Exampes of churches where they have listened to the needs of their local community and started to share Jesus in a variety of new ways of being church.
4th@4 - Cookham Dean
In Cookham Dean, the 4th @ 4 service for families has RE-grown into a vibrant new congregation since the pandemic.
The clergy had noticed that their usual traditional worship style did not attract families. They already had good links with the local CofE Primary School and had also been invited into the community Primary school, but the school children were absent from church.
The leadership team is passionate about growth; they took time to pray and discern where God was already working and as a result, they dedicated 4th Sundays to worship for the school families. The result is a vibrant, colourful, warm environment with lively music and lots of cake! They embraced the participation of children: no auditions for the musicians and everyone is welcome to join in; children who are not confident readers in school were asked to read in church, which then helped them in school. The growth has not been linear but it is steady: the average is around 35 children and 50 adults. I live and worship in rural churches and I know that in this context, starting small and trusting in God’s faithfulness is usually fruitful.
In Cookham Dean we noticed that the team intuitively followed the missional journey that Andrew talked about – this is not something we or anyone else has created, but we know that it is common to many new worshipping communities. The ministry Team listened and then responded to the significant school communities who were previously outside the church. They put children at the centre of what they do! By starting small and continuing to listen and respond to the needs of the families, a worshipping community has been formed and sustained.
Forest Church – St Mary’s Cholsey
This is held in the Laurence Hall and run on the 3rd Sunday morning of the month between 9.30-11.30am and is outside as much as possible involving camp fires, food cooking, crafts, getting to know about nature and everything that you would expect from Forest School, again with a bible theme.
Soup for the Soul
During covid lockdown, a parish in one of the most socially deprived areas of the diocese, St Frideswide’s in Milton Keynes (also one of our Resourcing Hubs focussed on Community Organising) took time to listen to their community, and as a result, established a weekly membership-based community larder.
By Sept 2020, as restrictions began to lift, noticing people starting to arrive earlier & earlier they began to offer hot drinks as people queued. With further lifting of restrictions, a small team developed an intentional café offering healthy and nutritious food together with prayer, silence and a bold ‘Sharing Jesus’ slot. ‘Soup for the Soul’ emerged, embracing 40 core members 90% of whom have no church connection. They are encouraged to play their part by helping to set up the room in preparation.
The team of lay people who lead, with the associate vicar Steve Hallett, have noted the level of real spiritual hunger and feedback indicates how much people look forward to their weekly café. This is an inspiring example of a New Worshipping Community that has grown with little finance, a good deal of love and boldness, together with prayer and reliance upon the work of the Holy Spirit.
Outdoor Church in the Churn Benefice
Where have all the children gone?
A heartfelt question that clergy in the Churn Benefice asked as they came out of covid restrictions was: Where have all the children gone? None had returned to “Sunday Club”, none attended “Family Services”. So after prayerful discernment, they decided to
“meet people where they are” that’s what Jesus did
“keep it simple” a church friend advised.
Their rural churches run along the foot of the “Berkshire” Downs, an environment where springs of water rise-up and the beauty of nature is all around. A wonderful gift of our Creator God. Perhaps this is the place to encourage others to meet with our Lord?
The first event was attended by three families including six children, all of them new to church worship with a handful of regular church goers. Each session has an activity that brings everyone close to nature, appreciating the wonder, variety and intricacy of creation, with a short pause for prayer and praise. First impressions were very positive and the families are keen to come again!
Living and worshipping in small rural villages, myself, I know that this is typical for a new initiative in a rural context, although we start small, we know that faithfulness and perseverance will be fruitful.
Chatterbox in North Milton Keynes, an emergent mission outreach activity that started during the pandemic
The sudden deaths by suicide of two patients and parishioners prompted local GP and Ass. Priest at Cross & Stables Church, Revd Dr Sam Muthuveloe, to start Chatterbox, a weekly drop in coffee and chat session at Cross and Stable Church for local people to tackle loneliness and boost mental wellbeing.
Around 50 plus people are joining Chatterbox sessions every Wednesday morning which has been running since last Summer. Cross and Stable Church offers free coffee and cake for local people of all ages, faiths, world views and backgrounds and the chance to meet new people, share concerns with one another which helps towards boosting their mental well being.
Dr Sam is prompted by his responsibility to care for neighbours, community and friends has shared to running of Chatterbox with a team of lay people. Listening to the obvious need from within his community and clearly guided by the Holy Spirit he and his team opened the church doors, offering a safe and welcoming space for those who are suffering from loneliness and poor mental health.
NARNiA (North Aylesbury resourcing network in Aylesbury)
One of two diocesan funded resource hubs set in a varied part of North Aylesbury; some of which contains a deprived area where addictions, severe mental illness arising from trauma, and illiteracy is prominent. Other parts of the resource hub encompass new housing.
It is a contextualised model where pioneer church leaders (one of whom is part self supporting by running a mobile coffee shop) have developed relationships as a network, in order to share their expertise in church planting and new housing mission. Their setting up of a flourishing Greenhouse Learning Community is an encouraging example in an area where their own resources of finance, time and capacity are limited.
A revitalised church on a 1960’s estate, a Bishop’s Mission Order in an area of new housing still being built, a community garden on a tiny piece of church land, a twice monthly Saturday afternoon Café Church ‘Open Table’, a canal barge outreach plus a Greenhouse Learning Community in which to help grow these and other developing New Worshipping Communities have all emerged from the NARNiA network Resourcing Hub.