Changing the Landscape 2011 - Reconnect and Poole Missional Communities

Friday, 6 May, 2011

Paul Bradbury and Stuart Goddard discuss Reconnect and Poole Missional Communities with Karen Carter.

Duration: 10:41   | Download Download mp3


Introducer: The interview which follows was recorded at the Fresh Expressions 'Changing the Landscape' conference at Oxford on the 6th May 2011. Those attending had just watched a video sequence about Reconnect, a fresh expression of church in Poole, taken from a Fresh Expressions DVD entitled 'expressions: making a difference'. It's available from our online shop. So here's Karen Carter talking to pioneer minister Paul Bradbury, and Stuart Goddard, a trustee of Poole Missional Communities.

Interviewer: Paul, just to kick off with you about the diversity of the work at Reconnect, because you've got Reconnect and work:space and Wild Spirit as well. Can you just tell us about that diversity?

Paul Bradbury: Well we started with this group of people, Reconnect, who we encouraged to be intentional about being community and missional in the emphasis of their lives, and that was really a sort of starting point gathering people who wanted to do church differently, who wanted to live lives in a very missional way. And out of that we've begun now to develop things that are a step ahead of that if you like, at the level of engaging with people in different contexts. And one of those is work:space, which is engaging with people in the workplace. It's a series of groups offering contemplative prayer in the midst of busy workplaces. And then Wild Spirit, we've got a guy who is just nuts about anything outdoors – rock climbing, mountain biking, that sort of thing – and he's just fantastic at organising that sort of thing and drawing men who enjoy that sort of thing and guys who are kind of on the fringes of church or seeking faith. And at the end of a sort of programme of events we do a Wild Spirit retreat where we go out for a weekend under canvas and do all of those things but also sit around a fire and do some gentle spirituality and talk about faith.

Interviewer: Sounds great. So you go from Barclays and RNLI buildings where you can have this quiet time during your work time, going off doing the wild adventure stuff as well. Do you see strength in that diversity that's on offer?

Paul Bradbury: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, obviously underpinning all that diversity is some values around missional life, incarnational mission, intentional community – that's what's kind of underpinning, and then what's springing up is all sorts of stuff that looks very different but is really underpinned by the same values. And as it said on the video there, we're in a very very diverse place, as I'm sure many people here are, and that place is diversifying, it's not going to solidify at any point, it's just getting more and more diverse. And so we feel that we have a set of values that enables us to engage with a diverse society and is perhaps more fleet of foot, able to engage with new forms of culture that spring up.

Interviewer: Yes, and you're also – we were thinking a little bit this morning about taking that time initially not to do anything at all.

Paul Bradbury: Yeah, it's great! No, that was a discipline. I mean I think as somebody said earlier on, the temptation – and we had it as well – from other people telling us that we should do this and we should do that and perhaps take off the shelf a particular programme of evangelism and make that happen, that we just sensed that we needed to stop, we needed to listen, we needed to pray, and I don't think we'd be doing what we're doing now if we hadn't taken that time. It's surprised us what we're doing now.

Interviewer: And how about drawing on the passions and the interests that are already in your own community. You mentioned the felt-making group there. You've found that really important, to be drawing on and just listening to what's around you already?

Paul Bradbury: Yeah. Again sort of another level of listening. I mean we were very committed to seeing what God was doing and joining in, and I think initially we saw that very much as well what's happening out in the community, what's happening out in this particular part of the world that we find ourselves in. But we also began to realise that of course God was at work in use, in giving us the people he'd given us and the gifts that they had. And you know, two felt-makers out of nine initial adults is probably slightly higher than the average – the national average – so you know it seemed like God was doing something there and began to draw people in through felt-making, and I never imagined that would happen. But you know, that is the work of God and that's part of that value of incarnational mission actually, because God has incarnated something of himself to offer to other people, and it's so much easier I think to grow the community organically rather than perhaps have a slightly mechanistic vision which we try and bulk people into, you know we're trying to sort of organically allow people to use the gifts that God's given them.

Interviewer: Fantastic. I hope everybody's written down 'God works through felt-making', one of the main points of today!

Paul Bradbury: You heard it here first!

Interviewer: Yes, exactly! Stuart, you're rector of Hamworthy, as well as a trustee of Poole Missional Communities that we'll come onto shortly, but as a minister in that area did you initially see the work of Reconnect as a threat?

Stuart Goddard: I think it would have been very easy to see something new like that as a threat, but the answer is no, because the diocese and the deanery had a sort of integrated forward vision about pulling in something experimental like this, something pioneering, and so when I was interviewed about two or three years before Paul was appointed, I was actually being asked in the interview what my response was to that kind of initiative taking place, and it was already on the deanery plan, I was being asked by the archdeacon and the area bishop what my response was, and they outlined a certain project that didn't come about but Paul's here as a project that did come about.

Interviewer: And it also continued to evolve at all levels, it wasn't sort of like an initial 'oh wouldn't this be a great idea'.

Stuart Goddard: No, it continued to evolve. I mean once I was appointed and the discussion rolled on at deanery and that higher management level, I was still being asked what I thought, it wasn't like oh we've appointed you so now we'll tell you what you're going to do, it was a genuine conversation, genuinely integrated right the way through the sort of clergy hierarchy if you like, and it was me at the bottom of the food chain, but they were still saying what do you think, and I was telling them what I thought because I believed they wanted to know, which was helpful. So there was trust there, and that again alleviated any sense of threat – you felt you were being included, you felt your ideas would be drawn into the way the whole thing was being shaped over time, up to and including and beyond Paul's appointment.

Interviewer: And thinking about that sort of development over time, Poole Missional Communities, you're a trustee of that. I mean why was that important in sort of securing Reconnect's base.

Stuart Goddard: Well before I was a trustee I was on the team of people who were mainly local deanery based people who were supportive of Paul once he'd been appointed and were discussing what did we want to do about shaping the recruitment policy. And they were basically representational of different people who had an interest in the project. And after Paul had been going for about a year it was becoming more and more apparent that money and time were becoming a preoccupation for him, so whereas we'd appointed a pioneer minister we were getting someone who was already worried about maintenance problems. And he was the only one who was trying to say that this really isn't happening, and we'd say yes, yes, yes at each meeting, yeah it's going to happen, and then the next meeting Paul would come back and say it still really isn't happening, you know, how are we doing the forward planning. And what happened was that there was one guy on the group who had very much a business background and was a lay person and had seen plant and growth in a completely different format elsewhere in the area, and he was saying you need business managers on this, we need to pull in people who've got experience of business, they understand how to make time and money work, and they've got clout in the diocese. So whereas the bishop said oh good, you've made the appointment, you carry on dear chap, they could say bishop you can't take that attitude, if you want this to work you've got to get behind it. So they were kind of able to collar the bishop and shake him a bit. But what was difficult, what felt most threatening, was that all of us who were there as kind of representational were said thanks very much, we'll tell you when we want you back, and we had to leave the project in someone else's hands to do that business management side. So that came together and then they said oy Stuart, you know, you're local, would you like to come back on board. So I said have I got an option, and they said no not really [laughs].

Interviewer: So what does it really mean to have Poole Missional Communities, maybe do you want to give us something on that.

Paul Bradbury: Well I think there's a number of things. I think it enables us to have a structure that we can fundraise to, which is obviously a pressing need. We were given three years' funding by the diocese and that comes to the end of that time this August. But whether by design or by the grace of God, well I think we've created a structure that might provide a bit of support for other stuff that can express these values. So I think what we're finding is that other people within Poole are saying yeah, we really get what you're doing, and we really chime with what you're doing. We don't necessarily want to join Reconnect, we want to stay involved with our local congregation, but we do want to reach out to people in our workplace or whatever. And perhaps Poole Missional Communities can provide some support, some mentoring, maybe a bit of funding. So we're seeing it more and more as a structure into which lots of incarnational missional stuff can perhaps be nurtured.

Interviewer: And just to close Stuart, your role within that as a trustee, what does that involve?

Stuart Goddard: Well one of the things… I said look I'm not a business manager, why do you want me to be a trustee, and they said because you're not a business manager you've got other ways of looking at things and we need that back in the group. And they also said, and Paul was saying, well I really would like you on board because you're local, you've been supporting me all the time, you ask me really difficult questions when maybe other people aren't, and all those things are going to be handy in helping to cultivate and grow the project. And actually I'm a trustee on various other things which having a charity that's Poole Missional Communities could see other things that develop that don't require Paul to actually be responsible for them, so it's great to be on board.

Interviewer: That's great, thank you ever so much.


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