Soul Space

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.

Hannah begins:

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.

Soul Space - welcomeWe 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.

Soul Space - meditationsFrom 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.

Tim continues:

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.

Soul Space - St Lawrence CentreThe 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.

Soul Space - kids' worksheetsOur 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.

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.

Norwich Christian Meditation Centre

Norwich Christian Meditation Centre has given rise to an ecclesial community with Eucharist, worship, discipleship nurturing and community building at its heart. Developing Consciousness, an 8-week introductory course on spirituality, has played an important part in the Centre's development. Rev Nicholas Vesey, vicar of St Augustine's, Norwich, explains more.

Norwich Christian Meditation - Developing ChristianitySt Augustine's Church pioneered the Developing Consciousness course as a means of connecting ancient Christian truths and practices with contemporary spirituality. The result is the Norwich Christian Meditation Centre.

Developing Consciousness, and the follow-up 'Into Christ Consciousness', attracts people who are seeking to deepen their personal spirituality and explore Christian faith.

St Augustine's meets as a church on a Sunday but it now offers a lot more than that. The church itself dates from 1163. In 1993 the congregation, some 40 to 50 people, moved out of the church because the roof was dangerous. About £80,000 was raised to renovate the church hall for worship. In 1999, during a long period without a vicar, the old church was declared redundant. By then our numbers had dropped to about 25.

We wanted to grow from there and identified quite a strong 'alternative' community living in our area, and made a decision to be less churchy. New signage encouraged people to 'come and develop your spiritual life'. Then, after surveying newer members to find out what attracted them to St Augustine's, we created the Developing Consciousness course which now runs twice a year.

We re-ordered the building to make it more attractive and rebranded ourselves as the Norwich Christian Meditation Centre – with the blessing of our bishop. Using modern marketing and advertising techniques to publicise our events, we encouraged the development of a community group to include those on the local estate, and organised a regular garden party for all local residents to create a village feel, although we are near a city centre.

Norwich Christian Meditation - MeditationOnce in contact with the Centre, individuals can connect with the Christian community through our many expressions of worship, spiritual practice and community life: Ambient Wonder (alternative worship community), weekly Christian Meditation group, learning events, Sunday morning services, small groups meeting in people's homes and local community projects.

We are rarely, if ever, all gathered together but our values are to provide space for people to express themselves, connecting with their own creativity in pursuit of our Creator. We are committed to learning from each other and using the skills and talents God has given us to explore new understandings and cement our spiritual experiences into our everyday lives. We know we are called to be in our contemporary culture but not 'of it', and so we aim that what we do together enables us to authentically reflect God's presence in us.

As our community evolves we are working to increase the cross-over between the different groups under the umbrella of the Meditation Centre. We have a database of those who have attended the courses and invite them to guest events with interesting visiting speakers. We finance the entire venture through the speaker programme. So far we have held conferences featuring Richard Rohr and Cynthia Bourgeault. John Bell has just run a two day intensive course for us entitled Moving the Contemplative Heart to Action. This means people can belong without having to pay for the privilege of belonging. We feel that this template could work for any church in any town or city in the UK, so long as there is an interest in meditation among the church members.

The Centre has also launched a programme for men in and around the Norwich area. Soul Brothers is a group formed out of the experience of those learning from the American Franciscan Richard Rohr's teaching on the role of men within a spiritual context. At the moment we hope there will be a large group meeting once every couple of months, with an opportunity to be a part of a smaller group of men (about 10) to get together more regularly. Our next meeting will be in October.

We aim to be a liquid network, with each event or group acting as an access point to belonging in our spiritual community. People can find their home in one or more activities and we journey together towards God, not assuming that we all start from the same place but knowing that we're heading towards a deeper knowledge of divine love and freedom in Christ.

Norwich Christian Meditation - LogoThe problem is that churches today are finding it difficult to find a niche within contemporary society. What we see as part of the solution is that many such churches fit naturally into some part of the contemplative tradition and there is a hunger in contemporary society for 'spirituality' or the cultivation of a sensitive and rewarding relationship with eternal truth and love. These churches could institute local Christian Meditation Centres to teach the contemplative tradition, and so appeal to those in search of spirituality. In support of that vision, a book is about to be published which includes all the contents of the Developing Consciousness course.

The Meditation Centre now has 1000 'members' with a small group programme and church at the centre. This provides access points through a culturally relevant structure, enabling people to participate in a Christ-centred community, promoting the purpose of God and the practice of the presence of God.


Richard White traces the story of dream.

Dream was born in 2002 when a group of young adults began meeting together to experiment with worship and discuss what 'church' might look like for their peers. Since then it has grown to a network of groups in the Northwest of England with a much wider age spread. Of the five current groups, one meets at Liverpool University, another at an artist's studio, two in churches, and the fifth at an NHS primary care trust. While diverse in their styles, the groups all seek to express four 'CORE' values through being:

  • Christ-centred: We seek to develop a spirituality centred on Jesus, and lives that are formed by following him.
  • Open: We welcome and seek to include anyone who is seeking Christ or exploring spirituality.
  • Relational: Building communities rather than putting on worship events.
  • Experimental: Seeking to re-imagine church through creative experimentation and exploration.

Dream spaceThree of the highlights of the past year have been:

Seeing the network grow

Especially among groups who may not have had the confidence to start a fresh expression of this sort without the support and resources that the network brings.

Increasing numbers of formerly unchurched or dechurched people

Who now count one of the Dream groups as their spiritual home.

Opportunities to take 'Dream' into the market place over the past year


  • A Dream marquee with café and labyrinth at the St Helens show, where we had over 1000 participants.
  • The Faith zone at Merseyfest, with chill out zone and installations for all ages.
  • Essence courses in homes, a health centre and a community centre.
  • Regular 'spiritual spaces' at two of the work places of members of the Dream community.

Perhaps our biggest challenge is now discovering what lasting discipleship looks like in this context.

Holy Space

The acronym HEARTS gives the ethos for Wickford Church of England Infant School:

  • Happiness,
  • Esteem,
  • Achievement,
  • Respect,
  • Truth and
  • Spirituality.

Father Paul, curate of St Catherine's Church, began Holy Space just last September. Although the school has services at St Catherine's throughout the year, this is an opportunity for the children to have church at school.

It's not only the children who attend. Father Paul opens Holy Space to the whole school community – parents, teachers and others who have a role there.

Holy Space meets after school on Wednesdays. It gives the opportunity for much needed quiet reflection, a time for listening, relaxing and receiving from God.

Holy Space benefits the whole school. Adults and children contribute on an equal footing and it enables parents to worship alongside their children. Attendance is entirely voluntary – just like a normal church.

Fr Paul says he and the head teacher, Mrs Rogan, wanted the raise the profile of spirituality within the school and the idea of Holy Space arose as an idea during a staff and governors' retreat day. It has been a success because its importance is recognised at all levels of school government.


Beer and a singalong helped to launch Leicester-based Presence as a Bishop's Mission Order. City Centre Pioneer Minister and Presence leader, Revd David Cundill, looks back at a whirlwind year and outlines his hopes and plans for the future.

Presence - Beer and CarolsIt all happened very quickly. I started in post at the end of May 2009, discussions took place over the summer to sort out the BMO, and it was signed in December at a Beer&Carols event. We certainly reaped the benefits of the hard work that other BMOs had done before us in Exeter and Thanet.

Bishop Tim Stevens started the ball rolling when he gave me a brief to 'just go and plant a new church in the city centre. I give you permission to fail; you have got to take risks.'

That church was to be in an area of new apartments, waterside redevelopment, and the DeMontfort University campus. The result is Presence… a fresh approach to church. We describe it as a church for people who don't do church or go there, never did, don't anymore, don't think they fit in, doubters, sceptics, seekers and the spiritually curious.

Presence - Men's weekendIn the middle of the BMO area is The Quay, a canal side pub which was itself part of a regeneration project a few years ago. It is now the base for Presence's midweek meetings, and some of those at Presence have become regulars at the pub’s open mic session on Thursday nights.

My first task is to develop a 24-strong planting team to reach out to the area's diverse communities; including those based around a series of tower blocks in gated developments at Freemens Meadow, Westbridge Wharf and Leicester Square.

These new blocks are in stark contrast to the area's traditional terraced streets. Each tower block looks in on a quadrangle, and you have to get through two gates to get into the heart of it all. There are no community facilities. When you look at the ads for these apartments you'd think that we had so many stockbrokers just about to nip on their bikes to Canary Wharf – and yet the development stands at the edge of the country's biggest Hindu population, but you’d never know that from the marketing image portrayed.

Presence - mealThe regeneration of great swathes of the city means that new communities have become cut off from parish churches because the landscape has shifted, but by starting a fresh expression alongside those churches, we can redefine a pastoral boundary. It has just worked brilliantly in that it's possible to run a straight mixed economy which lets the existing parishes do what they do while we look at how we use these places in new and creative ways.

In other areas people may say, 'we are all in this together', but underneath the surface they are worried. In Leicester I believe it has worked – and, with God’s help will continue to work because of the unique circumstances surrounding redevelopment of this city.

Presence - candlesThis is a minimum 10 year project, and part of the challenge is that the landscape will continue to change dramatically during that time. Large brownfield sites in our area are set aside for new developments but are yet to be built on, so we need to be flexible in our approach and planning.

But some of our plans are very firmly in the pipeline, including the launch of a film club in the Highcross area; the setting up of a Christians Against Poverty (CAP) centre and money management course; and a term time Street Pastors scheme around DeMontfort University.

Presence - logoWe also very much hope to be involved at The Quay on St Patrick's Day. There are lots of possibilities but we might look at having a religious 'bit' followed by Open Communion using Naan bread – reflecting the type of area we're in. We want to reclaim these celebrations for God, and show that we're a church of festival and fun.