A time of 'quiet and contemplative spirituality in the workplace' may seem like a pipe dream in these difficult days of economic downturn but that is exactly what is happening in several locations across Poole. Paul Bradbury explains.

Reconnect is a missional community in the heart of Poole. One of several initiatives growing from this community is work:space which is a resource for people in the workplace, offering half an hour of stillness and silence at the centre of a busy working week.

I had spent time listening to people talk about their spirituality and found that many of them pray or meditate. I wanted to connect with people in the workplace because we are trying to meet people where they are in a setting where they spend so much of their time.

Barclays Bankwork:space started in Barclays Bank headquarters in Poole and it is open to people of any faith and none. Using resources from the Christian tradition, it offers people an opportunity to reflect and explore their spirituality within a work context.

work:space has continued to develop in Barclays House and we now offer a small library of books on spirituality and work that people can borrow. The Barclays work:space group is small because a number of employees have come to the end of their contracts while others have taken leave due to stress but there is no doubt that it is making a difference to those who come and helping to nurture faith in them.

More recently, work:space started in the training college of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). Poole is home to the charity's purpose-built conference and training venue in the Old Town area.

RNLIThe college hosts teams from lifeboat stations across the country for training and development. Within the building is a beautiful room with amazing views across Holes Bay – a great setting to host work:space. The group will be meeting monthly at first but we hope in time to be able to make it a weekly get-together. It has been really well received by the people within the organization and I'm quite excited about the possibility of it also developing within the council offices here.

It really does feel like we doing the right thing at the right time with this because employees are under such pressure and this is a valuable resource for them – though it can be hard to get people to drag themselves away from their desks, even for half an hour, because they are worried about how that may be seen or what workload will be there when they return.


In just a few years, Riverforce has become an official staff support network in Merseyside Police. The workplace church is involved in the formulation of any policy before its implementation in the force.

It also receives funding from Merseyside Police and its leadership team has grown to six, covering virtually the whole of the force which provides policing services for the five local authority areas that make up Merseyside – Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and the Wirral.

Recent developments at Riverforce have also seen the setting up of a counselling service. Weekly or fortnightly cells now operate in most areas of the force while joint celebrations at police headquarters in Liverpool city centre regularly bring together up to 90 officers.

Merseyside has a population of 1.4m, with the police workforce – as of December 2009 – standing at 7899 (including officers, staff and specials). A city-wide Christian prayer event at the waterfront Liverpool Echo Arena in 2009 saw 250 officers from Neighbourhood Policing Teams join the 4,500 audience. So successful was the Redeeming Our Communities launch that Merseyside Police requested a follow-up celebration in 2011.

Riverforce members have recently been going out to local churches to help them work more closely with the police. The first event attracted 150 people.

Chief Inspector Peter Owens, who launched Riverforce in 2006, has now retired but continues as a manager with the Occupational Health Team – and as chairman of the missional cell network. He is very encouraged by the developments:

We have had a lot of interest from other parts of the country and other organisations. On an individual level too there are some amazing testimonies. We will be running a force-wide Alpha course in the autumn. It's hard work but worth it.


Known and loved by many as a tourist hotspot on the Dorset coast, Poole is also home to missional community Reconnect. The community, which has been meeting in the area since September last year, celebrated its commissioning in a town centre café in March. Revd Paul Bradbury, Pioneer Minister for Poole Town Centre and Hamworthy, and Community Leader of Reconnect, explains more.

Reconnect's intention, our vision, right from the start was very much to see people become Christians from an unchurched background. We are still finding out what happens after that. Reconnect may help to create new communities for these people, or perhaps they will ultimately feed into existing churches, or join us. We are not sure really, but we do know that we are open to what the Spirit is saying, and are working closely with other churches in a bid to do what God wants us to do.

When I became Pioneer Minister in September 2008, the then Bishop of Sherborne, Tim Thornton, conducted the licensing ceremony at St James' Church, Poole Old Town and then on the Quay. We walked from the church in a bit of a rabble down to the seafront where there was an exchange of symbols – I was given a bucket of seeds and a fishing net to represent the Kingdom and  the work I'm doing.

Reconnect - rule of lifeOn 21st March, the Bishop, Dr Graham Kings, came and commissioned us as a community at a café in the town. We had about 70 people there and started off with some children's activities before the bishop led the commissioning and we signed the rule of life – something we had been developing in our meetings since Christmas by looking at Acts and the gospels to find out what it means to be a community of disciples. The rule was signed by all the community and the commissioning was essentially a commitment by us all to seek to live the life expressed in the rule.

Reconnect - BishopWe organise felt making sessions as part of our outreach activity, and we made felt 'stones' on the commissioning day to be included in a prayer cairn. People came up and prayed for Reconnect as they put down one of the stones. The bishop also seemed to enjoy the day, even having his face painted (after the ceremony!)

The vision to gather together a missional community emerged after six months of prayer and listening, and Reconnect came into being in September 2009.

As Pioneer Minister to central Poole, my area includes the town centre and lower Hamworthy. This area is undergoing large amount of development and a huge proportional increase in population. It's a relatively small area, ranging from a small housing estate which is in one of the most deprived wards in England to converted warehouse apartments whose owners have a yacht just off the Quay. Tourism is also a major factor with people coming to work here, usually seasonally, from all over the country.

Reconnect - prayer cairnWe see Reconnect as a shop window to say Church is not just about Sunday mornings, it's about many other things. Our aim for Sundays is to meet in such a way that our energy can be put into making friends with non-Christians in the area and serve the community. One of the most effective ways so far has been to clean the local beach a couple of times! It was an easy thing for us to go and do. The first time we did it we had various people ask us what were we doing, and the second time we had four local residents come and join us to help.

Avenues for mission that we are exploring include workplace ministry, a felt-making group and a grow-your-own project on a small housing estate. As a community we are generally nomadic, quite deliberately so, as that offers a chance for people to reflect on where they are in this journey.  But it soon became clear that people felt they needed a place as a focus, a place to meet that is central to our mission.

Reconnect - Corfe CastleWe have a monthly pattern of meeting one Sunday in a local school, the second Sunday in our homes, third Sunday 'out and about' serving the community and fourth Sunday worshipping at other local churches. We dub this 'Festival' Sunday when Reconnect regulars go to a church somewhere else. We can't provide the experience of a bigger church, worshipping in a larger fellowship, so we say go and enjoy that experience and feed back into Reconnect. We also meet as adults on a Tuesday evening to worship, pray and explore our mission and community values together.

Funding was made available for three years, and I'm very aware how things take time to come to fruition. At the moment, we are really just feeling our way but we remain very committed to laying down firm foundations for a community. We aim to be invitational and participative in everything we get involved in, and work towards living out that rule of life which will provide us with our core values and shape all we do.