Places of peace

Eighteen months ago I began ministry as Mursley Deanery Youth Worker, part of the role was to experiment with new ways of being Church with young people, from this aim has grown a Mission project known as GROWproject.

The vision of the project reflects a belief that Church, as an institution is not accessible for many people who have no grounding in religious/Christian culture. Therefore the Anglican Communion needs to engage in releasing people to grow church from their own culture and with a language and symbols that reflect their own spiritual stories and God experiences.

I once heard Mike Hill (ex +Buckingham) say that Church planting is too often understood as planting a culture and structure that models those existing in the ‘mother church’, we should look to plant the Gospel and nurture what grows. We share this vision and believe it is Biblical, 1 Thessalonians 2 describes a model of ministry that focuses on being with people, sharing in their lives and seeking to model faith in a transparent way and with integrity, similarly in Luke 10 Jesus instructs the Seventy two to seek the ‘places of peace’ and to remain there in ministry. Paul in his visit to Athens, in Acts 17 demonstrates the importance of first listening to and observing the spirituality of the people and seeking to guide them to the very real and consistent way of God. John 4 speaks of the need to allow people to build and expression of faith and worship that is authentic and is based on relationship with Christ.

A group of older young people (14-20 year olds) meet each Monday to eat, chill, discuss and worship together in a totally informal setting, with different people taking a lead. The groups aim is to be a steering and visionary group for mission and worship, to develop Young Leadership training and experience and to grow a sense of community.

We have sought, and have been able to develop a significant relationship with the Secondary School at the centre of the deanery; I am a governor with the role of developing the spiritual and pastoral life of the School and spends most of the week as part of the School Community. Spirituality is a hot topic within education and is recognised as a key factor of adolescent development that needs to be addressed within the School context. The School is aware that our vision is to grow church as a community of seekers, within the School community and are fully supportive of this. We recognise that School is a transient community, similar to many others in our mobile society and therefore realise that church needs to grow as a part of the wider community, i.e. not from a particular group.

Similarly church has a pastoral and spiritual role to play within the whole community and not just for the ‘signed-up’ group. This understanding of Church as an intrinsic part of the community underpins the ministry. We have initiated a weekly space/drop-in to share stories of spirituality; this is an inclusive space hosted by Christians but not a club for Christians. We have experienced an incredible depth of spiritual quest; one 15year old lad said, “The Church has denied me the right to seek God. It is a club that I don’t fit into and it says that anything else is evil.” We believe that it is not true that people are not interested in religion; they are desperately trying to ‘re-connect’ with God yet they think of the Church as an institution not as a spiritual community. We hope to share our God stories and to nurture their spiritual searching.

Mike Riddell wrote in ‘Threshold of the future’ 1998, “Some… have sought to recapture worship… which draws words and symbols from the raw experience of participants and flings them to God in love and desperation.” We seek to encourage and enable the young people to engage with a God whom they may not yet know but who knows, loves and welcomes them, and to grow as ‘Church’..

Mark Berry is a youth worker in the Mursley Deanery.