Fresh start ??

It has been pointed out to me that its a while since I last posted anything on this area of the site. That hasn’t been because I`ve lost interest in Fresh Expressions or anything, but it is actually because I`d forgotten I had this category amongst the others on my blog.

I still feel a great passion for Fresh expressions (FX) and am still involved in the MSM course. I`m also involved in the Feast initiative, overseen in this area by the excellent Roger Johnson and Michael Mitton, but often I struggle to give FX the time I would like as I`m caught up in Superintendency of the Circuit. Yesterday I was involved in a discussion about `permission~givers`, those folk in different denominations who can either block or encourage a FX. In many ways I have become such a permission~giver and it is hard and frustrating to adjust to the role, because my heart wants to be in the FX exploring, enabling, encouraging as opposed to simply watching others do it and commending them for it.

Superintendency involves so much administration, supervision and dissemination of information that it saps your energy and creativity. However, having said that the comment I received this morning is maybe a wake up call to quit moaning and make the time to `get on with it` and as such I thank the person for the reminder. I am looking at the possibility of a MSI course in my new area, and exploring opportunities for a Learning Network amongst some expressions that have already begun.

In the meantime can I encourage people who are on FaceBook to find the Fb page for Fresh expressions, another one for the National MSM course and if you`re interested you can keep an eye on our local Nottingham and Derby MSM page so that when we launch the next course, or the MSI course, or vision days there will be info.

Advert for our Mission Shaped Ministry Course: places still available

mission shaped ministry course

  • Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire
  • From Saturday 3rd September 2011
  • Revd M Mitton, Revd M Redshaw, Revd R Quarton and Mr G Bell

Fresh Expressions mission shaped ministry was launched in 2007. Since then, it has been presented in 56 centres across the UK with more
than 2,000 people taking part in the one-year, part-time learning journey.
Individuals or teams, leaders and members, clergy and lay people learn side by side in the sessions to make msm a major contributor to lay and ordained ministry training.

The course’s 24-units are usually presented over:

  • three Saturdays;
  • a residential weekend;
  • six or seven weekday evenings.

Course content includes the mission of God, vision and values, gospel and culture, evangelism, discipleship, leadership and team
roles, spirituality, worship and the sacraments, how to keep going when things get tough, and what is Church?

Andrew Roberts, director of training for Fresh Expressions, says, ‘It is a joy to see mission shaped ministry equipping people from a great
range of all Christian backgrounds to share more effectively in God’s mission. In many cases, those involved have seen calls and visions clarified. Some have gone on to launch fresh expressions of church whilst others have been enabled to sustain them in their work. Many have helped existing churches to become more mission-shaped.’

Revd Loraine Mellor, Chair, Nottingham & Derby Methodist District, says ‘I wholeheartedly endorse msm as a tool for equipping, sharing, resourcing and encouraging mission. As a part of the Fresh Expressions vision and the Methodist Church priority (with our ecumenical partners) for missional engagement in our communities, it has equipped over 2000 people for new, creative work as well as awakening a sense of mission in many others.’

Right Revd Dr Alastair Redfern, Bishop of Derby, says, ‘msm provides one of the most exciting and creative ways in which God’s gifts can be
nourished and focused to have maximum impact for the Gospel in our times. I hope that many will take advantage of this important opportunity – I commend the course warmly. God ever calls us to be agents of His new and surprising life.’


Course timetable and venue

Saturday 3rd September 2011

Monday 19th September 2011

Monday 17th October 2011

Friday 4th to Sunday 6th November 2011

Monday 12th December 2011

Saturday 14th January 2012

Monday 20th February 2012

Monday 19th March 2012

Monday 16th April 2012

Monday 21st May 2012

Saturday 16th June 2012

Saturdays run from 09.30 to 15.30, Mondays from 19.30 to
21.15, both at St Andrew’s LEP, Station Road, Langley Mill, Nottinghamshire, NG16 4BP.

The residential weekend will be at Bawtry Hall, Bawtry, Doncaster, DB10 6JH.


£299 per person, which covers all materials, refreshments and the weekend away. Financial support may be available.


David Fidler, Course Administrator


Been working on the Mission Shaped Ministry course which launches in September 2011 today, trying to get the advertising leaflets sent out. Thank Heaven for electronic mail. Whereas one time I would have had to send out almost 500 fliers by Royal Mail I can now send them out at the touch of a button. This is where e-mail works at its best. The blurb for the course reads as follows…………………………

mission shaped ministry equipping you to plant and sustain fresh expressions of church

You are invited to share a one-year learning journey in a supportive community to be equipped for a lifetime of good practice and learning in growing fresh expressions of church in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire from September 2011.

“The greatest benefit of the course is its practical side and the chance to talk through issues relevant to your situation.”

Leanne Corlett, previous course participant

Who is it for ?        Those exploring ideas for fresh expressions of Church; experienced pioneers who want to reflect on what they are doing; Christians who want their Churches to be more effective in mission; all denominations, traditions and ages; Urban, suburban and rural contexts.

What will you learn ?        How to begin, sustain and grow a fresh expression of Church; qualities of Christian ministry; listening to God in your context.

Features of the course     Designed for busy Christians; Delivered ecumenically; Local and national teachers; Reflection on your context and story; Varied learning styles and resources; Coaching, mentoring, learning networks; An online guide to fresh expressions.

Modules include       Mission Context,  The mission of God, Vision and call, Values, Starting something new, Listening for mission, What is Church ?, Gospel and culture, Team roles and behaviour, Leadership, Spirituality, Discipleship, Children and all ages, Evangelism, Lessons from weaknesses, Handling setbacks and failure, Small group Church, Worship and the sacraments,

We, through the Church of England and Methodist Church in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire allied with the Groundlevel network and the United Reformed Church are delighted to make MSM available locally.

We believe it will be a significant resource for building the Kingdom of God in this area. Individuals are most welcome, but we particularly hope that small groups from a church or fresh expression will come as this will deepen the impact of the course.

The course leaders are Revd M Mitton and Revd M Redshaw.

Teachers include Revd M Mitton, Revd M Redshaw, Revd R Quarton and Mr G Bell.

Course timetable and venue

Saturday 3rd September 2011

Monday 19th September 2011

Monday 17th October 2011

Friday 4th to Sunday 6th November 2011

Monday 12th December 2011

Saturday 14th January 2012

Monday 20th February 2012

Monday 19th March 2012

Monday 16th April 2012

Monday 21st May 2012

Saturday 16th June 2012

Saturdays run from 09.30 to 15.30, Mondays from 19.30 to 21.15, both at St Andrew’s LEP, Station Road, Langley Mill,

Nottinghamshire, NG16 4BP.

The residential weekend will be at Bawtry Hall, Bawtry, Doncaster, DB10 6JH.


£299 per person, which covers all materials, refreshments and the weekend away.

Financial support may be available.

Contact may be made through me on


“More and more Christian people are being led to God to plant, sustain and lead fresh expressions of Church. The course is a crucial means by which the Holy Spirit is preparing them for this calling, Go for it !”     Rev Dr Martyn Atkins, Methodist General Secretary.

“The next big step in taking fresh expressions of Church forward is making the right kind of training available in every part of the country. The course is making a major contribution here and I`m delighted to commend it”      Archbishop Rowan Williams.

I don`t know if this has wetted your appetite but whether it has or not please feel free to pass the word onto others AND please pray for us in our preparations.

“is there a place within the Church for drama/entertainment ?”

I came across the following in The Buzz, an e-letter from the Methodist Church telling of exciting developments around the Connexion, where the Gospel of Jesus is being shared in new and exciting ways.

It made me wonder, “is there a place within the Church for drama/entertainment ?”……………………………………….

EVANGELISM – Hope Theatre Cafe 
From: Christchurch URC/Methodist Church, Cardiff
Anne and Darren on stageHope Theatre Cafe is a great, welcoming venue in Cardiff where you can see a Christian performer, theatre company, singer, musician or mime artist. A special evening out at the theatre and a fresh expression of church!Anne Middleton and husband Revd Darren Middleton of the Hope Theatre Cafe believe that the arts have a way of transcending barriers. They see the Cafe very much as a place where people can bring friends and family because it is ‘neutral’ territory’. One audience member said, ironically, ‘you wouldn’t get me in a church’!

Upcoming performances include the Lantern Theatre Company performing The Hiding Place in June and gospel Illusionist, Steve Price, appearing in July. All performers share their message of hope in Jesus, through their own art form.

The winning formula is for the audience to be seated around small tables and treated to free tea, coffee and home-made cakes. The cafe opens at 7pm and the performance starts at 7.30pm. Afterwards prayer and an opportunity to chat is sometimes offered and a few people who have been to performances have since been to church.

Anne and Darren are encouraged that the Hope Theatre Cafe team has committed help from volunteers, especially as it is likely that they will move on within the next two years. Their hope is that, now established, the theatre cafe will continue its successful run for years to come.

E-mail contact: Anne Middleton
Website: Fresh Expressions


I find this an exciting project and it has fired my imagination for similar ideas. However many would say that this is only a theatrical experience and not true worship. Whilst I don`t doubt that for a moment, lets look a bit more closely.

Firstly the article reminds us that each performer(s) brings their own understanding of Jesus through their own art form; surely this is simply preaching using gifts and talents the artistes have. We`d expect preaching within the context of Church and surely this is what is happening here.

Secondly, the opportunity to sit around tables in a cafe-style presentation is surely no different to the fellowship people claim to have when they attend a more traditional act of worship. It’s possibly a deeper fellowship because there is probably less inhibitions than there would be across pews or rows of chairs.

Thirdly, tea and coffee (free) can be interpreted as the fellowship meal in Acts 2:42-47

Fourthly, the opportunity for prayer is there for anyone. Now I know some would say that in traditional church the leader tells us when to pray, but surely what often happens is that we all bow our heads and start thinking about all manner of things ! Can this truly be described as prayer ? heart prayer ? I feel that when prayer is offered and someone asks for it then the prayer time is far more personal and meaningful (now that’s opening a can of worms !!).

Fifthly, and it isn`t stated above, I feel that there is the possibility for discipleship development within this expression. It’s probably already happening at the Hope theatre cafe and simply not expressed above. However I think that there are ways in which someones experience in such a place can then be led forward and their faith developed. I note that some have already started coming to Church; brilliant !! but, that cannot be the ultimate aim. The ultimate aim has to be to develop and nurture their faith in Christ, not simply seek `bums on seats`. Now for some that may be developed through Church itself in all its traditional form, but for others it may be through continued attendance at the cafe. Whichever it is we should rejoice at the pilgrimage of faith people are engaged in.

Finally, the government cuts announced this week have got the Arts council up in a panic crying out that it will mean the end of entertainment to the masses. What an opportunity for the Church. Much of the theatre in this country and in other parts of the world began in Christian communities, the medieval mystery plays being one of the finest examples, and here is our chance to take the Gospel back to the people through drama/entertainment/films/and other media. Will we seize the chance ? I hope and pray that enterprising Churches will do so in ways that suit their communities and cultures.

Drama and theatre were amongst my first loves. I`ve acted in and produced shows since the age of about 5 years (so there are one or two performances under my belt !); I`ve had the privilege of touring with a Christian professional theatre group around this country on a couple of occasions so I have seen and been a part of the positive effect of using these mediums to spread the Good News of Christ crucified and risen from the dead.  

So, to come back to my original question…………  “is there a place within the Church for drama/entertainment ?”, I would want to say an unequivocal YES, YES and YES again. Well done to the Hope Theatre Cafe in Cardiff for this.

Judas from "Jesus Christ Superstar" (1990)


Hamlet in the 1970`s

360 degree listening

I led a Church evening tonight on the subject of listening to what the community is saying……………………….. Coming from the Fresh Expressions stable it introduces the concept of 360 degree listening. That is to say the idea of listening to the community around us, listening to what the Church is saying, listening to the wider world, listening to the culture, listening to God through scripture and prayer.

It’s fascinating to see people’s reaction to such an idea; why ? Because many in the Church (and Rotary and other organisations) only ever listen to the voices that suit, or the voices that do not challenge, and I include myself in that. It is very easy to seek out those with whom we agree and then denounce others who are in disagreement as being irrelevant or out of date: to decry them as not listening to our view when often we have made our minds up before hearing theirs.

And yet so often the Church is out of step with society, because we refuse to be moved from “the way we do things”. When our services are perceived as dull and boring how do we respond ? Often by saying that it is up to others to change to suit our ways. I once had a Church of 12 members who spent more time complaining about another Church half a mile away who had demolished their 200 seater premises because they weren`t big enough, than

 they ever did on asking why we weren`t attractive to people !!

This is why I like the concept of 360 degree listening: because it reminds us that we need to keep our eyes on the culture we’re called to serve (Paul and the message about the unknown God in Athens comes to mind), and also to see what God is doing within the culture. We`re also called to keep our ears tuned into both the culture and God to hear peoples cries and needs and also to hear the direction God is leading us in. We cannot simply go our own blind way seeking to perpetuate that which keeps us happy and comfortable, but we must be open to the voice of God and we must learn to seek out what he`s doing in the world. The whole concept of the Fresh Expressions movement encourages this through 360 degree listening and it’s absolutely amazing what has come out of it.

Image via Wikipedia

Tonight, at the Church where we held the meeting using a large map of the village and placing dots to represent things it was amazing how many times people who had lived in that village all their lives kept saying “I didn`t know that” or “I never realised there was so much……………………….”  Maybe in order to take this further we all should stop periodically in our busyness, pause to reflect where our society is at and is going, where we are personally, and ask for Gods direction in our lives and in our relationships: BUT we must then listen to what God is saying to us, for if we don`t listen to Him then it is all pointless.

Maybe there is a good Lenten discipline here: hang on !! isn`t that what Lent is all about anyway ? If so are you and I engaged in listening this Lent ?


The Church of the Good Shepherd

The square with the old Markt Hall of Shrewsbu...
Image via Wikipedia

Spent today in Shrewsbury exploring a Fresh Expression of Church with the title “The Church of the Good Shepherd“.

Its been running for about five years now and it was set up to encourage, support, liaise with housebound people with the express intention of supplying worship and Holy Communion. Whereas other visitors may go for pastoral reasons the purpose of this is to meet the spiritual needs of the elderly and housebound.

Tricia has gone faithfully over the past few years to as many as 60 people per quarter, armed with her CD player, orders of service, Bread and Wine. In that time people have warmed to her, appreciated the connection with their previous Church or Circuit, sometimes invited neighbours to join in and delighted in the opportunity to worship again with another Christian.

This isn`t to undermine the precious work of pastoral visitors and friends, but it is designed to enhance the work.

I found it utterly fascinating and am now praying through whether this might be a way forward for the Borders Mission Circuit.

It was a heavy day, long and tiring when I could have been doing other things but it was incredibly worthwhile and the sort of thing I came into Ministry for. Thank you Lord.

Moorgreen County Show

Bank Holiday Monday was spent attending Moorgreen County Show at Watnall. I particularly wanted to go to this as I was amongst the Eastwood Clergy who first expressed an interest in having a Christian input at this annual Bank Holiday event. I have never been able to attend before due to mission work which always fell over this weekend.

It was an interesting experience. The Christian tent had been in operation for the full weekend, staffed by a variety of people from a variety of Churches. On the Monday there was a Punch and Judy show at regular intervals. For the full day there was some wonderful children`s work taking place with balloons, face painting, crafts and more; alongside this there was a prayer area which always seemed to have visitors (indeed I was to learn later that there is now an extensive prayer list for the volunteers to work through); elsewhere in the tent was a huge catering area offering refreshments which were warmly received all day. This was probably the busiest part of the tent as there was a constant flow of people wandering in and out.

Holding it all together was a live band from one of the local churches who played regular slots of Christian music, almost as background music, but warmly appreciated by those who sat to listen. They were of a top quality.

Talking to some of the organisers of the Christian input I enquired of their aim and they felt that it was about having a presence in the community. It wasn`t about pushing the Christian faith in an openly evangelistic way but it was more about Christian service to the community and showing thast in all walks of life the Christian faith has something to say.

The committee will be holding a debrief next month and will consider what happened and what can happen towards next year; there seems to be a real drive to develop year on year and not sit back and simply accept “how it is”. I did suggest about the possibility of a Sunday act of worship next year, about the possibility of an advertising board of Church events (alpha courses etc.) in the local area etc.

The advertising bumpf for the whole show declared this to be a champion day out for all the family. I really felt as though the Church met this statement and  more.


So what are to make of it ? Is it an interesting day out for Christians to show that they are `nice` people ? Is it simply a means of assuaging our guilt over not evangelising enough and giving us the feeling that “at least we`re doing something” ?

I feel that its possibly a mixture of all those things, but my mind keeps going back to Peter trying to walk on water; his sinking into the water wasn`t failure but in many ways was a huge success for as he sank he needed to rely on Jesus; I believe his faith would have grown that day. No, the real failure was in the other disciples who didn`t get out of the boat and `have a go` !

Maybe this was a venture in `niceness`, or in safe evangelism, or in serving the community, but I feel that more than that it was a venture in trying to do what Jesus is asking of us despite our fears, our inadequacies, our supposed failings, and therefore it is a success in relying on Jesus for guidance.

Looking forward to next years show already.




Solace ~ Church in a bar


48 years old and last Sunday I could be found en-route to Cardiff to go `clubbing`!!!   Well, to say this, is a bit of an exageration as it was more of an event held in a nightclub.

Beginning on April 1st 2007 by James Karran (a Baptist Pastor) and Wendy Sanderson ( a Church Army worker), its aim is to make Christianity relevant and accessible in the 21st century post chrstendom society. When many young people are not even considering Church life, but ARE interested in spiritual matters this is an exciting and bold initiative to meet their needs. I first found out about this through their website http://www.solace- and felt I needed to go and find out more, and so began a 6 hour round trip of 400 miles just to go for a drink !   I was glad I did.

Their initial target group when they began, was the student community but this has gradually evolved into a wider group of anyone involved in the club/pub culture. They meet in different nightclubs. The night I attended the meeting was in clubiforbach, the premier student club in Cardiff. The club actually make a loss on hosting these evenings as they only charge £50, but they see it as helping a good cause; it also gives them good publicity. James felt it was important not to be in a church setting as this made them more approachable to younger people. The staff of the club are non~christian and they certainly seemed to enjoy what was happening.

James felt that it was important that there be no cringe~factor in this work; it has to meet the people were they are. I couldn`t help thnk about the number of times Jesus met people in the marketplace, on the streets etc. Although he obviously attended the Synagogue and considered this important, he also went to where questions were being asked. John Wesley was later to do the same with his field preaching. James and Wendy have ensured Christ is known in the nightclub scene.

It is a mixture of entertainment (straightforward gigs), speakers, and discussion topics. They`ve just completed a series of themes about sex and are aware that in their venue it is sometimes easier to look at issues the church finds harder to tackle. The very name, solace, refers to a place where people can feel safe to ask questions.

Solace is asking and searching the question of “What is an authentic Christian community ?” and so it needs to be relationship based, not simply church on a Sunday in a club. Consequently they`re exploring the question of what does church look like in this situation ?

The night I attended was a gig. Apparently they usually have a Christian and a Non~christian band, but unfortunately the Christian had pulled outdue to illness. Thankfully the manager of the other band BENSEM offered to fill in. She was very good, as were Bensem themselves. Loud (very), but the quality was there and there seemed to be a special presence over the whole evening.

What was the Church content ? The notices at the beginning simply consisted of a welcome and an advert for the following week, and then we were into the music. On the face of it there was little if any Christian input, but there was a lot of prayer befrete evening began, especially prayer that God would open up conversations that could begin relationships. How often do we pray that in Church life ?

I raised the difficult practical issues of finance and church. The evening was free but the band still had to be paid and the club itself, but there was no collection or anything similar. The principle is that the Gospel should be free. Where does the money come from ? Grants from the Baptist Union. Church of England, and also from the local council, as well as personal donations from interested supporters give a backbone to the work, but its a real hand to mouth existence.

The flak from the established church sometimes come in the question of “wheres the Sunday evidence ? an accusation leveled at many different types of work in many different churches up and down the land. I asked how James and Wendy gauged success. They saw success in terms of the local councils support for the work, by seeing the numbers increasing week by week and by seeing relationships developing.

Advertising is largely by word of mouth or by the internet. They have their own website and also advertise on so if you`re going to Cardiff over a Sunday why not lok them up and have a bar experience of Church. I`m glad I did and I would love to go again and take some others with me.

Thanks James and Wendy for all your time, support and every blessing on you and your work.

 I want to close with some famous words that were displayed on a screen over the performance area at the beginning of the night, while people were milling around. You might recognise them………………………….

“Are you tired, worn out

burned out with religion.

Get away with me and

you`ll recover your life”


The Spurriergate Centre, York

Visited briefly the Spurriergate Centre in York. Interesting project which is based in the Church of St. Michael`s, Spurriergate, and has operated since 1989.

Arising out of a casual conversation between the Vicar of St. Michael-le-Belfry and the Archdeacon of York a desire grew to create something new in the building of a long established Church (dating in parts back to the 12th Century).

The aims of the centre are……….

To serve the people of York and its visitors

To promote justice in trading through retail operation and education  

To offer a listening ear

To share the Good News of Jesus

Staffed by people from a variety of local churches it offers a superb menu with an open plan kitchen so that you can see exactly whats going on. Its well worth paying a visit for the food if you`re ever in York.

As I sat with my cup of coffee I remembered that the last time I was int his building was on my last sabbatical, seven years ago, when I was part of a travelling theatre group and we were performing in York. The local theatre had arranged for us to have an early evening meal in the Spurriergate Centre. What a co-incedence !!

I certainly won`t wait for my next sabbatical before I attend again.

But its more than just a cafe, run by Christians. It also operates a listening and counselling service for anyone who needs is. The counselling service is run by professional, qualified staff and offers a Christian response to peoples needs.

Thirdly, it also offers a prayer service. As I sat I noticed that on the balcony there was a prayer space. Dotted around the building were prayer request slips so that prayers could be offered on behalf of the customers, always in confidence.

What do I make of it all ? In the middle of a large, bustling, tourist filled city is a group of people meeting the physical and spiritual needs of those who are in need of them. This is truly a Christian presence in the world, and whilst it may not be the way forward for every church it has surely been a wonderful way of bringing the Kingdom of Christ into York. I commend it to anyone thinking of visiting the City.

You can visit online at

It also reminded me of the Salt Cellar in Oldham, a similar project that I was involved with and it has resolved my determination to perhaps return there and see how they`re getting on.


Its been brought to my attention that the comments option has been disabled. This is intentional in order to stop abusive comments being made. If you have a valid comment to make please send it to my e~mail address which is

I would be interested in what you think about my sabattical and whether or not I`ve provoked any thoughts amongst you.