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

Sacred Space, Kingston

Andrea’s mission work in Kingston grew out of listening – both to God and to the prevailing culture of her surroundings. She was an elder in an independent, charismatic evangelical church, and felt called to be a leader – but she wasn’t sure what exactly God had in mind for her. A catalyst came in the form of a phone call from a friend who had had a spiritual experience and sought Andrea’s help in interpreting what she had felt. Although she took the time to discuss the experience and God’s work, Andrea felt that she had failed to engage her friend’s interest to the extent that she might want to further explore faith.

As a result of that conversation and her feelings about it afterwards, Andrea became aware of local interest in spirituality – both in pop culture and conversations with friends, certain topics kept coming up: mediums and tarot readers; acupuncture; yoga; séances; using a Ouija board. She had been warned against ‘occult’ activities, but wondered whether interest in these ideas could be used as a way to talk about Christian spirituality. She also discovered that a group called Eden People in nearby Guildford had started attending New Age fairs, and offering prayer for those in attendance. Andrea felt called to do something similar in Kingston and booked a pitch at Kingston Green Fair, joining forces with another church that was also keen to have a presence. Andrea says, “Some Christians I mentioned it to were very wary, but I felt God confirmed to me at every step that I was in the right place and doing what was required of me… we were overwhelmed with the number of people who wanted to talk to us and receive prayer.”

At the fair, people came to Andrea with stories of Jesus appearing in dreams and visions, to bring healing and freedom. It was a wonderful privilege to minister to people in this way, but she also felt frustrated that these amazing one-off encounters weren’t going any further: “I had no idea how we might create a means to facilitate on-going discipleship and was unsure about inviting the people I was meeting to a regular church service.” Following talks with her partners, she formed Sacred Space Kingston to address this need. Sacred Space put on arts workshops and exhibitions in the hope that art would help to encourage ideas infused with the sacred and offer potential for encountering the divine. Andrea also looked for ways to build longer-lasting relationships with those outside the usual orbit of the church; she started a book group, and wrote and ran a meditation course at the YMCA as part of their health and fitness programme.

Throughout this period, Andrea remained an elder and continued to regularly attend meetings at her church, but she was finding it increasingly difficult to integrate her experiences of God in mission with what was being articulated at church. She eventually decided to leave the church and set up a Bible study and prayer group on a nearby housing estate; she supported the unchurched people who attended to become Christians, and watched them grow in their newfound faith.

Andrea’s hope was that the new Christians would be discipled by those who had been in church and left at the same time she did; sadly, this did not happen as envisioned due to a clash of culture between the churched and new Christians. Despite this, Sacred Space continued to develop a rhythm of life, and now up to twelve people meet on a monthly basis for a home group session where they discuss themes arising from the Bible and other Christian writings. The group also shares a regular community meal and goes on outings to further the members’ shared interest in the arts and spirituality.

Members are encouraged to explore and fulfil their vocations, and to disciple others – one woman had the idea of establishing a town centre chaplaincy; this was successful and she now oversees its running and development, as well as being an elder in another church. Andrea says, “For us in Sacred Space, mission is the ultimate expression of God’s love in creation, and our relationships have a positive outward expression in the locality where we live and work.”

At Sacred Space, love for God and for one another extends beyond the group to make a difference in the wider community. They offer hospitality to people that not everyone in the group knows; their community meals are a way to ensure that everyone is included. Andrea says that, “because friendship and a desire to be good news in our locality are more important to us than belief, Sacred Space is a network of relationships that has indeterminate edges. This creates the freedom for people to question their faith and decide they no longer want to call themselves a Christian, but they may still continue to walk with us as friends.” Other members are part of other, more traditional churches, but still get something valuable and distinct from their participation at Sacred Space. Because of this intentional flexibility, Sacred Space can feel messy and is not easily defined; Andrea is now looking to formalise the group and shift to a team leadership, possibly by way of a Bishop’s Mission Order.

Andrea knows that any one fresh expression won’t cater to everyone’s needs: “rather than seeking to bring everyone into the Sacred Space missional community, I would love to see indigenous expressions of church emerge in the other sub-cultures where we have a presence and are doing outreach.” As she discovered the hard way, trying to integrate a self-contained group of new Christians with people who had come from a particular style of church – and had therefore established a specific, separate culture – was just not possible. She has brought this knowledge to her current project, working with Christians who are part of the steampunk subculture: Andrea has been clear with her friends in this subculture that they should not bring those interested in exploring Christianity to Sacred Space, but instead to think about how they might disciple people as steampunks, and see what indigenous expression of church evolves.

She says, “I recognise we have as much to learn and as many rough edges to be rubbed smooth by relationship as anyone else. If discipleship is a two-way process both Sacred Space and an emerging expression of church for steampunks, for example, will be moulded by God through our ongoing interaction and conversation. They need to be free to develop as the Holy Spirit leads them and at the same time remain part of us through relationship. Thus, we model the unity in diversity of the Trinity in microcosm in the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames.

http://sacredspacekingston.com

Japanese Congregation

I was born and grew up in Japan, a non-Christian country with a unique culture. Like any other ordinary Japanese person, I was neither a Buddhist nor a follower of Shinto. Japan is a country which is always a top ranker of global GDP and a member of G7. I was a part of the gears of that economic machine, always exhausted in a material world of chasing a level of income to increase the quality of life. It is known that Japan is economically successful and that everything is on time according to its schedule even public buses are very punctual. However tube/trains frequently suspend their service due to fatal incidents. It is less well known that Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.

We feel that our role from God is to be close to non-Christian Japanese people in order to share the gospel. I see my personal experience as a gift (for almost half of my life, I didn’t know God and my values and behaviours were very different). My testimony, therefore, is one that proves a significant distinction between life without Christ and life with Christ. This is a gift which can introduce to others to new life in Christ through God’s mercy and love. Given the small number of Japanese people who are Christian (about 1% of the population) we need to go outside of church buildings and meet people where they are to talk to them about God’s love. At the point of starting our group, we were not aware of the Fresh Expressions movement.

Our focus was that people should be set at the centre of our mission, to offer discipleship towards church rather than being a part of the structure of a church. This innovation is quite challenging into new contexts of church style: rather than replicating an existing model of church plant, we ventured into the edges of postmodern culture combined with Japanese culture. Generally speaking, it is not easy for Japanese people to make a first step into a Church, and we found value in helping to take away barriers to their accessing church (each according to their needs). Therefore ongoing listening, loving and serving to build relationships with people is a fundamental part of our mission for building communities, which requires that what we do is contextual. In fact, not using a liturgy from a particular denomination has brought us not only Anglicans, but also other Protestants, Catholics, people from a Buddhism background – all sharing together.

When we set up our group Japanese Anglican Church, South East (JAC SE), we were given the tangible items (church building, Japanese bibles, funding, authorisation by the Diocese, etc) but the key emphasis of service format had not been decided (e.g. worship style, frequency, etc). Our first meeting, on the day of Pentecost, was a communion service in Japanese led by one of Southwark’s Bishops and all Christian attendees were very happy and thankful to God. Before the Service started, and for the benefit of non-Christian Japanese friends, we explained the nature of a communion service and the reason why Christians keep doing it. However, the service still gave a couple of our Japanese friends a shock due to the imagery and the words of the liturgy that were so strange to them. Words such as Holy Spirit, blood of Christ, etc which are fundamentals of Christianity but to them were alarming. I was surprised by the reaction of these friends because they ought to have known about communion service from our earlier explanation. But it became the precious clue for our group. At that point, we might consider it receiving a message from God about my recalling that I myself was like that before, therefore we should not ignore this response but rather we must be on their side and understand their view. Someone has to work to communicate the Christian world view to these people. If it works, people will be set free from unnecessary barriers against Christianity and we can all share God’s love.

After the first Service, we discussed the style of the meeting with a member of the clergy who was supporting us, and who agreed to lead study sessions based on the study book entitled “Jesus through Asian Eyes”. However, this study book is really aimed at a British Asian audience (e.g. India/Pakistan/Bangladesh) as an introduction to Christianity. This did not fit a Japanese audience but still we wanted to know people’s reaction. From this experience we learnt that we should discuss the details of sessions in advance. Some issues were clear:

• Obviously, this study book is not designed for Japanese (culture)
• People who attended the meeting would like to know about Christianity as a world-view rather than being encouraged to becomes Christians. Also the preaching style was not appropriate.
• A desirable leader should be equipped to speak from a non-Christian background/viewpoint, and to understand the Japanese culture (Japanese speaker). This might be a member of the clergy, but is more likely to be a person who can link Christian and Japanese world views.

In general, Japanese people don’t have even the basic knowledge about Christianity and we have noticed that Christian language (e.g. God’s love, blessing, repentance, forgiveness, eternal life, holy spirit, etc) needs to be replaced with alternative words but this was not successfully done in the study. We learnt from this experience that we had to listen carefully and consider the response from all attendees and reflect them in our meeting style. Rather than sermons from members of the clergy, or courses like Alpha/Christianity Explored, we decided to find answers submitted by the attendees. This has included inviting guest speakers when the hot topic comes up. (based around a film, novel, or music relating to Christianity)

Our mission to Japanese people is like a huge jigsaw puzzle. A piece is never presented if it is not the right one for us but sometimes more than one piece fits together if it is the right time for God. It’s a miracle! For us, every day is learning about listening to our friends and God and being patient – but that is all part of God’s grace. When our original supporter, Bishop Michael, left the diocese, we had prayed for the future of the Japanese church (it would have been no surprise if the group was closed down) but we were ‘discovered’ and now the group is stable and expanding as a part of Fx within Southwark.

We are currently working and praying for opening a 2nd group in a local church. We hope that any fresh opportunity will come out of the original group. This multiplied group will aim to help people understand Christianity more and is aimed at working with the local church in Southwark. In case an attendee wants to go further and attend regular church services or receive baptism, we would like to introduce the relevant local church to support their continued discipleship as well as still being supported by JAC(SE). It seems our Fx is for not only Japanese people, but also impacts local churches as we seek for attendees to be supported in their spiritual journey through such local churches.

Minako Hall leads the Japanese congregation in Southwark Diocese along with her husband Simon.

 

ROCK Missional Community

Reaching Out with Care and Kindness (ROCK) is a community meeting every Tuesday during the week, worshipping God, exploring faith and the bible, and seeing people blossom. It meets in a care home, and is a mixture of Springfield Church members and local residents (about 1/2 of the Ministry don’t attend a Sunday expression of Church). ROCK came about, not through intentional strategy, but rather through the passions of key individuals and openness to following God’s lead.

It all started 12 years ago when a small group decided to meet at a care home because one of the elderly church members lived there. Ann (a gifted lay member) was asked to pastor this group, and ended up giving lifts to another member to and from a different care home. Seeing the missional possibilities, Ann began very intentionally to build relationships with the management at both establishments because she had discovered a passion to love and serve elderly people. It was obvious that there was a need, both for community and for Jesus in these care homes where isolation, loneliness, and facing the reality of death were all acute issues. In the existing small group, there was a ready and willing team.

Ann’s next move was to observe what was already going on at Springfield, and to see where there might be opportunities to link these in to the elderly community. A cupcakes ministry to Springfield members was an obvious starting point to extend to the care homes. With the favour she already had with the care home managers, monthly ‘Caring Cupcakes’ meetings started. This provided a key opportunity to engage with the wider elderly community.

At this stage, one the core values of ROCK started to form. The original small group were now engaging with elderly residents on a regular basis and sought God’s guidance for what to say. ‘Honesty, be yourself’ was the result of prayer and discernment and subsequently the team learned to talk about faith in the reality of struggles, and serve according to their gifts. Bakers baked, prayers prayed, and pastors pastored. They also focussed on listening, really listening, to the residents and building trust with them, and their families. All of this was instrumental in building a real sense of community.

As the sense of community grew, and as residents were opening up, Ann recognised the importance of communicating God’s hope and the love of Jesus. In a brave move, she started giving 5 minute ‘faith slots’ at the Cupcake meetings. While this was a huge step of faith for her, and well outside her comfort zone, the residents absolutely loved it in both care homes. Ann’s reflection, looking back, was that this would not have been possible had relationships with both residents and institutions not been so strong. Talking about Jesus was welcomed because of trust that had been nurtured.

ROCK is a fluid entity. The small group that still meets remains a core part of this ministry and underpins everything else in prayer. Caring Cupcakes has evolved, drawing in a wider team and growing to include a book exchange service and running Alpha for Seniors. A third care home is in the early stages of inviting in the Caring Cupcakes team. It is an example of a fresh expression that is continually being refreshed. There is no expectation that residents come along to Springfield Church, though they are always welcome, but rather that the worshipping communities where they live are their church. And for a demographic where mobility is ever decreasing, this is a key factor. About 50% of the ministry is with those who don’t attend a Sunday expression of Church

Ann recognises some of the struggles she’s had over the years. There was always a frustration that there were more people Ann wanted to visit than she was able. Furthermore, she recognises the need to pray more, especially for more team who were like-minded and available. This latter issue of availability is especially difficult to overcome in the context of a daytime ministry. Ann says that if she were starting again now, she would be regularly praying for God to provide more people to be on the team, and wouldn’t stop until He answered!

Ann has learnt that relationships are key, and that they take time. Progress isn’t always obvious, and it can take years to build trust – especially with secular institutions. This ‘long game’ view has to play a part in setting and managing expectations, and Ann reflects that creating goals that provide more excitement than pressure is crucial.

ROCK’s hope looking forward is to see the elderly in our community continue to meet Jesus as we reach out with care and kindness. Quite what this looks like, and quite whom it may involve is unknown. But the example of the last twelve years is that intentionally looking to see where God is already showing favour, opening doors, and strategically placing people in missional contexts is the best and most exciting strategy.

The Wellspring Community

New Monasticism was named as one of the first recognised types of fresh expressions of church in the ground-changing ‘Mission Shaped Church Report’.

Early in 2015, a few participants of the Moot Community, a new monastic community in the City of London, moved to the Parish of St Luke’s Church in North Peckham, some living together in the clergy house with Ian Mobsby, the then new Priest-in-Charge, and some living locally in Peckham with the vision of enabling St Luke’s to become a ‘mixed economy’ parish of the traditional and experimental working together in one parish.  As with other new monastic communities, the vision of this particular expression can be understood as 4 characteristics:

  1. A commitment to a Rhythm of Daily Life
  2. A commitment to contemplative forms of prayer and meditation
  3. A commitment to spiritual practices and radical community
  4. A commitment to missional loving service as an individual and as an ecclesial community.

(See www.ianmobsby.net for more info on these characteristics)

After a period of contextual listening, I produced a report of all the conversations I had had with people in and outside the Church, and in particular in the Parish of St Luke’s.  It was clear that the Church Sunday Morning Eucharist congregation had become completely disconnected from the lives of those in the Parish who did not attend this service.  Further, North Peckham Had become an increasing mix of Latino and Hispanic people, young more ‘hipster’ type students studying in the local Camberwell School of Art and the University of the Arts Camberwell, first and second generation settlers from West Africa and the Caribbean, and a residual white working class who had a history of living in Peckham from the last century.     St Luke’s was highly representative of the West African and Caribbean ethnicities of the parish, but everyone else was absent.   After careful planning and consideration, an Evening Service congregation combined with the New Monastic Community was brought together to try and redress balance of St Luke’s reflecting the different people’s living in Peckham.  So the New Monastic Community was the first fresh expression of church we planted, and was from the start a glorious mix of all the ethnicities of the local area.

So yesterday on the 10th June 2018, the community gathered to make different forms of seasonal annual promises before God and the gathered community depending on their particular stage of faith, from those who self-identify themselves as either companions, associates, participants and professed.  The unique advantage of a ‘new monastic’ model of ecclesial community drawing on the many traditional religious communities, is their covenantal focus on Christianity not just being a system of thinking – but also a profound way of life.  This is commonly understood to be a ‘rhythm of life’ that engages with the focus of seeking to be follow the way of Jesus.  Like all religious communities, the key Gospel text is Jesus’ New Commandment drawing on the Jewish Shema ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One, you are to love the Lord your God, with your heart, mins and strength, and love your Neighbour as yourself’.  Or as a more learned Benedictine Abbot once said ‘to learn to receive the love of God to transform your life, to then to learn to accept and love yourself, so that you can love others in forms of loving service’.  This for New Monastic Christians is the focus of the Christian life.   So last night 11 people affirmed the seasonal vows of the community which were:

  • Prayer & Devotion
  • Learning & Reconciliation
  • Service & Hospitality
  • Work & Wellbeing

And 5 committed to join in the worship, mission and community life, with the plan to commit to the seasonal vows next time, and 3 committed to be associates, who are either entering some form of vocational testing or training, or helping to set up new monastic communities locally.

We hope this community not only help the ‘de-and-unchurched’ to experience a deep and healthy example of ‘church’, but also that such communities will become key places for engagement with the now many who call themselves ‘spiritual not religious’.

So the community is now developing its mission, again thinking that mission has a lot of broad meanings that includes social economic and ecological justice, but also hospitality and welcome alongside the more ‘softer’ forms of evangelism through dialogue and spiritual experience.   We have begun discussions with the Pecan Centre (www.pecan.org.uk) to support their work with those who are really struggling, and at the same begun a ‘spiritual not religious’ dialogue group in the local bar – The Peckham Pelican.   We are a small missional community, but we hope that this focus on a daily rhythm of worship, mission and community, and the intention of ‘prayerful-action’, that this small community can begin to reach out and open up the Gospel of Jesus to the many who are seeking for significance, meaning and belonging, in a world that is increasingly unloving and harsh.

Ian Mobsby is the Priest in Charge of St Lukes Church in Peckham that seeks to be a mixed economy parish. He has founded  a number of fresh expressions of Church including the Epicentre Network and thé Moot Community. He is also thé Woolwich Area Mission Enabler assisting parishes to explore mission in the local context and has written a number of books. For more info see www.ianmobsby.net