We are sowing seeds of many Fresh Expressions to see which ones take root and grow! This is exciting, uncharted territory for us and we’re delighted to have the support of a group of adventurous members in St Kentigern’s, the Church of Scotland national adviser in Fresh Expressions David McCarthy, and our Presbytery which has instructed all congregations to develop one fresh expression in the next few years.
Here are the various Fresh Expressions we’re exploring:
MC reaches out to families with preschool children who don’t normally attend church on a Sunday. This is a very informal way where mums and dads can join their children in fun, crafts and still hear the message of Jesus’ love for everyone.
We meet during the week on a Tuesday afternoon beginning with games involving children and adults, engage in simple crafts and then proceed with watching Bible story videos. We then have a short time of singing and finish off with afternoon tea. During this we have introduced ‘table talk’ which is going quite well, though some are a little hesitant.
Our next steps: How do we involve the parents and carers in taking real ownership of Messy Church?
Pie, Pint and a Parable
PPP meets monthly in First Edition in Kilmarnock and aims to be an informal group to engage with those who no longer attend church or who have never attended. It focuses on the teachings of Jesus and how they relate to modern times. The group splits into smaller ones round tables, shares food and drink (£5.99!) then looks at a short parable printed on beer mats with discussion questions for the group to consider.
The first night saw eighteen people come along, though only one was not associated with the church.
Our next steps: How do we encourage more non church people to attend? We might still need the seventeen to make the group work, but then it is full of church folk. Ideally, we would like to have another seventeen non-church people!
MK meets weekly and is for young mums and others who would like to learn basic foodmaking with ingredients provided. We have a Facebook page with 48 likes and we meet to share making basic food and the subsequent eating together over a shared meal. The toddlers who are there are also fed. Time spent sharing food allows people the opportunity to talk and share faith. We have seen this happen each time we have met, and has been spontaneous though encouraged where it has occurred.
Our next steps: How do we make this better known so that people join in? Is advertising a key issue? If so, what are some of the best ways to get word out, since we are starting with a fairly small number of people. We haven’t advertised in church because we wanted to attract non-church folk – but that makes it slightly harder to engage people.
Community Cafe (meeting place, drop-in, coffee with out the costa)
CC is a place for people to meet in a cafe atmosphere within a well-known local pub. We are making use of their function room to create somewhere inviting and cosy with tables and chairs, possibly a quiet area and a corner for children to play. We hope that the friendly, welcoming and safe atmosphere along with the chance to have inexpensive tea and coffee – with good home baking – will make for a pleasant hour or two in others’ company. It’s principally for people who might be a bit socially isolated to have a place, not connected with the church building, to meet. We recognise there might be clashes with other church-based events and we are trying to have a meeting day which doesn’t impinge on other groups. We also see possible benefit in extending this to residents in the sheltered housing area across the road.
Our next steps: We have yet to have our first full meeting. As we plan this activity, we need to ‘do a deal’ with a good venue. How, for example, do we engage volunteers in a context where people are usually paid? It’s good to engage with our community but we don’t want to be ‘freeloading‘ – yet we have limited finances to spend. We’re unsure about charging a fee for attending, or charging per cup for coffee etc., and aren’t clear what might be the best way to go. It’s meant to be like a cafe – so will people value it less if they pay little or nothing? On the other hand, we don’t want to price people away or profit unduly from people with limited resources. How do we engage with a local business which has to make money? We’re also unsure whether we can encourage enough voluntary staff to make this work, but have begun to explore with the local Catholic congregation getting staff support from them. We think certain groups with particular needs might find this a helpful resource, though we have found forming and retaining these relationships challenging in the past.
We are making a large plot of ground owned by the church available for community garden use. We have partnered with the local secondary school and community council and have formed a separate association with a management team. We think this could be a venue for learning, community endeavour and shared activity – and there might even be a quiet place to sit. We depend on a range of organisations to fund this, grant planning permission, arrange for some complex and expensive works, and so on. We think this is a long-term project but with potential for increased relationships with local schools, possibly local residents interested in gardening, and church members. We think it demonstrates the Church’s concern for creation, too, which we want to emphasise.
Our next steps: We’re slightly unclear what our role in this is. We are not ‘running the show’ but we do want to play our full part. We are providing the land and so will have to live with lack of progress, or mess, or under-development or lack of maintenance, etc. since it is located right against our building. We see finance as a significant hurdle, particularly once we are committed and work on-site starts. How do we play our part and foster a Fresh Expression in partnership with non-faith groups who share a similar aim for this project?
We found the summary sheets describing Fresh Expressions and their development helpful, especially the row of circles diagram.