Pioneering in Southwark

This is part of a paper delivered to the Bishop’s staff team in summer 2018

Pioneer Ministry in Southwark Diocese

“See, I am doing a new thing!” Isaiah 43:19

“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 ministries”[1].

With the Vision for Growth in the Diocesan plan we are faced with the need to reach beyond those we normally attract to our churches. With only 1.48% of the population part of Diocesan church, there are large parts of our communities that never set foot within our churches. Pioneers and the fresh expressions movement help us to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those who we traditionally find hard to reach. A key outcome of this pioneering is to find models that others can adapt to grow the church.

Calling and appointment of Pioneer Ministers

We do have a number of existing Ordained Pioneers and through their ministries we are gaining valuable insights into how we create the conditions to enable them to flourish. Most of the rest of this paper is aimed at answering the question of how we can encourage pioneering to be fruitful and to help the wider Church.

We have made the decision to have two Ordained Pioneer Curates each year, allowing us to encourage a mixed economy within Southwark Diocese. Their placement needs to be carefully thought through and in places where there is real opportunity for them to thrive and flourish (see later under Placement of Pioneers). In Southwark we do not have an Ordained Pioneer route as we realise that sometimes people will only Pioneer for a period of time and that having a rounded training allows Pioneers to make connections with existing forms of Church.

The real untapped source of pioneering lies with the laity. In the future, 5 out of 6 Pioneers are likely to be Lay. If we want to see pioneering embedded across the Diocese this will not primarily come via Ordained Pioneers – this is likely to be a relatively small but vital group within the Diocese, creating centres of excellence and helping to encourage and support others in their pioneering ventures. The real wave of change will come through releasing larger groups of Lay Pioneers able to have a vision, be released by their churches and able to sustain that vision and mission initiative over a significant period of time. This will ensure a growingly diffuse impact of pioneering across the Diocese.

The spectrum of Pioneer Ministry

One helpful way of looking at Pioneer Ministry is through the idea of a Pioneer Spectrum[2]. It is very easy to see Pioneers under an all-in-one label but the reality is that there is a wide range of pioneering that occurs and the Pioneer Spectrum tries to give some idea of this reality.

Figure 1- Pioneer Spectrum

The above diagramme (not be taken as a management tool but as a starting point to reflect where and why and how pioneering occurs) looks to show the Pioneer Spectrum and the increasing need for contextualisation as you move away from the culture of the missional team. Two other things need to be noticed. As you move into having to contextualise more, then the time taken to develop an ecclesial community tends to increase and the impact beyond the Church tends to increase. This means that if we are looking for Pioneers to innovate from scratch then a three year contract will be too short to setup, develop and create a sustainable fresh expression of Church. Indeed if we aim for the right hand side on a three year contract it might well be the case that there is nothing to show for their labours.

This spectrum allows us to be more strategic and thoughtful about what we might be able to achieve over time with different options. As we look around us and see that there are whole communities and groups of people who are distant from the idea of coming into Church we need to look at how we might engage with them incarnationally. In the context of a pioneering team there will be people who are culturally close to us and others who are culturally remote; the Pioneer Spectrum allows us, in a simple way, to think through who we are trying to reach with the Good News of Jesus Christ and how we might think that through. The corollary is that a Church with a record of community engagement and innovation is likely to be able to go further and in less time than a church without a record in either.

What is it we want them to do?

We need to be clear not to see Pioneer Ministry as an add-on. In terms of practice the Methodist Church’s expectations for Pioneers is very helpful in making their role clear.

  • This is the main focus of their ministry. It’s not a marginal or minor activity for them.
  • Most of the person’s time is spent with those outside the Church
  • There is an intention to create a new ecclesial community. It may not always happen but this is the aim.

Using the idea of a Pioneer Spectrum we then need to ask what we need from a particular Pioneer.

For example, with Pioneer Replicators we are looking at where a parish church needs revitalising with a graft or a Church Plant. Taking a model that works elsewhere and launching it may be the most appropriate thing to do.[3] Such a model takes less time to see if it works in the situation, or not. This model is the most likely to reach “people like us”

Pioneer Adaptors will be looking at what others have pioneered elsewhere and seeing how they can be contextualised for their situation. Examples here would include Messy Church, Café Church, Dementia friendly services etc. Each has a recognisable model that needs adapting to meet the needs of the local community.

With Pioneer Innovators we need to set things up for the long haul. Some of these new things may take years before we see new forms of Christian community coming into being. This won’t be done by throwing multiple people in three year segments but in investing in people for perhaps a decade. The key outcome will not be a church that looks like the Parish Church; rather, digging into the riches of their traditions and listening to their context and the Spirit they will reach communities who would otherwise not be connected to the Church. Connected to the Diocese, they will share new insights from the Gospel and the culture they are seeking to reach helping our long term call and mission to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. The benefit for the Church will be to enable others to learn from these pioneering initiatives and learn how to adapt these models into their own situation. Ideally we are looking to create new models that can then move into the Pioneer Adapt space.

Pioneers will need support, encouragement, and the ability to being given latitude as to what they do (within safe limits). Some will grow and produce great fruit but we need to realise that others may only last for a time.

Placement of Pioneers

One of the keys to successful Pioneer Ministry is that of where we place them and how we create a fruitful environment for them in which to flourish. All too often it will be easy to try and fix a perceived problem by throwing a Pioneer Minister at it and expecting miracles. The following may be helpful in terms of thinking through deployment

  1. Look at what you are hoping to achieve. Is this a new model in a new place or adapting or replicating an existing model? Think carefully as to timeframes and expected outcomes.
  2. Where is the team to support the Pioneer? Does this team and the Pioneer have a shared vision? Without a team the risk increases significantly.
  3. Is there be a ‘Sustainer enabler’ who will support and encourage the Pioneer Minister? They may or may not be pioneering themselves, they may or may not be particularly innovative. They will understand the importance of Pioneers and can resource, empower, release and protect the Pioneer. They will need to agree with the Pioneer where they will be working on the pioneer spectrum so that there is understanding of focus and potential timescale
  4. Ordained Pioneers are likely to be used sparingly and need a team (remember 2. above). Decide whether they will be a ‘Parish based Pioneer’ starting from the Parish base helping to create mixed-modes of Fresh Expressions or whether they are ‘Fresh Start Pioneers’, classic blank canvas Pioneers who whilst staying connected to the Parish, Deanery or Diocese are released from expectations of being a minister to existing churches
  5. Use more Lay Pioneers – They will often have teams that they work with to create new communities of faith which led them to becoming a Lay Pioneer in the first place. They will often be more cost effective as well. We need to identify, train and release more of these to have a significant impact around the Diocese.
  6. Many of the best things that are occurring have occurred on the edges without formal support. Our support for many of these in the early stages should be light touch and supportive
  7. Use long-term Pioneers (Lay and Ordained) to help create new forms of Fresh Expressions that others can adapt for their context (e.g. New Monastic Communities)
  8. Don’t over-resource or over plan. Use a ‘lean startup’ model to ensure that we only start seriously resourcing when we have some confidence that an idea might work. This is about only giving enough resources to test out the idea, keep it as lean as possible until you see it work and then you put in greater resources. So, what resources are actually needed to test out the idea? How could this be prototyped and explored? Use a ‘fail fast’ model to enable pioneer communities to experiment before focussing their work too much. This is about having some key principles and then prototype and change/ pivot quickly as you experience the reality
  9. When it comes to placing Pioneer Curates we need to be realistic as to where we place them. If we assume a 50/50 split between inherited/pioneering then there will be limits as to what can be achieved in three years. They will need at the least a ‘Sustainer enabler’ as training incumbent and an understanding between them as to where the expectations are on the Pioneer Spectrum. If the church is a centre for pioneering new things then they may well be able to go further up the spectrum as some of the ground work may have been done by the Church and there may be a ready team to lead and an expectation within the Church.
  10. Finally, the Spirit of God can overule any and every rule!

Conclusion

A long term view of pioneers with investment in training, support and placement will enable us to pioneer new forms of church that will benefit the whole Church and enable forms of Church that today are innovations to become far more accessible to many other churches. There is much exciting work going on, often at the margins and hidden. As we prayerfully, thoughtfully and collaboratively look at how we can support these initiatives and invest in them I believe that we can see much growth of the Kingdom.

Will Cookson

Dean of Fresh Expressions

[1] Dave Male, Director of Evangelism and Discipleship in the Church of England  ( & agreed by the Ministry Council)

[2] based on ideas developed by Tina Hodgett and Paul Bradbury

[3] Although being aware that the statistics show that most growth comes from transfer from other churches

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.

Blended 2018

Ely Diocese are holding this year’s national Fresh Expressions conference at Ely Cathedral on Saturday 3rd November.

Each year these events have become more adventurous and this year is no exception. Ely Diocese are aiming to have an immersive feel to the conference. The most exciting part looks to be the Side Stage sessions with Live experience sessions on New Monasticism, Forest Church, Campfire Communion, Sweaty Church where after experiencing what one would be like there will be opportunities for discussion. There is also a stream called Pioneer Labs helping people to identify what sort of pioneering that they may be called to (one of Blended, Pioneer, Discipleship & Evangelism). A third stream of “Campfire conversations” will allow people to hear and share stories around themes such as Wild baking and Storytelling, New Housing, Arts, Youth, Managing Risks and Failure, Accessibility.

Meanwhile on the Mainstage there will be multiple conversations using the six stages of the fresh expressions lifecycle to pick up key pioneer issues. These will include two Bishops Vlogs on Being Blended and Blended Beacons.

For full details hop over to Eventbrite and book your tickets for what looks like a brilliant day: Blended Festival

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