Becoming mission-shaped

Hi, welcome to our virtual coffee shop. Pull up a chair, take the load of your feet. Let’s chat.

So who are you, where you from, what do you do in life?
My name is Phil Green. By profession I am a civil servant (Health and Safety Executive) based in Bootle near Liverpool (European Capital of Culture 2008 …wahhhheeeey…) and I am married to Anne and we have a daughter called Rebecca – aged five and a half but going on twenty really!! I try not to be let it known too widely if I can help it, but I am a Reader at St John and St James, an inner-city urban church in Bootle in the Liverpool Diocese and am currently in the second term of the Mission Shaped Ministry Course being run by Liverpool Diocese. Having exercised my Reader ministry mostly in ‘inherited church’ (albeit in a relaxed informal style) I feel myself more and more drawn to emerging church/fresh expression ministry once the course has finished in the summer.

The thing I always struggle to explain about myself is that although the hospital I was born in is right next door to Goodison Park, and I was brought up just three miles from Everton, I actually support Chester City. Please don’t ask why…it will take too long to explain and we will both lose the will to live!!

Can I get you a drink? Cappucino, earl grey, dandelion and burdock, pale ale?
Yes please!! If it is coffee I’ll have a Latte and if it is tea make it an Earl Grey. Cheers

Would you like a doughnut or pastry to go with that?
A Danish pastry would be lovely thanks…although only if it has cinnamon in it…the king of all spices!!!!!

So, if you had to describe the church/project/experiment/thingy you are currently involved with in one sentence, what would that sentence be?
Church – Transitional evangelical ie inherited church beginning to become much more mission shaped/focused.

Are you an instigator? / new recruit? / have absolutely no recollection of how you got involved?
Semi-Instigator. The main instigators for me have been Frances and Steve Shoesmith. Frances worships with us at SJ&J but is a part-time House For Duty Priest who works across several churches in our Deanery and in the wider Diocese. Frances has been with us for about two years on a five year contract and she has been a real inspiration to me and a number of key people wanting to engage with issues around emerging church/fresh expression.

My ‘instigator’ role is more strategic. I am a member of our collaborative Shared Ministry Team (SMT) and also the PCC and have recently presented reports to both groups on consecutive evenings to raise awareness and implore that this is not just a passing fad, but a way of being church that needs to be wholeheartedly embraced. I am also acting as a sort of ambassador for the “Capital of Culture” year and have set up an information stall/kiosk in the community hall where we worship containing information on whatever floats peoples’ boat…to enable them to discover what God is doing during 2008 in Liverpool….and then to actually join in and encounter him afresh.

What do you value most about being part of it?
For years I have been banging on about the need to be far more relevant, and needing to engage with contemporary culture rather than be indifferent to it or run away from it (which appears to come naturally to many evangelicals. I often felt like I was either banging my head against a brick wall at best (and we have always been a fairly progressive, go-ahead sort of church), or a voice in the desert, or a complete maverick at worst. I now have discovered a large community of people who by and large think like I do, who I identify with and can engage/discuss with without coming across as a deranged fool.

What excites you most about it?
The potential to develop…the ability to start afresh from a relatively blank page…the earnest desire to root the gospel in the culture/subcultures that have sprung up around us in recent years.

Has anyone ever turned up out of the blue not knowing what to expect?
What did they say?

About two and half years ago, as part of Merseyfest 2005 I headed up a project where we transformed our Community Hall/Worship Centre into an Urban Cruise Ship for a week for the over 50s in our area who were feeling very marginalised/isolated. My main aim was that whatever was set up would be sustainable and not just a week long event.

To cut a very long story short, two and a half years on ‘SORTED’ is not only growing but beginning to flourish, and many of the group members are dechurched/unchurched…and a number of the churched are drawn from the neighbouring Roman Catholic Church who would never have even entered our building 5-10 years ago. They have been both surprised and engaged by what they have discovered about us and, far more importantly, about God. Some members have seen God answering prayer in some of the deepest and inful areas of their lives. They have also taught several SJ&J folk a lot about overcoming pre-conceptions and prejudices, to love people for who they are and not for who we want them to be, and not to view people as some sort of evangelistic target/project.

Three words that describe your attitude to ‘being church’ in the big wide world: Contemporary…Engaged…..Risky (I said risky…not risqué!!…just in case I am misquoted!!)

Three words that DON’T:
Condescending (I hope!)…Dull….Irrelevant

You have this weird dream – you meet Jesus face to face.
Where does it happen, what does he say to you?

I meet him in the chip shop down the road. I suddenly pour out my heart to him about how I hear all these influential people in the church hierarchty banging on about the need to have a mixed economy church…yet most, if not all of the resources…time….personnel etc is devoted to inherited church and appears likely to do for time immemorial….how they love to ask the difficult questions but refuse to seriously grapple or address the answers. I ask him how can we persuade people that it is crucial that the powers that be divert significant amounts of resource away from those parts of Inherited church that have been ineffective for years and redirect it towards EC/FE work. He looks at me part-quizzically, with a bit of a look of …oh no…not you again…etched on his face and then he gives me a patient smile…puts his hand on my shoulder and tells me that it’s going to be OK….tells me that most of the answers will come from the bottom-up not top-down, that his purposes won’t be thwarted and suppressed…and to just get out there and tap in to what he is already doing…and leave the worrying to him!

What’s the big secret you’re itching to share with everyone?
Don’t be afraid of FE/EC and don’t give up too soon.

What would your ’emerging church survival kit’ contain?
A hard hat and bullet proof vest to absorb all the flak….some Kendal mint cake to keep us going when we feel exhausted and in need of sustenance….a magic wand to dispel people’s fears away instantly!!./..a copy of ‘Church on the Edge’ and ‘Unlocking the Door’ to inspire and encourage… and a framed copy of Mission Shaped Church which I would describe as the only report ever to have been produced by the C of E which comes under the bracket of “unputdownable” !

Anything else you’d like to share with us before you have to rush off?
I feel like I have started on a mysterious journey where the destination is unknown, the road ahead is unclear, but the journey promises to be something else!

Thanks. Good to see you. Have a good day!
…..and also with you!!!