Life Church

Susan Sadler, lead evangelist with Christians Against Poverty and leader of Life Church, Newton Aycliffe, tells how the community grew from 10 to 100 in just over a year.

I have to be totally honest, this is something none of us expected; but we know that God has given us something very special because nearly all of the people who come through our doors have not been church attenders before.

Amazingly, it's only about 18 months ago since a group of us from a small house church started to reach out into the community a little bit more. With very limited resources, we set up a charity called Lifeline Community Action in order to develop some work within a five mile radius of Newton Aycliffe in County Durham, where we're based.

Lifeline Community Action was the catalyst for a 'Helping Hands Project' for which people would be referred through various agencies and organisations. Some of the people we were coming into contact with wanted to know more about why we were doing these things and what this Christian faith was all about, so we started to meet together on Thursday evenings in someone's home to explore that in more depth.

Life Church - shoesWe are part of the Acts 435 initiative which helps people and churches to give money directly to those most in need. I noticed that, as I was going out and about delivering goods and care parcels, people kept talking more about the Thursday night gathering than the help they'd received! At that time, hardly anyone described what was happening on Thursdays as 'church' but it had definitely become an accepted gathering place.

Just over a year ago, our Bible study gatherings got too big for a living room. We realised that we'd have to find another venue because this is an area which suffers economically so we knew that the housing stock would be too small to accommodate the people wanting to come along.

In the end we decided to step out in faith and rent somewhere. I emailed three places and the room we found, in a local centre, could take 25 people. We thought that was fine but, a few weeks later, we had outgrown it with 32 people. Then the opportunity came up to go to Greenfield School where they had a room available in the week that had space for 50. Again, that sounded perfect but when we moved in, we took 49 people with us.

Soon after that we moved into the school hall because our membership now stands at about 100 and we'll generally have an average of 70 attending most weeks. I lead what is now known as Life Church and we have a couple of elders from the West Auckland Vineyard Church who come and help us.

Most of the people who come have never been part of a community like this or had any previous experience of church. Some, but not all, of them came to us through Christians Against Poverty (CAP). We had a CAP centre here for quite a few years so I've known many people in the area; it has been good to see some of them get involved in Life Church but I'd say that the majority of our regulars were not previously involved with CAP.

Life Church - drop-inWhen people want to know more of the Christian faith but have never previously been involved in church life, it can be difficult for CAP centres to know how to respond. Many churches do a great job of discipling people – and often in significant numbers – but not everyone feels at home in a more traditional church setting. That's when something different may come into being, something that is appropriate for people in their particular Christian journey.

Life Church attracts a wide range of people, including some who are quite challenging in their lifestyle and behaviour. It's great to reach gang leaders and children expelled from school, of course, but it brings its own problems and I have been criticised for that. I've been told, 'You encourage these people, Susan' and my critics are quite right, I do encourage these people and I will always encourage them!

I have worked for CAP for twelve years and have seen people become Christians, go to church for a few weeks and then give up on it because – for one reason or another – they struggle to thrive in that environment. The vast majority of churches are welcoming and caring but some people can still feel overwhelmed by it all; I'm so grateful to God that Life Church has become a place where many have settled down to explore their faith. Thankfully, we keep seeing the fruits of that; in summer 2013 we baptised ten people.

If you just look at the growth in numbers, you can miss the fact that this is massively challenging work to be involved in – you really do need the heart to do it. Our outreach into the wider area is because we are committed to God, to each other and to the community. That's the pecking order.

We are also very fortunate in that the local churches have been very supportive of us, including St Clare's Church of England parish church, Great Aycliffe, and West Auckland Vineyard Church.

Life Church - kidsAll churches want to disciple people in a way, and with resources, they can understand – and we're no different! Our attitude at Life Church is, 'you don't opt in, you opt out', so unless people definitely say that they don't want to be involved in something we assume that they will be. I say to everyone, 'we are all "in" unless you tell me otherwise'.

At CAP, our basic resources for discipleship are a Discovery Steps course and Discovery Breaks and I have been, and continue to be, involved in these resources as part of my work with Christians Against Poverty. The Lord very clearly gave me the vision for both of these and, basically, 'downloaded' the information to me some years ago!

Discovery Steps is an introduction to Christianity course which not only looks at such questions as 'What's life all about?' and 'Why should I read the Bible?' but also covers things like, 'What about my worries, my anger?'. Discovery Breaks came about when I asked CAP's UK chief executive Matt Barlow, 'Could we take some people away to help them find out more about themselves and about God?' That was ten years ago and we took 70 people away. There are now 14 Discovery Breaks up and down the country every year and probably about 1,000 people each year will benefit by being on one.

These breaks take place at different places up and down the country but a venue tends to be no more than two hours maximum from where they live. Generally they are full board. The programme is a holistic one; for at least one of the sessions they will hear a main gospel message and have a prayer time, but we also see it as a time of relaxation and fun, things like games and trips to theme parks and pampering sessions. Discovery Breaks can be life-changing but it's also important to do the regular things well at grass roots level when we're back on home territory.

What we make available at Life Church is very much like some aspects of what's on offer through the Discovery Breaks. If anyone new comes to the church for instance, we always offer to take them out for a meal. We've also had a 'getting to know you' event at the Rockliffe Hall and Wynyard Hall Country House Hotels in County Durham. Most of our people will never have had the chance to go to a luxury hotel but we want them to know how special they are and how precious they are individually.

Life Church - helping handsEvery single one of church members will get weekly texts or phone calls from us. If they couldn't get to church for one reason or another we'll send them a message to say we've missed them. We also have Spot Prizes where people can nominate others for a gift every week; if it's anybody's birthday we'll sing to them and if there happens to be a few birthdays we'll sing happy birthday to each one of them personally. We want to make the point that we are all, individually, important to God and to each other. This year, many of us are going to France together for a week's camping holiday. We are also taking about 70 people to the Jonas Centre in Leyburn, Wensleydale, for a retreat in August and recently we took the ladies of Life Church to a Christian conference.

It's no surprise that Life Church celebrates whenever someone turns to faith but some might question, 'Is this a real salvation because it's in a different sort of church?' The answer's 'Yes it is. To have people turn to Christ in any setting is a wonderful thing and we thank God for it.'

We don't have a church building of course so our costs, for the rooms that we hire, amount to £30 a week. Life Church doesn't have any paid staff yet; we take an offering and standing orders – and every penny that comes in goes back into the community.

Our format is flexible. We don't have a worship band so we sing along to worship songs on YouTube and always get people involved in whatever's happening; we don't want them to feel like spectators while someone else, usually me, leads everything from the front. It's much more like a sharing group. We also have a youth group and a children's group.

I am the main church leader at the moment. I'm not ordained and my job with CAP is a national one so, if I go on tour, I try to make sure it's from Saturday to Wednesday so I can be back in time for church on Thursday. Thankfully I have support at Life Church from a core team and then we also have four trustees for the Lifeline Community Action charity. I do have a few people who help me, a former teacher who has now retired and the elders from West Auckland Vineyard Church. We do leadership training at Life Church and we are praying that people will come through from the community but I also know there are a lot of people who have a pastor's heart but couldn't lead Life Church with its challenges.

I think of it as having a lot of little fish in a holding pen. Some, in time, may decide to leave that pen and go and join another church, and that's fine, but there are an awful lot of people who won't. We continue to pray that our church community will help people on their journey towards Jesus and that they will be drawn into closer relationship with Him.


A new church for young adults has been growing in Bradford since the appointment of a city centre Mission Priest, Chris Howson, in October 2005.

The church takes inspiration from Micah 6.8, which exhorts concern for justice, and by liberation theology, expressed by Chris as

get involved in your context.

Liberation theology teaches people to act first, reflect later,

he explains.

Our job was to hit the ground running, to see what worked and ditch what didn't.

One of the first ways Chris sought to grow church was through JustChurch, a weeknight meeting that focuses its worship on the writing of letters on behalf of lobby groups like Amnesty International. Around 15 to 25 young adults attend, most of them new to church practice.

The old Anglican chaplaincy centre near Bradford University where JustChurch meets is also host to a fair trade café. On the first Friday of every month up to 80 young adults – most new to church – meet there for an evening of live music and poetry called Soul Jam.

It's about being alongside people and having fun, so people discover that this is a church that lets them be themselves,

says Chris. But he is also concerned to connect people with the wider church and holds a weekly Eucharist on Sundays at noon. Soul Space is a relaxed, informal Anglican service where the Bible is told as a story rather than read and discussion replaces a sermon.

We emphasise listening and making discoveries for ourselves,

explains Chris. The service, attracting around 25 young adults, lasts about 50 minutes, then moves to the café for refreshments. Sundays also see an afternoon discussion group on faith issues and an evening service of Christian meditation.

Young adults are introduced to any of these events through friends, and through actions such as peace vigils in the city centre, work with campaign groups, and a bike repair service run by church members jointly with a local squatters' collective.

Our aim is to encourage real discipleship, to show that the kingdom of God is about showing love, and that we can make a difference in the world,

says Chris.

New Horizons Christian Fellowship

New Horizons in Hemel Hempstead was featured on the first Fresh Expressions DVD (expressions: the dvd – 1). They provided much in the way of social action. Have things changed since then? Pastor Arno Steen Andreasen tells of the current state of play.

We are very much moving ahead even in these difficult times. Our Sunday worship service takes place at Woodhall Farm Community Centre and New Horizons is now offering CAP debt counselling, two Sure Start Children's Centres covering over 1,500 families, the Ignite special needs school, an international degree programme, management of a community centre and support for an orphanage in India where we have also started two churches. We have another church in Sri Lanka and we will be starting a human rights project there in April.

The last few years have also seen us providing:

  • adult learning to 500 people a year, including offenders and people with learning difficulties/disabilities;
  • accelerate youth leadership training;
  • DreamKeepers mentoring programme for primary children with behaviour problems.

New Horizons - BBQThe development of emerging church, fluid church or fresh expressions of church language means that Christians sometimes lose sight of what church is all about. For me it's crucial that we constantly look to Acts 2:42-47. Some people describe what they're doing in a community as being radical but I see many of those things – such as having a meal together – as an expression of mission, not church.

The other concern I have is that the poor and vulnerable need structure to make sure that they have access to discipleship, training, etc. If things are too fluid, they easily lose out. I might have the inner strength to take the initiative in order to learn, develop and train but not everybody is proactive like that. We need to make sure we cater for the people who do not so easily take the initiative or have the drive to move forward in faith and life.

If churches get involved in social action, as we do, people need to make a decision as to whether they want to be able to evangelise directly or not. If they receive public funding, then they are restricted in what they can do and how they do it. If they want full freedom, then they need to self-fund it or have individual donors. If they receive grants, even from Christian grant makers, they typically will have to do some monitoring or have some objectives that fit the funder.

I want to be part of a fresh expression of church in some respects but we are also quite old-fashioned in the way we approach things because we base our understanding of church on Acts 2. One chap wanted to come here on a placement because he had seen it as a fresh expression, but when we explained that a lot of what we did could be seen as traditional he didn't want the placement at all. We are a fresh expression with an old gospel.

New Horizons - waterI think it is important to have a clear picture of what church is all about. New expressions of church could easily be used by people who do not like accountability and just want to do their own thing. There are a lot of powerful initiatives around, but do they carry the Spirit of Christ? We try with our staff team to discern how we should work with people and which methods to use. We will then discard even powerful methods if we do not think they fit the Spirit of Jesus.

I think it is easy to copy structures when we learn about each other's projects but it is the values behind the structures that are important. We had this discussion when we started the churches in India and Sri Lanka. They asked us if they also had to sit around tables and have breakfast at their Sunday services as we do. My response was that it is not the structure/style that is important but the value behind the structure. The value is fellowship and they need to find ways to implement that in their services.

Our work has been recognised by the local authority and we were asked to extend that work into a different borough but we said no because we didn't have a church in that area. Our community work flows from church and not the other way round; an incarnational ministry must mean we are right here, on the spot. I don't have a local connection there. It would be all too easy for us to become a high quality social provider rather than an expression of church.

I was also asked if New Horizons could start things in nine districts across Hertfordshire, as well as our own. They would have covered the whole of the county. The projects had funding put aside for them and it was all very tempting because the tendency is to think, 'I could reach an extra 500 or 1,000 people by doing one such project or another' but the fact is that you're not reaching them because you are not reaching them for church.

New Horizons - football playersWe need people to fall in love with the local church, for it to be the most exciting and supportive of places. As part of that, I have been really impressed by Christians Against Poverty and its debt counselling service because they don't start something unless it's part and parcel of the local church. They become an empowering ministry within it.

If you have the backing of a traditional church or denomination and are looking to develop new ways of being church in a community, the most important thing to slot into place is the funding and the awareness of how that funding stream will affect what you do.

I will always be 'grilled' as a church leader when I apply for funding. I do not think that is right but it is what I have had to get used to and learn to accept. There are always some outside funders who don't want anything to do with church but I can point to the quality reports from independent assessors and relevant bodies which prove that we are good at what we do. I have evidence to show that we are more diverse, that we have the biggest reach and so on. I would not get involved in setting up new projects if I did not keep on fighting for them – even if I am rejected by funders.

Café Lite

A fresh expression of church meets in Droxford village hall, Hampshire on the third Sunday of the month. Launched in September 2011, it now attracts up to 100 people to its informal sessions. Rev Stuart Holt explains how it has developed.

As Rector here I was very fortunate that my parish released me from services in Droxford, Exton, Meonstoke and Corhampton twice a month so that I could be involved with mission events on the ground. I felt that it was time to stop talking about mission and actually do some!

Retired priests Canon Anthony Hulbert, Canon Marion Mort and the Ven Barrie Hammett are helping to lead services and offer pastoral support to regular worshippers in our four churches while I'm fronting Café Lite and a puppet ministry in schools.

We decided to set these things up for a year and see how we got on. It all started in September; it's really encouraging to see that new people are coming in and they're bringing their friends with them. We've never seen these people before. Things are developing too because some of them are now wanting to be baptised and have their babies baptised.

Café Lite - mother and babyMy other project is a Sunday morning puppet show at Meonstoke Infant School on the last Sunday of the month, called Puppets and Praise. This means that I now have two fresh expressions of church in these ancient, rural benefices.

Café Lite runs on the third Sunday of the month in Droxford Village Hall and we have most of the Sunday newspapers, bacon rolls, worship and chat. No money came from church funds to support the café church or the puppet shows. Instead we have made them self-supporting with private individuals funding different components so – for instance – someone has sponsored the bread for a year, somebody else has paid for the bacon and another person buys all the papers.

I thought it important to offer excellence which is why we've also got a professional Gaggia coffee machine for all those 'flat whites' we have to prepare! The numbers at Café Lite have reached 96 which is quite something for a tiny little parish of 1600 people in the middle of Hampshire.

When deciding what resources to use, I finally went for what was around when I came to faith in 1967, Norman Warren's Journey into Life – mainly because it's very clear and simple. I ended up buying 100 copies from the States. Again, for worship, I had previously used Youth Praise and I use it again now because it really deals with key issues of faith; I found that it was as powerful now as it had been all those years ago.

We started from the beginning with the music because it's for the dechurched as well as the unchurched. I know it can seem strange to many people involved in fresh expressions that we would focus on worship and singing at such an early stage in the life of this community but the people really wanted the music to express some strong messages about God and Christianity. It doesn't seem to be offputting because we're drawing in a huge cross section of people, including those from a local social housing estate, an equine horse healer and an international tea taster from Twinings teas.

Café Lite - guitarsWe also have those recovering from drug and alcohol addictions at a nearby rehab centre. They are accompanied by a staff member and it's great to see them there. We are now also actively involved in Christians Against Poverty and have CAP money coaches there.

Almost as soon as we started in the hall, I was asked, 'What is your strategy for these people?' My answer was, and is, 'Preach the gospel and be open to the Holy Spirit. That's it.'

Our immediate challenge is that the hall is licensed for 120 people and we have already got up to 96 coming along; if everybody in the Café Lite community turned up we would be over the 120. It's a wonderful challenge to have because we had no idea how it was going to go or if anybody would turn up at all. We're also having fantastic conversations. People have asked if I could do a wedding blessing for them because they got married in a register office but would love a blessing; others have asked about preparing for baptism for themselves or their children.

Again, when it became clear that people had taken up the idea of Café Lite, I was asked what my strategy was going to be for discipleship. I said the answer was definitely not to make them go on some sort of organized course; people wouldn't want that – especially as they had never been to church anywhere before and had actually turned up because we offered them a bacon sandwich! We are now developing a nurture course to help them tackle some key issues in a way that's relevant to them.

Puppets in Praise runs from 9.30am to 10.30am in the hall at Meonstoke School. It is something that's definitely encouraging people to take that step into Café Lite. Families are invited to watch and participate in the event with parents then being able to do follow-up work in the classrooms with the children. We have had 75 coming along to that. When I did a pilot for the show last year, I asked four of the young people to download new worship songs to their iPods and learn them over the summer so they could help with the singing.

Café Lite - singing

We also have lots of children at Café Lite, usually around 29. It was suggested that we should 'do' something for the children as a separate entity but I said we needed to ban the words 'ought', 'must' or 'should' in our Christian lives and that I didn't want Café Lite to be turned into a Sunday school in the village hall. It's a church in its own right.

Interestingly some people got very indignant about seeing kids with i-Phones at Café Lite. It doesn't bother me because that's what kids do, they text each other. What was wonderful was the fact that they were actually texting, 'I'm at Café Lite, it's brilliant.' Another girl filmed it on her phone and sent it to a friend to say how good it was.

Some people also come along to regular gig nights at The White Horse pub in Droxford when I and the Rev Andy Bridgen play music from the 60s and 70s as The Rockin' Revs. We always invite people to Café Lite from there!

The churches here have been serving this stretch of the Meon Valley for hundreds of years and we are glad that Café Lite and Puppets in Praise are also helping to meet the spiritual needs of those around us. I've no idea what will happen or who will come week by week but I want us to take some risks in spreading the gospel.

The Upper Room

Upper Room - Kim HartshorneHope Cirencester opened The Upper Room in 2008 with the aim of reaching out to people who had never been to church to show them that Jesus loved them in a way they could understand and relate to. Leader Kim Hartshorne tells how a cup of tea and chat can lead to a world of opportunities.

We provide a welcome and a place of acceptance. We felt that society has become quite fast moving and many people are isolated, not heard or noticed by anyone, especially those who are vulnerable. We felt Jesus would want to welcome them and so we became his hands and feet for that. We try to demonstrate Jesus' love for people – that they are each unique, valuable, precious and made in God's image.

Listen to Karen Hartshorne discuss The Upper Room with Karen Carter.Read the transcript

We run a drop in space called The Upper Room above a shop in the Market Place, Cirencester. This is open on Monday and Friday mornings and that's when we listen and welcome everyone with a cuppa. We run meditation classes, eat out together and support local people and charities. Many people who find their way to us have never had any background in church and so we gently offer to pray if they have a problem, explaining that Jesus does care about the small things of daily life. We try and chat in a relaxed way about what the Bible says, but always offering space for disagreement or conversation. We are helping people start their faith journey and travel alongside them as it develops.

Upper Room - paintingWe have seen some amazing answers to prayers small and large. It is noticeable in the past year however that we have seen our visitors suffering greater pressures than anything we've seen before in the areas of finance, family issues and mental health problems.

As a registered charity, Hope Cirencester's aims are to show the love of Jesus and alleviate need and distress in Cirencester and elsewhere. It all started when a group of us we were praying for our town and we were really hoping to take church out onto the streets and just get involved in a missional 'day to day' sort of way with our community. We were praying for a building on one of Cirencester's estates but we didn't find one so we kept on prayer walking and calling out to God, 'Where do you want us to do this?'

Eventually an estate agent contacted us to say they had a set of three rooms right in the market place so we asked him for the keys and brought a team of about 12 people here, including some church leaders from other churches in the town. We prayed in the building for the morning and very much sensed the presence of God here so we felt that this was the place to be.

The Upper Room is accessible to those who wouldn't necessarily do traditional church because they feel it wouldn't be for people like them, saying it's only for people who are clean and neat and have nice clothes and drive big cars or whatever. A lot of our visitors are homeless or people with addictions, severe depression or mental illnesses, those who have perhaps suffered abuse in the past, people who just find it very difficult to access things that they just consider to be for the well-educated. Perhaps church is too 'intellectual' for them and they need to 'see' the Gospel demonstrated practically in order to grasp it.

Upper Room - bibleSo they come in for a tea or coffee and to talk to us about what's going on in their lives. We offer to pray with them, signpost them to other agencies, and go with them where they need to go or advocate for them if they need us to. Social justice is really connected to the gospel and so when Jesus comes to someone, you would expect to see changes in every area of their life – and that's why we just try and look at where Jesus really would begin to work in their life and we follow on from that. For example we have supported mums learning to read for the first time, sent someone away on holiday for a break, we supply starter boxes to people moving into a refuge and fill up flasks of coffee for homeless people in the town.

The Message translation that says, 'The Word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood', is talking about Jesus transforming whole neighbourhoods when he comes. So we work really collaboratively with all the other churches, charities, Citizens Advice, local council – everybody that will have a connection with us in order to go and try to build bridges for the sake of the Kingdom.

I'm inclined to say The Upper Room is like a mini branch of social services combined with a prayer room and a coffee shop; just like the church in the Victorian era built schools and eradicated slavery, and Anglo-Catholic revival 'slum priests' ministered to the poorest people. Instead of a binary way of thinking that is 'either/or', for us, it's 'all/and'. That to me is a sacramental view of life – everything belongs to God and so we are 'being' church in everything we do.

Upper Room - hotelWe don't have a Sunday expression at the moment but it seems that the Spirit is leading us to consider that and we're really praying and brainstorming and just waiting on God to see what will bubble up. I'm sure something is coming, we don't know what it's going to look like yet, our team is still waiting – but God has gone ahead of us and has a plan.

Our people seem to want things that lead to belonging, they want to be together with each other and be together with us so people will say things like, 'Why don't we go out for a curry?', 'Why don't we invite some people in?' or perhaps we'll have a birthday party for someone. On Easter Sunday we gather at my home for a BBQ to celebrate our belonging – to Jesus and to one another. We're open to all of that because belonging is a big deal in today's society; belonging is such a huge part of faith to me and if we can help people to belong and to feel safe, to join in community and in family together we'll have already done so much of the journey towards the gospel, towards Christ.

Tulloch NET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tulloch net - planting

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

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

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

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

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


As a Christian community based in the Hythe area of Colchester, members of SOURCE spend a lot of their time in the area's pubs, bars, coffee shops and cafes – says Church Army evangelist Nikki Foster-Kruczek.

Thirteen years ago the parish of New Town and the Hythe began to pray for God to show them how to respond to a part of the parish undergoing a massive regeneration. The Hythe, the old port area of Colchester, is still being redeveloped but it already looks very different to the way it was when work first got underway.

It was decided that a worker should be appointed, dedicated to living and working in the Hythe. The money was raised, interviews were held and I took on the post in May last year. I'm funded jointly by the Church Commissioners (Mission in New Housing Developments) and the Church Army. The local parish also gives to the work. I am on a fixed-term five year contract with Church Army acting as my employer but the expectation is that eventually the post will become self sustaining.

SOURCE - networkWithin a few weeks of me arriving, a small group of people from the local church had offered to help with the 'mission to the Hythe'. But the question was – how do we mission such a place?

The Hythe is now a marina and the boats moored at the quays are homes rather than commercial vessels. Hundreds of new houses and flats have been built and many people have moved into the area. The old pockets of heavy industry have almost gone to be replaced by call centres and offices. For us, a picture began to form an octopus, a central resourcing core with tentacles that reached out to the different parts of the Hythe.

There are few connections between the various small estates – thanks to a couple of main roads and the River Colne cutting across the area. A few muddy footpaths are used as short cuts but people generally live in their own small estates and rarely visit another part of the Hythe unless it is to go to a large supermarket or DIY store.

People commute to work in different parts of Colchester and Chelmsford, Ipswich and London. The Hythe has no parks, very little green space, no rubbish bins, no GP surgery and no school. Not every residential area has a play space for children and where such spaces are included they have very limited appeal to any child above the age of six. On the edge of the Hythe is the main campus for the University of Essex and many students live in the Hythe itself.

SOURCE - litter pickA small group began to prayer walk around the area regularly and 'notice' things. We saw the two pubs trying to attract more customers, a newly-opened wine bar, local businesses struggling to stay afloat and the coffee shops, cafes and benches where people ate their lunch. We also saw rubbish, rubbish and more rubbish. All over the Hythe, people had just dropped their litter.

So our first attempt at something 'missional' was to begin to take care of our local environment by organising a litter pick and clearing up one area of the Hythe. We also began to gather together to share food in someone's home once twice each month, to eat and pray and talk and see where God might lead us. This was a vital time in our formation as a small Christian community.

SOURCE - bin bagsWe felt that God was asking us to be visible and present in the Hythe, so we started to go to the different places and just 'hang out'. The coffee shops, cafes and pubs became places where we met to eat, drink, chat and above all listen to other people. Simply by being present in these places and willing to listen, we discovered that people had a lot to say and through those conversations God spoke loudly to us about caring for the area and being willing to walk with its people.

One day we saw a poster for a quiz night to be held at the local wine bar, a place we had heard was aimed at a gay clientele. In all honesty, we had mixed emotions about going there but when we went in, we were made welcome and have been going to the bar regularly ever since. We are known as people who like to have fun but are deeply spiritual.

Our decision to formally become the SOURCE community happened gradually. We talked about how we could function in the Hythe on a much more effective basis if we committed to being there full time. People began to pray about their calling to be part of what was emerging. Our name came from our meditations on the image of the river, our physical river and the image of water used throughout the Bible. God has become for us our 'source' of sustaining as we depend on Him to lead us in all we do.

SOURCE - commissioning

SOURCE was launched on January 30 this year at St Stephen's Church in Colchester. We wanted to make it a clear moment when we ceased to be members of St Stephen's and formally became committed members of SOURCE with a call to the Hythe. It was in the context of the weekly communion service and we wrote a special liturgy. There was a time of listening to God and people shared pictures, bits of Scripture and thoughts, we were anointed with oil and prayed with. We had a party afterwards, sharing lunch and fun together and the next evening SOURCE met for our first worship space, known as CENTRE.

Since then we have continued to love and serve God and our area and we are learning to love and serve one another in community together. We meet weekly on Monday evenings for CENTRE and we continue to pick up the litter, run a clothes swap and do lots of other things – such as bake cakes and give them to local businesses as a gift for the staff.

SOURCE - altarCENTRE is held in the home of one of our members who lives in the Hythe. We start by offering a simple meal at 7pm as some folk come straight from work and they need some food. It also helps to break the ice a bit. CENTRE keeps us focussed on God in the midst of life. We often sing, anything from ancient hymns to Hillsong, we focus ourselves on God, there is a time of reflection and sharing where the question 'Where have we seen God at work?' is asked. We usually look at the Bible together and then talk about it. Recently we read about the Sabbath and had a conversation about how we find our rest. We often hold some period of silence for people to just be with God. We bring intercessions in different ways and usually end with the Grace or the SOURCE community prayer. People usually leave by 9.30pm.

We would see SOURCE very much as an ecclesial community in its own right and are working with the Parish Church to keep that message clear. This is not always easy. SOURCE is learning together what it means to 'track God' both outwardly in mission and inwardly in our own spiritual journey. We still have more questions than answers and have no idea where God will take us next, but we're still praying and walking and hoping… and we're still looking for ways to engage with the people in the Hythe with a particular emphasis on those with little or no connection to church.

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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Andy NiblockHelping to create church for those who find most Christian gatherings too slick and professional is not easy. But that was the challenge facing a group of Sheffield Christians when they formed StreetWise, a fresh expression of church for those on the margins of society.

The aim of St Thomas Philadelphia's Restore ministry is to take the power of God's love to the very edges of society and bring people into the heart of God's family. That doesn't mean getting more people to come to conventional church. But it does mean reaching out to the poor and the marginalised of the city including people who are homeless, those with life-controlling addictions, women working on the streets and people who have been in prison. Those involved in this challenging ministry and mission are committed to a holistic approach meeting practical, social, spiritual and emotional needs.

StreetWise - signAndy Niblock leads Restore, and along with Danny Wilson, heads up StreetWise, a fresh expression of church which meets in parallel to St Thomas' main Sunday morning service in a room in the Church's training centre. He explained that StreetWise has a high proportion of members with a variety of personal and social needs and also includes those who 'felt uncomfortable' in many church settings. The aim is to create a weekly worship and fellowship gathering for those who may be intimidated by the way church can sometimes feel  middle class or is delivered in a professional way. Andy says that services which may give the impression that 'people here have got it altogether' can often be offputting for those whose lives are not really under control.

Around 50 people meet each week, sharing food together before a simple time of worship, in which everyone is encouraged to participate, and many do. Stories are shared of how God has helped during the week, or of friends who have got difficulties or of ways in which addictions are slowly being overcome. It really is fully church for those who attend and those who go along to be with them. There is down to earth support available from the team during the week too, and that is vital.

StreetWise - handsOne man in his thirties is a regular. He describes himself as once being a violent football hooligan. He knew he couldn't change himself but his two and a half years at StreetWise has shown that God can change him. He has learned how to love other people too, for the first time in his life.

Another man lived on the streets and sold the Big Issue, was addicted to heroin and had 'lost his way'. But when he went to StreetWise he says he genuinely found God and God found him. He knows many of his problems stem from a difficult childhood, but has valued the one to one sessions on offer through Restore ministries. Now he believes he has given all that was weighing him down to God and knows there are so many better things in life than those things that once attracted him.

StreetWise - congregationAndy Niblock believes that one of the strengths of StreetWise is the way it combines practical care and support with the truth of the gospel. This holistic approach has been developed over a number of years, as StreetWise was originally set up to simply feed and minister to people living on the streets. But soon members of the Streetwise team realised that there was a real openness to faith issues too and wanted to demonstrate a lifestyle which said 'Jesus can make a difference to you'. And in the case of many who go along each week a real difference is being made, despite the significant challenges in their lives.