Fresh expressions respond to spiritual openings in society: B1

Tuesday, 8 September, 2009

This story illustrates the principles of Fresh expressions respond to spiritual openings in society in the Guide.

B1 worshipB1, a church plant begun in 2000, is a network church, serving not a particular area but appealing across Birmingham through members' personal networks.

Meetings are held three Sundays a month in a central Birmingham pub, with the fourth free to enable members to spend time with friends and family who do not go to church.

The first stage was to surf our own networks,

explains leader, Geoff Lanham, a Church of England minister. In the first two years, 150 people attended extra events held by B1. Though enjoyable, it was recognised that these did not help to build community and so they ceased.

What has continued is a bi-monthly alternative worship event, Synergy, held first in a bar and now in B1's 'Breathe' facility, a 'spiritual space' for city workers and the residents of 10,000 new city centre flats.

Geoff believes that those who attend Synergy appreciate the non-directive approach of the event and the emphasis on symbols and interaction.

'We want to give people a taste of God's presence in an urban lifestyle'

Alongside its main services, B1 offers several groups and meetings for all kinds of interests. Small scale faith discussion groups attract seekers, including people of other faiths. A modified 'Essence' course has been run in the Zen room of a local spa.

One person has become a member of a midweek small group,

says Geoff.

Others we hope will come to be users of our city centre 'Breathe' sanctuary space for spiritual reflection.

'Illumine' is a spirituality course looking at different Christian traditions, while straightforward book and film groups often give rise to the discussion of spiritual issues.

These are good at providing environments where people can explore within a genuine welcome,

says Geoff.

We want to give people a taste of God's presence in an urban lifestyle.

B1 now has 50 adult members and some children. Seven of its members were previously unchurched.

Every year there is a mini exodus and every September some input,

Geoff says.

A more important figure is those who've belonged to us along the way, which is about 130. It's the transitional nature of emerging church in a city context. We're working with people while we have them and then we hand them on to the next stage of their journey. It's a kingdom mentality.

'The cross-cultural bit is the hard bit but it's exciting'

Because of its venues, B1 has been mistakenly described as a clubbers' church. Instead, what Geoff has found is that people of all ages now form its congregations.

The venues of B1 are significant ways to meet those who would not normally encounter church.

The cross-cultural bit is the hard bit but it's exciting,

Geoff adds.

Meeting in bars, cafés and pubs drew questions from those employed there and we see that God is at work among those who staff these places.

Geoff describes the church itself has having been on a journey as members seek to grow the church through their personal relationships.

One model we find helpful is thinking about sharing faith as a dialogue,

he says.

We value friends for who they are. This is partly why we moved away from events. We are trying to see faith sharing as discerning where God already is and living in a way which causes people to ask questions.

This is a learning point from:

B1