Monday, 18 June, 2012

Methodist minister Andrew Pakes began to develop an emerging congregation, called 3six5, in October 2000 - alongside his ministry in a traditional setting. He describes how things have moved on since then.

I became a 'minister without appointment' in September 2004 in order to concentrate on emerging congregation. In 2000, I took a sabbatical to reflect on what the church may look like in the 21st Century.

As I fed back the findings to my congregation, about five people came to me and said they would like to be part of the church I had described. The five then grew to 10 and in a few months we asked our circuit's permission to begin forming the church we imagined.

3six5 meetingThe small congregation developed through friendship and community involvement. In the beginning we encouraged each other to take an active part in the local community in various ways, such as becoming a school governor, joining the local PTA or attending the local residents' association meetings. If there was a local quiz night, they would enter a team. This helped us to make friends and to get to know and love the community of which we were a part.

As 3six5 we agreed to keep meetings to a minimum and free ourselves to spend time with family, friends and colleagues. Making and building friendships is all important - as is praying that those friendships will go on to see the development of a relationship with Jesus.

There is a real sense of the Spirit of God abroad in the community and we find His Spirit wherever we go. And it isn't just locally; In nearby Kingston-upon-Thames we can see God's creativity all over the place.

3six5 - mealTogether, 12 years later, we continue to grow in faith and make friends as we meet twice a month. We will firstly get together once a month on a Saturday for food or to take part in an activity together and we frequently share bread and wine. Then the adults also meet for supper at another time during the month at someone's home to share in a discussion about life and faith and important matters of the day.

It has been a difficult journey for me to become a 'minister without appointment' to lead 3six5, but God has been faithful and kept His hand on the work that we are involved in. As a result, 3six5 has become a congregation within the community.

We will never know how many people have become Christians through 3six5, indeed it's not a question we would ask, but - in terms of the number of people with whom we have shared stories, experiences and time - the numbers must run into hundreds.

This is a movement of ordinary people and it's not easy to define or pin down as it is constantly changing. We try to view everyone as being a member of 3six5; it's a matter of opting out rather than opting in!