires went out to 6,000 homes and nearly 1,000 of them were completed and returned.

The overwhelming response was for health and fitness opportunities and things for young people to do. The next step was to ask the children and young people themselves whether they wanted to have such activities. Questionnaires went out to the six schools which serve this area: two Lower, two Middle and two Upper. Thanks to the schools' support, we were able to classify the children and young people into postcode areas.

Cre8 - drinkThe research was carried out by groups from within the schools themselves while Christian Research did all the analysis. It mirrored our first research results and also told us that what they meant by 'activities' was really a good place just to chill out and relax, somewhere they could go to play with their PlayStations and Wii. As health and fitness was such a big theme, we got in touch with The Leisure Database Company which provides data, analysis and advice for the sports and leisure industries.

They draw up what's called a Mosaic map, a sort of jigsaw puzzle, of the people in your area. They can analyse the socio-demographic breakdown of a place and tell you things like how many 0-15s there are, the type of families they come from based on income, and eventually build a profile of the area and classification of those who live there. From that they can delve deeper to tell you how many people are members of gyms, what the competition is for health and fitness provision, and so on. They told us there was a latent demand of about 1,000 people in the area we serve.

A sport and leisure trust called Active Luton acted as our consultants in this and they said 1,000 was a good number to make things add up commercially. Cre8 came about as a result of that research and we built up a small team to get things off the ground, including someone who worked with the Schools Partnership Agency.

We started off with the kids taking part in shows. Adults would come along with them on Saturday mornings for rehearsals and have a bite of breakfast with us. At that time the Christian input was very small because we were at the stage of simply wanting to build up relationships with the children and their parents.

It was at that exploring sort of stage that we began to see the development of a holistic ministry, where people's Christian spirituality is very much seen as part of their physical, social, mental and emotional health and wellbeing.

Cre8 - climbingThe spiritual dimension is there in all we do because of our desire for God to be at the heart of it all, involved in every aspect of it – and for the glory to go to Him. It is also there because of who we are and the values we apply. They shape and form us into the community we are and what we hope to be. We see these as being Worship, Pray, Create, Learn, Enjoy Abundant Life, Transform, Influence, Give, Celebrate, and Be inclusive.

A family service once a month is done in a very informal way. This month it will be aimed at blokes as part of the Father's Day theme – there'll be bacon sandwiches to eat, a Yorkie bar challenge; a clip from a Rob Bell DVD, and a lot of bunting and a banner made by the kids!

In the past we've also had very low-key Communion with them. At one such Communion, we looked at the meaning of symbols; starting off by looking at McDonald's, Nike and KFC – what did their 'symbols', their logos, say about them? We then moved on to the symbolic meaning of the bread and wine. It was all consecrated properly but we served the wine in paper cups and gave half slices of sliced bread like the people would eat at home. It was all familiar to them.

Fridays@7 is another development – a café church environment in our building where men chill out to eat, drink coffee, watch films, enjoy music and explore what faith in Jesus is all about.

It's amazing what has happened there. One guy loves Shakespeare and he went out to buy himself a King James Bible because he sees parallels between the two; there were a lot of the programmes on radio and TV at the time about the King James' 400th anniversary and he was fascinated by it.

I went to register at the local gym and met a guy who couldn't get along with traditional church services at all but now he's working at a rehabilitation and recovery centre and brings some of his clients along to us on a Friday night.

Cre8 group

Established for nearly four years, we are members of the Willow Creek Association and use materials from a variety if sources including Christian Vision for Men and Rob Bell. We are currently making whole life discipleship our priority. There is also crossover with CRE8 with two of the Fridays@7 guys running our gardening club.

The group wants to stay small, about 10 to 12 at the moment, and develop a new offshoot on Thursdays called Thursdays @ 7. From time to time we meet at a local pub. We call this evening 'Who Let the Dads Out?'. We also go karting, walking, and other fun things that men enjoy and encourage our non-church friends to join us on these occasions. 

In all of this, there have – of course – been struggles along the way and it hasn't come together easily but the church and community wrestled with issues together to find a way forward and develop things. This has certainly been a painful process at times.

Now I think the mixed economy works very well here because we have mechanisms in place for communication between the inherited church and the fresh expressions. We meet once a quarter when representatives from the different areas of church life come together to plan and discuss. The fresh expressions group is very firm in saying that it is as much 'their' church as inherited church but they also know that it is all about working together for the good of the Kingdom. Sometimes there are difficult conversations because these are part and parcel of what it means to be church – we know that's what it means to work out the mixed economy in reality. Not always an easy journey.

The Junction

The Junction, drawn from the work of Hexthorpe Methodist Church, has much to celebrate but it faces many challenges too. Donald Reasbeck explains.

Hexthorpe is an evangelical Methodist church in an area close to Doncaster town centre, and is in the Doncaster Circuit and Sheffield District. We also have strong links with Methodist Evangelicals Together (MET). Hexthorpe is an old railway community of about 4,000 people.

The area has deteriorated rapidly over the past 14 years or so; we now have all the problems of an inner city area but on a smaller scale. In 1991/92, we drew a line across a map of Hexthorpe and became aware that all of our church members – except one – and all the children, came from one side of the line. Half of Hexthorpe was virtually untouched by the church. We started a drop-in in the church hall on a Thursday morning. Surprise, surprise, no-one came. A church building is threatening to many people. So we bought an old butcher's shop to use as premises for a drop-in and appointed a manager in 1993. That's how the Junction started.

In 2004 we opened the Rising Sun pub nearby and we have still got both premises. Previously we did try to go out and about; after Hexthorpe's evening service we'd sing in the streets and one of us would speak. Very rarely did we see anybody. Then we started knocking on doors and asking if people would like us to pray for any problems they might have. We got various responses and then we thought, 'It's alright praying, but what are we doing?' We knew the message was getting through when the Junction manager opened the door to a woman with two children, who was clutching a carrier bag containing all her worldly possessions. She had been given a house to stay in which was no more than a hovel and she said, 'Can you do anything for me?'

The Junction - drop-inIn August 2010 our monitoring and evaluation report included details of numbers using the Junction facilities over the previous year – 1,218 enquiries were dealt with and an average of 36 people a day dropped in. Issues dealt with included benefits, bereavement, housing, crime, addictions, health issues, harassment and bullying, form filling, relationships, domestic violence, child protection, unemployment, letter writing, homelessness, work permits, CVs, education, food, debt, anti-social behaviour, violence, utility supplies, asylum matters and bogus callers.

The challenge in serving local residents of a wide range of nationalities – including Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe – is a constant one. We have good links through one of our volunteers, who also works with the church's Farsi congregation, and our Careforce worker, who has a weekly session in the local school. Forty percent of the children do not have English as a first language and some 26 different languages are spoken at home.

In a Government survey of three years ago, Hexthorpe was 23rd out of 34,000 so-called Super Output Areas in the whole country. These measure deprivation by certain indices. Therefore we are convinced that it is essential for us to continue to provide the day-to-day facilities – a safe place to sit and meet with others and talk or just be quiet, a drink of tea/coffee, a prayer.

An exciting new development for 2010 saw the starting of a weekly lunchtime service which complements the weekly bible study and the occasional celebration evenings. The Junction also hosts a Christianity Explored group for men. Our aim is to continue to develop the sense of Christian community and to present the gospel in words as well as in actions.

We have been strongly supported by the Doncaster Circuit. They are most generous in the grant they give towards the salary of our operational manager's salary.

Our funding raft continues to consist of contributions from the Methodist Church – local, town and district level, the private charitable sector and the statutory sector. We still draw in an income from the rents of flats above the Rising Sun pub, in which we provide accommodation for those needing a secure environment. For the foreseeable future we have to look for external funding to help with salaries for staff. Therefore the continuing support from the Methodist funds is essential if our work is to have a firm financial base.

Money from the Doncaster New Deal for Communities has come to an end after a decade of support. An initial grant towards renovation costs of the Rising Sun has since been followed by financial support towards the provision of computers, various goods and, vitally for us, two contributions towards the manager's salary.

The Junction - coffee

We must continue to seek funding over the next year from both private and statutory sectors. We have two paid posts, a full time manager, and – for the last four years – a managerial administrator, shared by two people. In addition there are nine volunteers. We cannot sustain the salaries without support.

Our work with young people has been very challenging. Some are excluded from school and are at a loose end most days. Others when not at school would sooner be outside rather than at home. On occasions violence has been threatened against staff or property but generally they respect our discipline, although there are moments! The Junction is not a youth centre, but the need for provision for these youngsters shouts out at us because there is no provision at all in the community for young people.

We will continue to keep the provision for young people under constant review because resources – human and material – are limited and we must be careful not to overreach ourselves by spreading too thinly. However, the situation is really critical.

We will continue to support all initiatives that seek to help the community and bring lasting benefits. The Junction endeavours to see that the community is consulted and involved from the beginning. Local people don't like to be told what they need by the experts!

During the coming year the Hexthorpe Methodist Church hopefully will have begun their major scheme for building new premises. We must develop our thinking so that the Junction can fully utilise the new facilities.

People should beware of using terms such as success or failure. If God has called us to a work then we have to be faithful to that calling. Yes, monitoring and evaluation is important but in the end the question is, 'Have we been faithful?' What is success or failure? The world thinks in such terms. Jesus healed 10 men with leprosy and only one came back to praise God. Was there then only a 10% success rate? Obviously that can't be the case. There was a 100% compassionate heart. Encouragement is essential. Yes, talk about encouraging signs, but if none is forthcoming, still be faithful. Headline success stories have a habit of coming back to bite you. If one is asked to talk about the work, tell it as it is – warts and all.

Planning is essential. Working towards objectives is helpful and necessary, but there has to be flexibility. New challenges emerge and we have to be prepared to take them on board. If necessary we have to be willing to change course. Care must be taken not to overstretch; resist the temptation to get involved in empire building.

We are not a branch of the social services, we have a Christian distinctiveness and that distinctiveness has become increasingly less of a barrier to the accessing of secular funding. Relationships and trust are so important in this area. The spending of grants for their designated purpose and the diligent keeping of records and accounts are appreciated by outside funding agencies. Resist the temptation to compromise on your Christian emphasis in order to attract grants – it usually doesn't work anyway and can have a negative effect.

Catch the vision first. Don't say at the outset we can't afford it. Dream the dream, put flesh on it, and then consider the costs and possible sources of finance. If you begin with finance then that could be the end of the dream. If it is of God then the way will open up; but only after much prayer, thought and hard work.

The Junction - puppets

Any project must be an integral part of the life and ministry of the church. The prayer and support of the whole church is essential. It is not just for a few enthusiasts.

Leadership must be anchored in and responsible to the local church. We have learned that what we do must have a scriptural base and that many times events drive us to reflect in Scripture. There are many social schemes around. The church should not provide yet another one. Any outreach must be part of the life of the church. We are not just another project but we are the living body of Jesus; we offer life in all its fullness.

You have to listen and respond but we have learned from our mistakes. Our belief in the gospel and the power of Jesus to change lives has not changed whatsoever, but we have discovered that there are various ways in which people come into that truth.

Over the last 18 months we have developed a regular lunchtime service with an average of 15 of us sitting around a table. We will have a song, a reading, a talk and discussion followed by sandwiches and a cake.

Eighteen years ago our vision was that the Junction could be a new kind of church that we found hard to describe at the time. Some people do regard it as their church – though we are very much part of the local church. We would say it's essential to be part of the local church. We are not separate; it's not the Junction and the church. We lay great emphasis as a church on teaching and preaching but we have learned that you can't make assumptions. We learned that when after a service somebody asked, 'Who is this bloke Paul that you keep talking about?' We are not quite certain who is going to be there and we are never quite certain what is going to happen.

We should never stand still. Once you do that you become institutionalised, then fossilised, then closed. We are constantly looking to see the direction we should be taking.

It would be marvellous if all of those who come to the Junction became Christians but it's not conditional. We love and serve them all. Sometimes we're asked how many people have come from the Junction into the life of the church and how many have become members. In terms of outlay has it been 'successful'? Has there been a good return on the investment in them? Thankfully we don't think in those terms. It's great when people do come to faith, but we are just called to do what we do. We can do no other.

Bare Soul

David Barker spent three years as a fresh expressions enabler in the West Yorkshire District. While in post, he launched a variety of different things including youth cell groups, all-age church and church in sheltered housing accommodation. He is still involved in a church in a bar, known as Bare Soul.

Bare Soul - bar

Church in a bar works like a spiritual open mic night. There's a different theme each time and people are encouraged to bring along songs, poems, a piece of art or something that they have made (especially if it is cake!). These sometimes have very tenuous links with what we're thinking about in that session but everything is welcome! Among the themes we've explored so far are peace, hope and joy. These can be interpreted in a number of different ways, in an attempt to engage people who are not regular churchgoers – though many are spiritual seekers. I also run a gospel choir and there is a lot of cross over between the two communities.  

Bare Soul - frontageThe bar is based in the Bare Arts Gallery in Todmorden in what are off-sales premises for a micro brewery. The brewer is the owner and his wife is an artist who specialises in painting nudes, hence the gallery name.

The brewer heard about us doing church in another pub and said, 'can you come here and do that?' He and his wife love it and like to tell their customers that 'church comes to us once a month'. They are really supportive and get people to come along: they are our best evangelists. The numbers vary because it's in the main bar area which means that some people just happen to be in the room when it happens and get subjected to it, many asking when it is happening again!

Bare Soul - tableWe have been going since December 2009 and usually have between 15 and 25 people coming along. A team of us, who play in a band together, help to set it up each time. We act as the house band on the night with me generally acting as MC, though it tends to be with a very light touch – we don't make a big thing of setting up 'church' on the premises or anything like that. It can be a little nerve-wracking at times as you never know if anyone is going to bring anything or what they might bring. There have been quite a few opportunities for discussions but we haven't got to the point of interesting people in Alpha or anything – mainly because the people who come are in a different place to that. They are starting much further back.

It's all about building relationships and introducing Christian spirituality because this context is one in which there is a very arty community and a very spiritual community. They're interested in all sorts of things and we're delighted to have the chance to be part of that.

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.