In God’s garden

Hi there, my name is Derek Spencer and I’m a Deanery Youth Missioner in The Storrington Deanery of West Sussex, UK. I’m employed by the Anglican Church to get something setup that is different, alternative, fresh, contemporary and imaginative in the area which is otherwise spiritually dead as far as young people are concerned.

The Bishop of Horsham approached me and told me of his desire to get a ‘Youth Church’ set up in the West Sussex area. He had the original vision to get something new and different happening alongside the other churches – but something that attracted young people! Having looked at the area, and the seeing what the churches were doing, I decided it was a challenge, but something that I knew was right, and very much needed. I knew I was going to be able to go in and do something which they had never come across before. I’ve been in the post for two and a half years now, but there was an awful lot of groundwork need to be done before any youth church had any chance of being started.

I set up 2 youth groups that still meet alternatively on a fortnightly basis. These groups were going to give me the foundations of the Youth Congregation. I whipped up some enthusiasm from some disillusioned young people, and got in touch with others that had links with the church. They invited some of their mates, and together we got these groups running – we had about 45 young people on the books who were going to form the nucleus of the youth congregation. After 2 years of preparation, thought and prayer, I decided I had enough knowledge of who to approach and how to go about getting the youth congregation happening. I handpicked 7 people, including my wife from around the deanery who I thought had the understanding of what was happening, and where we were going with this venture. Together we planned, talked and prayed – and came up with the name EDEN.

We now hold our youth congregation in the local Grammar School which meets on a monthly basis and draws in about 120-150 young people from the local area. The name Eden came out of the fact that we were starting from the beginning with this venture – we wanted something different, something organic. The name has given us a great platform to build our services around, as we have focused on some of the issues within the Garden of Eden – Relationships, Creation, Identity, Security, Temptation etc. We are still finding our way, but are grateful for such a forward thinking Bishop (Horsham) who initiated the post. the young people seem to love the format, and feel it’s a place where they can bring their mates to also.

Although we have only run 4 services, my hope is to continue building on the foundations that have been laid over the last few years. I got ordained in December 2003 and am serving my curacy within this job context – I hope to take this venture forward, and it’s a positive sign of the C of E taking a risk, breaking out of the mould and being a bit more flexible and imaginative. It also gives me the authority to carry this vision forward and in time, hopefully establish this Church within the area and incorporate the whole life of the church within it.

Please check out out website and sign our guestbook. Any positive comments, advice, help would be most appreciated.