Ackroydon Community Church: Reimagining Church

What does a priest look like? What kinds of things do they do and say in lockdown? What does the church do when large gatherings are prohibited? Is Zoom the only way?

I used to work for a charity going door-to-door. It can be tough. Lockdown has changed that. It’s fun timing how long it takes for people to answer the door, they’re so desperate for a chat! Abnormal times.

In Southfields, we have a large council estate, with Ackroydon Community Church at the heart of it. We are so aware of huge need hidden behind the doors. Large families in small spaces. GIG economy workers financially stranded. Children bored. Cupboards bare. No wifi.

How can the church make a difference? We wanted a simple concept. We offer food, kids activity packs and signposting to long term help. I’ve written a prayer for the community on the flyer so people can turn to God for comfort and strength.

We are in the process of delivering flyers and snacks (so people notice the flyer and it’s not consigned to junk!) to 1,000 homes in the community. We knock on each door. Many are opened.

Not your average junk mail. Reaching out to unearth those in need.

Not your average junk mail. Reaching out to unearth those in need.

The estate is a diverse place. There are young professionals working from home keen to connect. Others have little English but are grateful for a smile. Others are financially desperate. Some are hungry. Some are positive. Most are fearful, weary and putting a brave face on things. 

One lady said we were a godsend. An hour before we met, she was in tears. Her 16-year-old daughter has shut herself into her room and won’t talk. Her mum was desperate so went for a walk to process it all. As she returns we’ve left some snacks at her door and we meet in the corridor. Kindness opens up a conversation. She’s been going to AA for 16 years and we talk about to how she might make the ‘higher power’ more personal. She wonders how she will ever forgive herself for some of the life she’s given her daughter through her addiction. She’s living with so much guilt and shame. I’m able to talk to her about beginning by receiving forgiveness from God to release her to be more herself. She longs for that freedom, so we pray together. 

This simply is what the church does writ large across Southwark Diocese, the UK and the world. We communicate and contextualise the phenomenal news of forgiveness and restoration found in Jesus Christ. We find a way to be Christ’s hands and feet, even though our physical doors are closed. We offer whatever we can, wherever we find ourselves.

It is real hope in despair. Comfort in isolation. True, gritty love amid grief.

This is a time of opportunity. Recent statistics suggest there is a spiritual hunger. People are turning towards God. Usual support mechanisms aren’t there. There is huge fear for the future. Self-determinism is no longer a safety net. Death is a nearer danger than ever.

As the church we have something to say. We must be known by our incarnational love. Love in action. Love in word. Love in prayer. Love in kindness. Love in sacrifice. Jesus can use us to reach out to a hurting world. 

Love your neighbour, Southfields

Huge thanks to our partners:

Learn to Love to Read, a local literacy charity providing books and simple craft parcels for families unable to connect to online school or with few resources to occupy their children. https://www.learn2love2read.org.uk/

Dons Local Action Group – a group of Wimbledon AFC fans who have gathered over 500 volunteers in Wimbledon, Merton and Wandsworth to give out emergency food parcels. They are using our new church hall as their Wandsworth base. 

https://www.afcwimbledon.co.uk/news/2020/march/dons-fans-set-up-action-plan-to-combatcoronavirus/

City Harvest – putting surplus food from supermarkets to good use in a sustainable way. They provided all the snacks for the flyer delivery.

http://www.cityharvest.org.uk/

Discipleship in Households

As I read these Easter days the book of the Acts of the Apostles, my attention is drawn to something which I might have overlooked before: the conversion of “households”. There are a number of them. In fact, read carefully, I discovered that the conversion itself is the final point of a wider experience of faith which is lived within the household. We have the story of Cornelius, the Centurion, on Acts 10, who “feared God with all his household”, and following a vision, sends for Peter who comes to preach to them. The household gathers: “all of us are here in the presence of God to listen to all that the Lord has commanded you to say.” (10:33) After listening together, the Holy Spirit comes upon each one of them and each member of the household is baptized.

This is not the only experience of faith of a household in the Book of Acts. We have Lydia and her household (16:11-15), the Roman Jailer and his household (16:25-34) and Crispus and his household (18:1-11). The case of the Roman Jailer contains an extra detail. Paul seems to highlight the importance of faith in the household when he tells the jailer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (16:31)

I have the suspicion that there are only a few of many other similar experiences.

At St Matthew’s, the outbreak of Covid-19 gave us the opportunity to delve into this way of experiencing faith and being church. Live streaming of services through the internet, zoom gatherings and zoom prayer groups were welcomed by our members, as a way of keeping connected, together with “traditional” phone calls with those who are not technology savvy or who are not on social media.

What it soon sprang to mind was the question about discipleship. Maintaining similar levels of discipleship was going to be a great challenge. Most of our leaders are not used to using digital platforms for work or ministry, yet alone have the right technology and software to produce it. On the other hand, regularly producing materials for all of our groups was not something we considered to be sustainable.

We began a Bible Study group via whatsapp. This is not your traditional Bible Study group, as it finds some obvious limitations. We post four Bible Studies a week. They aim to provide the adults in the household with some tools to study, reflect and pray together around the particular passage of Scripture. We then provide a very simple guide on how the adults in the household can use that passage with the children of the household. This has had a very powerful effect both on the children and on the adults of the household. It has also led to a greater engagement of prayer within the family.

For the services of Holy Week we used materials for the adults to prepare with the children, and also creating some crafts that were incorporated into the service. For example, on Palm Sunday, we couldn’t make reach the families the Palms we would have used during the service, so the kids made them of paper, engaging the parents in explaining what they meant and then using them in the liturgy.

Through Holy Week, we invited our families to create a prayer space at home, that they would together decorate with symbols. For example, symbols of their choice for the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, the Crucifixion on Good Friday and so on. This space was a place to come together several times a day to pray together as a family. This ended being particularly popular among the youngsters, so we have extended it through Easter, as we read the book of Acts.

We have now focused our Bible Study and additional children’s resources into these experiences of faith in households on the Book of Acts. We would like the families to reflect in what has been their experience of faith as a family so far in their lives, but also to beging reflecting and praying on what is this lockdown meaning for their experience of faith as a family.

Faith in the family has been part of the Church experience all along, but it could have been that in recent times it has been overlooked or put more into the background. It is too early to say, but it might have been that this pandemic has brought families closer in their experience of faith.

This is what some of our families have told us so far. Carolina says:  “I’ve been a member of St. Matthews Church since this project started. It’s been difficult for me and my daughter to stop going to church and not sharing face to face with members of the congregation. However, Fr Hugo and Fr Antonio have made things easier for us by sending activities to do with children, Facebook live-streams, videos to watch, daily prayers to share with family and so on. I don’t feel lonely or away from church, just the way on how we proclaim the word of the Lord changed, but our faith, love, worship and connection is still there. I do really appreciate the big effort from priests to keep us engaged and connected in a new and innovative way, thank you!”

And Luisa Fernanda has told us: “Despite the chaos that the Covid-19 outbreak has caused, we are getting to think in new ways of being church and experiencing our faith. There is four of us at home, my husband, my two children and myself. We have created a prayer space at home and each day or few days we change the symbols we place on it. We use the readings of the daily Eucharist to create our symbols, which gives us the opportunity to continue to talk together of what we have heard and learn, but most of all, gives us the opportunity to pray together. We know that other members of the community are doing the same, and we swap pictures of what we create. This gives us a sense of community and belonging with each other, even from our own homes. As a family, we also wanted to reach beyond our doors, which is difficult because of the lockdown. So we are decorating our front door with hangings that show our faith and what we celebrate, just as you would do at Christmas, but right now. We are very thankful to our priests for the time they spend ministering for us in these circumstances, and also, for the materials that they produce and help us live our faith as a family, especially passing on our faith to the little ones. Our family is becoming closer and closer as we discover to be church within the household.

Fr Antonio García Fuerte, Associate Rector, Holy Trinity with St Matthew, Southwark

Starting Spiritual Disciplines

We are living in unprecedented times with the pandemic shutting down much of our daily lives. There are, of course, some for whom this is an enormously busy time – especially the emergency services and NHS. For others life has slowed right down. Shut at home and with little outside contact.

For those in lockdown, now is the time that we can start to do something that can start to transform our Spiritual lives. The normal busyness of life and where to start stops many from practising what are collectively called Spiritual Disciplines. How do we form practises that will help us grow Spiritually and deepen our understanding and faith.

Taking our first steps can be daunting and bewildering, especially for those who have never practised these before and this is aimed at those who would like some guidance on how to start. One of the key things to note is that different people need to do things in different ways. Some people like the framework of liturgy, some like the support of notes and some just want to read and reflect prayerfully. In addition there is the question as to whether you are doing this on your own or with others – a friend, a partner, a family.

Before getting into the “what do I do” lets think about where and when.

Finding the right time and place

There is no overall right time, there is only the time that you can do and that works for you (each person has a different cycle as to when they are most alive). Some ideas (but remember to look at your own rhythm and see what works for you

  • First thing in the morning. You could make a cup of tea or coffee and take time to start the day
  • Find a natural break in the day. Maybe at a natural mid morning time or at lunchtime
  • Early evening. If you have been doing some things in the day then an early evening might work for you
  • As you go to bed. Some people find that this works for them as they are relaxing

If after a few days it doesn’t quite work then review the time and see if you need to make changes. Sometimes a small change can make a big difference.

Who are you doing it with

Some people will be wanting to do this on their own, others will be doing it with others in their house. Who you do it with alters what you do. For example:

  • If you do it on your own then you are likely to want to find a place where you don’t want to be disturbed. This might mean using a bedroom or a place where people know to give you space. There is a famous story of Susanna Wesley (the mother of the famous preacher John Wesley) who had a large family and told her children not to interrupt as she prayed with an apron over her head!
  • You may have others in your household who would like to join you. Agree a time and a place that works best for everyone. Compromises may need to be made! if someone is working from home then it may need to have some flexibility
  • If you have a young children then you are likely to have to often have times of chaos when you do this together. It is more important that the children see you take it an important part of the routine of your life rather than it is quiet and reverential!

What should I/we do??

There are lots of resources on the Internet that you can search down. These are just a very few ways of getting you started.

If you like structure and a liturgical way of praying together or on your own then there is the Church of England’s Daily Office. The daily office is the standard way to read the scriptures and pray that is used by thousands of people. It has as part of it, daily scripture readings from the Old and New Testaments, prayers and time to reflect.To access this online you can either use the Church of England Website or download the Daily Prayer App from your smartphone’s app store for free

Holy Trinity Brompton have produced a very popular Bible app that aims to help you read the Bible in a year and has commentary against each of the readings. You can access it via their website where you can also subscribe to their daily emails. Again they have an app that you can download from your smartphone’s app store for free

If you have young children then think about how you might include some singing and create a structure that would help them to engage. It could include some drawing or banging pans to music. Depending on the age of the children you could try having children finish a sentence “Thank you God for….” or “Please help…..” There are whole load of resources for young families and some good examples that occur that you can join in with. The Diocese has put up a lot of resources on a separate page on the website.

A call to action

It would be great to hear what you have found works and what else you can suggest that has helped you to start to pray and grow in your faith. Do let us know and feedback so we can help each other to grow in our faith and journey with Christ.

Live streaming services at Christ Church East Greenwich

Margaret Cave from Christ Church, East Greenwich shares some of her learning from the last few weeks live streaming services and their weekly Praise and Play pre school fun time.

I encourage you to see technology as your friend and not your enemy because it can work hard for you to make shared worship possible in this challenging time. I am a technophile, so I have enjoyed the challenge of leading the change to become virtual church for a season even though it has been demanding and extremely hard work.

Last week someone said to me the world is going to change forever and if we don’t keep up, we will be in danger of being left behind. In these fast-changing times, we need to be agile and take seriously the challenge of how the church is to proclaim afresh our faith in each generation.

So, how have we gone about it at Christ Church, Greenwich?

We have live-streamed via Facebook which also allows us to stream onto Facebook and put a link on the Church website.There are a couple of things that have given us real encouragement:

  • It is really encouraging to live stream on Facebook where you can see the hearts and thumbs up floating up the screen and everyone’s comments, good mornings and Amens.
  • I have had really good feedback particularly around including lots of other people making contributions to the service. There have been lots of views, comments, sharing and people putting on Facebook ‘watch’ parties.

The software:

We use Macs at Christ Church East Greenwich and have been using Ecamm Live to enable our live streaming. Ecamm Live is flexible with loads of functionality and it works for streaming on Facebook, YouTube and other platforms. It is available for a 14 day free trial and costs $12 per month and has great tutorial on YouTube so you can get to grips with it quickly and easily. If you want to buy it please use this link so I can receive commission which I will give back to the church https://www.ecamm.com/mac/ecammlive/?fp_ref=margaret84

Good preparation is key:

We have found that preparing in advance has really helped us in seeing what we can do and to do it as well as we can.

  • Think about your background view – what is on the wall behind you – move your furniture and make a good set – for example daffodils for Mothering Sunday or white lilies for Easter, a candle, an image on the wall
  • Use the YouTube tutorials to learn how to use overlays, add in pre-recorded videos and to switch between sources
  • Practice in advance – think about where to look so it is natural and where to have your notes – practice your voice too as its different talking to a screen and mic
  • Have all the pre-recorded videos ready in an open folder so you can drag them on quickly and easily
  • Quit all the other applications on your Mac so you don’t get any rogue noises when you are broadcasting AND put your phone onto ‘do not disturb’ or ‘aeroplane mode’

So far, I have used:

  • Background slide show with slides of the liturgy (PowerPoint saved as pdf and then added in as an overlay)
  • Foreground live camera feed in the corner of the screen in a circle
  • Dragged in pre-recorded videos of people reading, praying, doing ‘This Time Tomorrow’ and preaching – great way to engage members of the congregation
  • Dragged in pre-recorded songs and hymns from our own worship band which have been put together on garage band after sending round files and each person uploading their tracks
  • Scheduling the livestream from the software and sharing widely on Facebook and Twitter
  • The recording is automatically saved to Facebook and is saved to our YouTube channel – it is also embedded in the church website

Going forward, I will try:

  • Second camera  on a swan neck mini tripod for view of hands for Holy Communion (planned for Easter Sunday) or a craft demo (for Praise & Play) using the £2.99 app ‘Shoot’ which allows for filming from the back camera of an iPhone plugged into the Mac using a normal charging cable – easy to switch between Mac camera and iPhone camera feeds
  • Interviewing or including another person live in the service by skyping them into the live stream – planning to use for ‘This Time Tomorrow’.

I think it’s important to keep the live stream fresh with different faces, voices and using the technology to maximum effect.

See the Christ Church East Greenwich live stream services on Facebook https://tinyurl.com/CCEGfacebookvideos OR YouTube https://tinyurl.com/CCEGyoutubechannel OR from our website www.christchurcheastgreenwich.org.uk.

Pyjama Prayers – Jesus-centred fun from the comfort of home

What do you do when children are confined to home during this lockdown? How can we alleviate the strain on parents and families to provide round-the-clock supervision, home tutoring and entertainment?

At Ascension, we have developed Pyjama Prayers, a series of video clips for children which air every weekday at 5pm. We saw this crisis not as forcing us to reduce our output as a church, but as a chance to increase it. A chance for us to engage with young families in Balham and beyond and deliver fun and free worship right to your front room.

Families view the episodes live on YouTube. A great aspect of these videos is that they air live as it allows families to integrate it as a fixed part of their daily schedule. Routine and familiarity is an important aspect for helping small children learn. This live-ness has also acted to help build a strong community of families who log on each day and interact with each other in the chat box. It is amazing to see that the community-aspect of weekly church life can be replicated at home, even when families are physically isolated from one another.

Isaac hosts each episode along with his trusty puppet friend José. Each video contains some songs (which families are encouraged to sing along to), a bible story and some ‘chat time’ where parents and children can discuss the bible story and its meaning together. This is a really rich time where parents and children can take time out of their busy and often unpredictable schedule to connect with each other through the bible.

We have received some amazing feedback from both regular church families and families who are connecting with us for the first time. Parents say they love what we are doing and how we are drawing the whole family together in the midst of such an erratic time. Children are really loving it and we are seeing it help deepen their relationship with God. A comment from a child after watching a recent episode was; “I love God because he made the world, and the stars.”

We would so love for you to join us too! Pyjama Prayers airs every weekday on YouTube at 5pm, Just click on the link for Pyjama Prayers, Ascension Balham in YouTube to join in!

Revd Marcus Gibbs, Vicar Ascension, Balham

Mission Shaped Ministry Course

With the launch of the new ministry of lay pioneers within the Diocese of Southwark it is even more important to support and encourage pioneering and to develop not only pioneers but teams around them and churches and teams around the Diocese. One of the key ways that we do this is through the Mission Shaped Ministry Course.

The Mission Shaped Ministry Course is a one year course aimed at helping churches to be missional in creative and imaginative ways. This course will help churches to reach out beyond their natural fringe and to serve their communities and look to form new ways of being church. It will also help churches who might not be looking to fresh expressions of Church but want to explore new or different ways of mission.

In the course we have a variety of inspirational people who will be sharing their stories and their learning. There will be lots of time to reflect on where you are and where your church is and some of the steps that you might take to effectively reach those outside of the Church. Sessions can include videos, interactive times and questions, group work as well as sharing your own story, challenges and opportunities.

Participants may be at any stage – just starting to think about things, planning your first steps, wondering what to do next, planning a new community. The course is a great opportunity to learn.

Although you are welcome to come as an individual our experience has been that coming with a group from your church or mission activity have been the most fruitful. Coming in a team ensures that you can discover new ideas together, reflect with those in your situation and plan how you might start new things.

Key areas that we look at include contextual mission (i.e. what does the mission of God look like where I live and minister), gospel and culture, listening for mission and starting something new.

We are holding the next course at Christ Church, Brighton Rd, Purley, Surrey CR8 2BN. It is near to Purley Station (with good rail connections) and the A23. Dates for the course in 2020 are:

  • Saturday 18 January
  • Tuesday 11 February
  • Tuesday 10 March
  • Tuesday 21 April
  • Weekend Away 15-17 May
  • Tuesday 9 June
  • Tuesday 7 July
  • Saturday 12 September
  • Tuesday 13 October
  • Saturday 7 November

Saturdays run from 10am-4pm and Tuesdays are from 19.30-21.30

The Weekend away is being held at The Oasts, Tufton Lane, Northiam, East Sussex TN31 6HL

The costs for the course are £300 for up to three people from a parish in Southwark Diocese (if 3 people come then it works out at £100 per person). After the first three people it is £100 per person. If you are not part of Southwark Diocese the cost is £300 oer person.

For more information please contact Will Cookson at will.cookson@southwark.anglican.org or 0207 7939 9417

Lay Pioneers

On Saturday 14 September, at the Croydon Lay Conference, Bishop Christopher will be commissioning our first three Lay Pioneers for the Diocese of Southwark. Lay Pioneers are an exiting new ministry that will sit alongside other lay ministries in the Diocese and will help us in encouraging new ways to reach new people with the good news of Jesus Christ. As the Church of England helpfully says:

Pioneers are people called by God who are the first to see and creatively respond to the Holy Spirit’s initiatives with those outside the church; gathering others around them as they seek to establish new contextual Christian community.

As the work of the new Pioneering Ministry and Fresh Expressions department develops within the Diocese of Southwark we have started looking at this whole exciting area of Lay Pioneers and these first three are, we hope and pray, the first of many more.

Lay Pioneers will play a significant role in helping the Church to experiment and to take risks in reaching others with the love of Christ. Their primary focus will be to reach those outside of the Church. Their pioneering spirit often leads them to work with those most in need and in deprived communities. Of the three being commissioned this time round one is working with an estate community in Redhill; one is working with Japanese people who have had little or no contact with Christians and one is working with those who see themselves as being spiritual but not religious.

With the setting up of the Diocesan Lay Council this autumn we hope to create a range of options for lay people to explore in regards to Pioneer selection and training. As a first step we now have available the opportunity to explore the calling to a Commissioned Lay Pioneer. This is suitable for those who wish to explore a calling to Pioneering but may not yet have much experience or they may be part of a fresh expression of Church in their local context and would like some more training, support and recognition. Over time we hope that we will also be able to recognise those who may have been leading a fresh expression of Church for a period of time (or who lead more than one) and would like to go deeper with their exploration into fresh expressions and pioneering. We hope that to these people we will be able to offer the role of Licensed Lay Pioneer.

We already have a wide range of fresh expressions of Church in the Diocese from new monastic communities to cafe church and messy church through to communities who regard themselves as Spiritual and not Religious. We hope and pray that with an increase in lay pioneers we can see this range grow and deepen and the mission and evangelistic impact of the Church grow within the Diocese.

If you, or someone you know, believes that they may have a calling to pioneering within the Diocese then we would love to hear from you. You can either have an informal chat with Will Cookson, Dean of Fresh Expressions and Director of Pioneering Ministry or book into a Vocations Fair – Southwarkvocations.eventbrite.com.

Fresh Expressions Update

It has been an exciting time for Fresh Expressions over the past year in Southwark Diocese. We have seen a significant change in tempo in regard to them and we now have a good feel for how many fresh expressions of Church we have across the Diocese and some great initiatives to encourage more.

When we had the Church Army do a survey in 2015 as to the number of fresh expressions of Church we found that we had 39 across the Diocese. As more churches have been exploring new ways of reaching more people with the Good news of Christ we have seen more initiatives across the Diocese.

Fig 1: Growth in fresh expressions in Southwark Diocese

What is encouraging about the above diagramme is not only that the number of fresh expressions of Church has grown to 99 from 39 but that there are many other initiatives which are incredibly valuable (a “Bridge” is a ministry that aims to feed into existing services, an “Internal ministry” is a ministry of care for existing members and the “Not yet fxc” has the possibility of becoming a fresh expression but it may not meet regularly enough or is still exploring how it might become missional).

In addition we have seen a wide range of types of fresh expressions – everything from church grafts and church plants through to Messy Church, New Monastic Communities etc

Lastly, it has been wonderful to see fresh expressions adopted across the wide range of traditions in the Diocese of Southwark. Of course, this means (as it should) that each tradition brings its own insights into their fresh expressions. This is important as fresh expressions are meant to be imaginative and to draw on the roots of each of our traditions and not to create clones.

One of the key areas that we have been focussed on is building a platform from which churches across the Diocese and the different traditions can grow fresh expressions in their context. This has taken a variety of approaches to enable us to do this.

The first is through using the Pioneer Spectrum to help us in looking at what God is calling us to in this particular time and place and with these conditions and people and resources available. This has given us a top level view of what it is that is being attempted. It is a useful tool to enable churches to have a shared vision of what they wish to achieve.

The second area is through the increasing use of Pioneers in the Diocese. This is a multi-pronged approach. In the first phase we have focussed on ordained Pioneers with the appointment of our first Pioneer Curate (and a further two per year) and the use of Strategic Fund money from the Church Commissioners. We are also looking how this can be expanded further. The second phase, which we very much hope will be coming shortly, will be looking at Lay Pioneers who we expect in the long term to be vital for Pioneering within the Diocese.

The third area is through the increasing use of Action Learning Groups. These are groups of practitioners focussed on a particular area (e.g. Estates or Missional Communities) who commit to try new things, to be open and accountable to one another. Over time we hope that more and more will be formed and that they will share their learning with others around the Diocese. We already have two that are about to happen – one about ministry on estates – Sowing in Concrete on the 21st March and one looking at disabilities – Dementia Friendly Church on the 28th March. Both are free and click the links to see and book to come.

Lastly, we continue to offer our baseline Mission Shaped Ministry course to help churches to begin to grapple with how they can make a difference in their community.

Mission to and with the ‘Spiritual Not Religious’ a dialogical approach

Whether we like it or not national social surveys appear to indicate that many of the ‘non-and-de-churched’ people now call themselves “spiritual” but not religious (SNR). About a fifth of people in the UK fit into this category, according to Prof Michael King from University College London.[1]

The challenge then is how to respond to these missional needs in culturally appropriate ways, a matter I am researching as part of a PhD research study.  As part of this, and also to develop mission to the ‘Spiritual Not Religious’ we have been piloting a dialogical approach which we have called ‘SearchingSoul’ and used the popular MeetUp App to promote 4 groups in various parts of London.[2]

These groups are designed as generous spaces to allow people to explore spirituality on a monthly theme, where everyone has space to talk about their insights and experience, as many spiritual seekers like the opportunity to explore and engage with the issue of spirituality.  We are careful to ensure that there are no Christians present other than the facilitators, to ensure that the event gives space for the SNR to really open up and build trust.  Typically SNR people begin with a negative stereotype that religion and in particular Christianity is a form of fundamentalism and thought control.   We have been running the groups now for over a year, and in time people break down these negative stereotypes, and as we know from the Fresh Expressions initiative, all mission must be deeply relational and begins with building up relationships of integrity.  We now have groups in Peckham, Borough, Kingston and the City that meet in pubs and bars and we are looking to set up new groups in the Diocese.  So far a few have gone on to explore Christianity – taking a particularly contemplative spiritual practices approach to exploring the faith.

This whole approach is about mission being Gods, and for us getting out of the way of God and seeking to catch up with what God is doing, in the belief that the Holy Spirit is constantly unsettling every person to the reality of God the Trinity in the face of Jesus Christ. f you are interested in getting a SearchingSoul group going in your locality get in contact mailto:ian.mobsby@southwark.anglican.org or facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/579336342436523/

Ian Mobsby , Woolwich Area Mission Enabler


[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20888141

[2] For example https://www.meetup.com/SearchingSoul-Vauxhall-Borough/

The changing nature of Timperley Church

“We want them to meet Jesus!”

This is not our vision statement, but it wouldn’t be a bad one for Timperley Church Redhill (TCR).  From it’s genesis, this has been our driving force.  Not to get people into “church” though that would be nice, but to create opportunities for people to meet Jesus, through His holy and life giving Spirit, by His Word.

The problem is, how do we do that?  How does the amazing message of the Gospel get behind the closed doors?  How is our proclamation heard when the streets are empty?  How do we share God’s love with the people we meet when there is no marketplace?  For TCR this last question is key, but we’ll come back to that.

First things

Let me introduce myself, my name is Aneal Appadoo and I am a curate in my fourth year of ordained ministry at Holy Trinity (HT) Church in Redhill, Surrey.  As part of my role I have the great privilege of leading a fresh expression congregational plant (TCR) down on the Timperley Gardens estate, located about 10 mins walk from the church, and in what follows I am going to give you a rough overview of the life of our plant, to give a bit of a case study to how a fresh expression of church might come into being, under three brief headings, Seeking, Finding, and Serving.

Seeking

Generally our church and parish feature well in most census and deprivation indexes, we are not a wealthy parish by any means, but we are not necessarily poor, however, there are a couple of pockets within our parish which are among the more deprived in Surrey, one of which is the Timperley Gardens estate

Going way back to before 2001, our PCC had a great heart for this area of our parish, and asked how we could best minister to this area of our parish, forming part of parish profile at the time.  Members of the congregation had been prayer walking around the estate, intentionally asking God what they should do there, feeling a burden for the people of the estate.

Under a new vicar, a curate joined the church in 2002, and, along with a large number of volunteers from the church knocked on every door around the estate with a survey, asking the residents how long they had lived here, what they liked about it – what was good, what could be better, and what the local church might do for them.  They also offered a Jesus video to anyone who wanted one – so the survey sought to understand both social, and spiritual needs.

These questionnaires were collated and interrogated, and they revealed that predominantly the estate had two main demographics: 1. An ageing population who felt isolated and had poor mobility; 2. A great number of young families, with a high number of young mothers.  It also flagged up that the residents felt there was no community space on the estate.

The church investigated this and found that in the heart of the estate, there was a scout hut that had little contact with the estate itself – and after positive conversations with the scouts, this became the hub for what HT would do.

Finding

Having established what the needs of this community might be, HT began initially by pulling together a team that started with a coffee morning with board games and a soft toy area.  The hope was that this might meet all three needs – serving the elderly, and young families in a community space.  In reality though, this service was only taken up by the elderly who really enjoyed it, it was a wonderful service into the community, but it wasn’t church.

Serving

Over the years a new curate joined HT who invested a great deal of time into the estate.  Under her leadership an Under 5’s group was started in 2007, with a Saturday service, Timperley Family Church, starting a little later that year.  This was a model of “café” style church that sought to be accessible to the people of the estate.

Under the next curate they sought to engage with a great number of young people that congregated around the estate, and so started a youth club.  But as one ministry starts, sadly another ends, and the coffee morning was soon stopped.  Also, they began an annual summer party around this time, to be a blessing to the community.

Around 2014 the service moved to a Sunday, and midweek social evening outreach service was also started up.

“We want them to meet Jesus?”

I began to lead the team around September 2015, and a big part of my role has been to think through how the church, now called Timperley Church Redhill (TCR), serves the community it is in now.  How do we get them to meet Jesus?

My focus initially was on discipling those who come to the church from the estate, so I changed the look and feel of the service and brought the bible teaching to the forefront – with discussions after the teaching and small group prayer.  This was a change from the more child focused service we had become due to who God was sending us at the time.  We have undertaken 1:1 bible studies, and our first evangelistic course.

Around early 2017 we noticed a large decline in numbers as key families moved away, and people lost the vision for the plant, or perhaps in truth, we became a little vision-less.  After some analysis and reflection, I came to see, that for the last few years TCR had failed to attract, and them retain people who were coming on a Sunday morning.  The loss of key families was hurting us, but almost everyone who was coming at the time was also worshipping at another church.  We actually had very few indigenous members.

This brings us back to our initial findings of that first survey, and the lack of a community space on the estate.  Looking at the growth of the early church in the bible, it was often the strategy that the apostles would go to the busy centres of life where the people gathered,  starting with the synagogues, and then the market place.  They would then proclaim the gospel and perform miracles, before gathering as church with those who the Lord was adding to their number.  So where is the market place within which we can proclaim?

In short, there isn’t one.  We’d played with Facebook, played with our Sunday service, offered bacon sandwiches, all the time trying to get people into church.  But in the summer of 2017 we changed our methods.  With the help of a diocesan mission grant we had a year of events – quiz nights, family movies, pray spaces – all geared around creating that market place where we could come into contact with the community, and introduce them to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  And our numbers have been good, with over 160 people joining us for our annual summer party, up to 50 coming along for a family movie, 60 at a community lunch, and 4 ladies joining a recent cookery course initiative.

In addition to this, through another mission grant we have been able to appoint a part time Community Outreach Worker for the next few years, whose job is simply to have coffee with people and share Jesus.  This post-holder, Jan, actually has been a core member of TCR since its inception, and has made a great start in her first few months.

TCR on Sundays no longer meets the needs of the estate, and so again we have spent a long time in prayer and discussion, and listening to people living on the estate, trying to understand what God would have us do next.  And it seems good to us to begin a new monthly “messy church-esque” service on a midweek afternoon.  We are confident that this is where God is currently leading us.  In addition, 3 of the women we have been reaching over the last 3 years are moving ever closer to the centre of church life, to a point where we are hoping to be able to more closely disciple them.

There is much more we have done, including a children’s bible study, children’s camps, helping a member of our church with her benefits, and so on.

I guess the key thing to say through all of this, is that the church has constantly re-evaluated what it is doing, working hard to think through how we interact with the community God has called us to live amongst. Listening to people who live in the community is key.

We have constantly wrestled with how we live out what means to be like Paul, when he says that he was “a Greek to the Greeks” – and actually this involves great pain, toil and sacrifice.  Letting go of the things we’d like to do, how we’d rather spend our Sunday’s or midweek evenings – so that we can minister the Gospel to those who live on the estate, so that we can proclaim the love of God, through his Son, by His Spirit to every resident.

It’s hard work, and we would greatly value your prayers, but it’s also such a joyful privilege!  I would strongly encourage each of you to think this through in your own church context, and hope what I have said might help you in that.

Rev. Aneal Appadoo