Soul Space is an initiative to engage with people interested in Mind, Body and Spirit fairs. URC Emerging Church Pioneer Tim Yau and Anglican Ordained Pioneer Minister Hannah Deaves tell the story so far.
I lead a small new monastic missional community called Morph Community. This was formed in 2000 by a group of people in their 20s and 30s who were on the fringes of, or who had left, the church.
The community has 'morphed' a great deal over the years, eventually becoming an alternative worship community of people of all ages who felt a sense of mission to both church leavers and spiritual seekers. However, for the most part we found the people we connected with were church leavers and that it was quite difficult to connect with spiritual seekers.
We began to feel more challenged about mission to those seekers and in January 2011 we had a prayer evening to really focus on where God might be calling us in mission. We spent some time exploring our local context, looking at where spiritual seekers were, who were the people attending local Mind, Body and Spirit Fairs and who might be the people we could join with in this mission.
From this, a team of people were gathered together from churches across Ipswich and the Morph Community and we began to meet and explore together. We were aware of the rise in interest in spirituality which suggests more than three quarters of the population would admit to having a spiritual experience – so the people we are connecting with are maybe most accurately described not as 'spiritual seekers' but as 'spiritually open' and seeking wholeness, healing or connection.
Now we are in a community café as Soul Space – offering card readings [see below], meditations and generally just being there and listening to people. As to where this will lead I don't know. We hope that by always being able to tell people when we will be there again and by advertising in the town, people might begin to return and relationships be formed over time.
What opportunities for Christian discipleship might these fairs lead on to? The team at the fairs meet together after each event to discuss if any interest in further contact was expressed, and if so what type of follow-up might be most appropriate.
From these discussions it might be that we hold other more regular events, such as meditation courses, therapy nights, discussion/social/card reading evenings in a pub – or perhaps something completely different will emerge as a way to enable people to explore further. It could be in the development of web-based resources that people could dip in and out of, or meditation cards and objects for people to take home from the fairs. These could well provide on-going prompts for contact points with God. Many will possibly not want further contact other than perhaps attending a future fair, but – over a long period of time – if people keep coming, relationships might be built up and an interest in more regular points of contact might be expressed.
Our first Soul Space took place in January 2013 and our intention is that it will welcome people of all backgrounds and beliefs to find space, stillness, refreshment and insight at a Christ-centred holistic spirituality event.
Mind, Body and Spirit Fairs are alternative spirituality events where you would find tarot card readers, reiki healing, and crystal therapists. We want to tap into that interest in spirituality to point people towards Christ and, hopefully, develop community through that.
The Soul Space team involves people from different churches across Ipswich, including myself, Hannah – as an Anglican self-supporting Ordained Pioneer Minister, a parish evangelist, a trainee congregational church minister, several people from Morph, and the leader of Ipswich in Prayer (an ecumenical prayer network). We are a diverse bunch and have all brought different experiences and perspectives to the planning table.
On the day of our pilot event in January we ran three 'stations' in the St Lawrence Centre, a redundant church turned community café space in Ipswich town centre.
- a rolling presentation of images and quotations on the theme of uniqueness;
- a table with meditation cards where two of the team were inviting and guiding people on the principles of Christian meditation;
- Ruach insight card readings. To the uninitiated, these may look like tarot but they are simply images that encourage people to open up and relate their life story to the cards they choose, leading into prayer if the participant wishes.
After a slow start, footfall picked up and 10 people came for card readings with very positive responses. Hopefully this is the beginning of a journey that will reach out to people in Ipswich who may never have looked for answers in the Church or the Christian faith. We don't know where this journey will eventually lead but my hope is that a new Christian community would form out of the relationships that we begin to build through these events.
Our second event on in April went very well. Many were blessed through the pamper table and the mirrors meditation on that table – as well as the free samples provided by The Body Shop and Lush. We also had Blessing Teas and Colouring Meditation sheets. There were many good contacts and conversations made. All 200 flyers were given out; we did 17 card readings and most of these people agreed to be prayed for.
At this event we also introduced The Jesus Deck of cards; this provided a useful tool for speaking to people one-to-one about Jesus in a flexible and accessible way.
Our next event is booked for July 13 from 11am to 3pm.