THIRD : Transitioning church
THIRD is a group of people seeking a Christ-centred spirituality as an alternative church community that has emerged from within (and still remains a part of) Maybridge Community Church in Worthing, West Sussex, UK. Caught in between Brighton and Chichester, Worthing is a town with over 50 protestant churches who, predictably you may say, all use the same traditional approaches as their expressions of church in the town.
Maybridge Community Church has taken the step to ensure that it offers some alternative choice to being Church in this local context and therefore operates a multi-congregational approach, holding and valuing three very diverse congregations as expressions of church.
THIRD is the newest of these ‘congregations’ that has emerged and originally began as a small group of eight people in September 2002 who were released from the traditions and constraints of the current church services and leadership structures to explore a new and vibrant way of being church in a post-Christian, post-modern culture.
From it’s very conception THIRD was formed as an indigenous expression of church and has not been following any road maps or proven formulas. This was, and continues to be a pioneering adventure and journey in the life of our transitioning church.
Who we are…
THIRD is based around a fluid network of relationships for all ages that meet every week for gatherings of a different focus, from alt worship to theology and discussion.
We are a group of people seeking to find an example of church that is authentic to both our present culture and 2000 years of church history. A group exploring how to live lives of integrity informed by Christian faith. A group journeying together and trying to find meaning in our lives with an openness to dialogue and have conversations about faith and spirituality. A group looking to find new and creative ways to worship God honestly and freely. A group trying to provide a place of sacred space that is an accessible source for all who are searching for the spiritual in their lives. But most importantly a group longing to actively live out a Christ-centered spirituality.
How we got here…
In 2002 a group of people began to find a common desire for something new, deeper and more meaningful from their experience of church and small groups inside Maybridge Community Church. A group of people grew together to form THIRD as a new congregation, and with the consent of the church’s leaders to be free form their own imposed structures and expectations.
THIRD isn’t just about how church looks. It’s about how church feels. If we just wanted our expression of church to look different to others then we’d just opt for one of the other congregations on offer in the church we are a part of in true consumer style. THIRD is about finding a depth, an authenticity and a resonance within the context of meaningful community.
The group began to gather as THIRD for weekly small group gatherings and monthly alternative worship services but refused to insist on a definition or label of what THIRD was and therefore place a defining boundary around it. Instead the purpose of the group was to allow what individuals were passionate about to develop freely, releasing them to be the creative people of God – as an organic approach to growing church from the lives of the people who had gathered there.
The origins of THIRD were to simply release a group of people from the constraints of the church in order to help them remain a part of it and express church in their own cultures.
Remaining in the church…
THIRD is still very much a part of the mainstream church. In fact Maybridge Community Church has a traditional evangelical heritage. But there is belief from the church leaders that diversity is a strength and cross fertilisation can positively influence the wider church and help it to transition.
THIRD is one of three equal congregations/communities in the church and shares in the common values, vision and leadership at the church. THIRD has not been an experiment to negotiate the space to develop a new expression of Church; it has been a journey to negotiate how to share in the direction of the church alongside other traditions, expressions and cultures.
Lessons we have learnt…
- It’s very easy to fall into the trap of just ‘doing’ services and putting on performances for other people. This is exactly what we have tried to escape from in church in order to find depth, reality and authenticity – we feel creating community is of utmost importance. Styles and forms of worship mean nothing unless we can share meaningful relationships with one another.
- Defining ourselves in terms of an ‘alternative’ to the established structures can say more of a reaction than it does about what we value – for example, having integrity, growing indigenously, seeking the spiritual etc…we always wanted to birth something in humility and with a positive outlook rather than simply out of resistance to what has been going on in the wider church.
- The prophetic often come from the edges and there needs to be ways to allow what has happened through THIRD to speak into and resource the rest of the church and other churches around our town.
- To transition is to change, morph, adapt, decipher, evolve, shift, prophesise, transform, reform, unlearn, acclimatize, relate, translate, contextualise, widen, open, debate, include, explain, decode, understand, listen and above all find humility…
Mark & Becky Barkaway are both a part of the founding team that established THIRD at Maybridge Community Church in Worthing. In their spare time Mark web-blogs at www.barky.blogspot.com, whilst Becky writes and sings for local folk-band orchid.