Church among the cappuccinos

Monday, 27 June, 2011

Dave Gardner, fresh expressions adviser for St Edmundsbury and Ipswich diocese and vicar of St John's, Woodbridge describes church among the cappuccinos in a market town coffee shop.

Duration: 3:23   | Download Download mp3


Interviewer: Well I'm pleased to have with me, Dave Gardner who leads St John's Woodbridge in Suffolk and is also bishop's adviser for fresh expressions in the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. Dave, great to have you with us today, thanks for taking the time. Can you give us a little bit of an update on how you're getting on with your fresh expression in a rural setting.

Dave Gardner: Yeah, our fresh expression actually is based in a market town of about 11,000 people, it stemmed out of Costa deciding to open in the town, we didn't think it viable but they did. And so we started about three years ago having, once a month roughly, something about five o'clock on a Sunday – jazz, and people could just come and it was just a way of easing people in. Then we moved on to having something on a Saturday, that didn't really work – somebody being available in a dog collar saying, you know, if you want to talk about God come and talk to me, but no one came, or very few came – even though it was packed – to that bit. And then out of that somebody asked us could you do the question mark thingy – the guy behind the counter said. So we decided to do Alpha at Costa, we've just finished it actually. And it's fantastic. To be in a place where people might come and go. It was actually after it finished, Costa normally, but people did pop in, and so you had a real mix and that's fantastic. Actually on Sunday we have a confirmation service and we've got two of the people being confirmed come from that environment. They've got no idea of church really at all, and that's fantastic. So we're in the next question is where we go, I don't know. Because we've got some people linking in, some people not, and some people on the edge.

Interviewer: It's amazing to be actually seeing some of the fruit of what you're involved in. I imagine there are challenges, what are the particular challenges of being in a rural setting?

Dave Gardner: I think because we've got so many church buildings, and why do you need another church when you've got so many buildings. I mean our diocese I think has the second highest proportion of buildings to population, next to Norfolk, and so there's a particular issue with that, but being a market town we do draw people in, so that's an advantage. And there are other expressions of… fresh expressions beside ourselves across the diocese, across the county. Now you'd be surprised having youth clubs tried in a garden centre, people taking over the village hall as an alternative… some people doing Messy Church, actually in quite surprising areas. Some of the challenges are to do with leadership I think, you're just so busy trying to keep what's going, going, and have you got time for something new and something fresh.

Interviewer: Yes, and I imagine, in your role as an adviser on fresh expressions across the diocese, you get to see some of the different expressions of church, some of the mixed economy as well, in action. Are there some common themes that you've noticed, some common challenges?

Dave Gardner: I think the challenges are to break out from what normally goes on and the hesitancy of some people, sometimes out of necessity because it's got so low in numbers, but some people feel quite down about that – and some people really do value the church building, so some people feel it's a threat, because you'll take away resources to the actual church building. I think if you can work in harmony with each other, keep good communication going, that's a real advantage. One advantage actually in a rural setting is you know each other, because you're smaller. So you might try something and you work much more closely across the denominations because it makes much more sense.


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