Emerging Church a personal story

My early Christian years where spent in a middle of the road Anglican Church and thinking Vineyard was the best thing since sliced bread. Prior to this I was into what would now be called ‘New Age’ in a big way. In 1990 my wife and I moved to Inner City Nottingham as youth evangelists. Having done youth work in leafy Sussex this was, shall we say, a shock. It didn’t take long to realise that the teens and twenties we worked with were cultural light years from any expression of church we’d come across.

Something new was needed and Powerhouse was born in the autumn of 1990. To start with this was little more than souped up choruses with lights and drama, but encounters with NOS and Late Late Service gave inspiration and some creative sound and light people helped flesh it out. Initially we had loads of visiting youth groups as well as our own contacts. I got tired of the number fo times we were told by visiting youth that we weren’t Christian, but then It wasn’t them we were seeking to reach. The locals on the other hand did get on board and a small community began to appear over time….too much time as it turned out. Shortly after we left to begin our training for Anglican Ordination the group collapsed. Big lesson, the community is more important than the event. But good things happened and people did catch a vision for something fresh.

Bristol 1993. As my wife and I begin training we become part of the original group setting up what was then Third Sunday Service, now Resonance. This time we begin with the community, and a very divergent community it was. In Nottingham those behind the community were involved in creativity with a mission agenda. TTS attracted many whose journey in faith lead them to a place where mission and evangelism where very much questioned. The sense of community however was real in spite of disagreements on how the group should work and what we were trying to do. The services when they began were marked by great creativity, I remain to this day very proud of what we did if sometimes frustrated that others didn’t always share my mission agenda. We moved on in 1996 as we returned to Nottingham, and three years doing bits here and there in a local church.

2003, I am part of The Mass in Derbyshire, a group that has been around about 10 years and is attached to the Anglican Church. In many ways a more liturgical group, which seems to help with the burn out problem that besets those who are always creating a new service almost from scratch as we were in Bristol. It is above all a place of exploration with widely divergent faith positions. The challenge for me is to explore in such a place a vision for mission that can be embraced as well as what it means to be a Christian community in such a context. BTW I may be a vicar but I am not one of the leaders, which puts another angle my experience here.After 13 years involved in ‘alt-worship’ I love it, belong in it and am yet frustrated with it. I guess at the end of the day my passion is foremost to mission and evangelism and I still believe this type of church can play a vital part in reaching those that the Church is failing to reach…..I am aware though that I have some work to do to convince others and that they will ask hard questions. For that I am grateful, the last thing we need is more hype, more solve-all programmes and more people who can tell you what they are supposed to believe rather than sharing from a genuine spiritual journey. Here’s to the next 13 years!Rev. Steve Hillinghurst currently works for the Church Army at the Sheffield Centre, UK.