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Friday, 11 January 2013

Developing a Ministry of Presence

This article first appeared in the Winter edition of WEBA News
This year’s focus for our New Churches Initiative is the work of re:Source Bristol, which is working principally in two areas of the city where unemployment, health issues, and substance dependency have created a profound kind of loneliness, and yet many existing churches are facing imminent closure.

The focus is on enabling those called to express mission simply by being present in these most marginalized communities. There is here neither a government ‘back to work’ agenda, nor a church ‘conversion’ agenda, but a missional ‘Ministry of Presence’.

For example, re:Source coordinator Mike Pears has found himself involved with a ‘little community that makes bread’ in partnership with Whisk! Café at Knowle West Health Park. Most of the group are long term unemployed, many with physical and mental health issues. ‘Last week we made £50 selling bread” Mike told me. “It’s about coming together, about finding a creativity that everyone contributes to.”

Looking further ahead, Mission Track Ministry students Andy Pears and Geoff Sims are working with other churches in East Bristol to establish spaces that are open every weekday, where individuals who find themselves on the margins of society can engage in a working community. They are reflecting on ideas like developing a space for bicycle repair, prop making, and carpentry within a monastic style framework of prayer and worship, to create a holistic community and a safe place to go during the week.

We’ve reported before on the encouraging progress of this developing work on the Knowle West Estate, and although it is very small it’s interesting to hear that now -->
there’s an active conversation about building a new church centre to house the worship, hospitality, and practical activities that have been growing. But church building isn’t at the heart of this ‘New Churches Initiative’, and neither is paid ministry, as the students involved are all developing their ministry on a bi-vocational basis.

There is, however, a need for funds to help individuals and couples follow God’s call into these areas. Mike, who has just seen a new couple move from London to Lawrence Hill in Bristol, says he is amazed by the “high levels of co-operation and commitment” he finds. “What we need is to be able to help facilitate the transition for these people, who are taking such huge risks.”

The work of re:Source is partly funded by a grant from Home Mission, and it was also the focus of WEBA's New Churches Initiative in 2012. Thank you to all those churches who sent gifts to the New Churches fund in 2012; these will also continue to support other projects such as the Stowe in Swindon (which has just celebrated becoming a fully fledged church). A new focus will be announced in 2013. We suggest that each church contributes £200 (or £75 for smaller churches) annually. Individuals can also give via standing order.

Please make cheques payable to WEBA and mark them New Churches Initiative on the back; standing order forms are available from the WEBA office.

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