The Beacon - update Dec10

Wednesday, 1 December, 2010

Bart Woodhouse tells us about The Beacon, Dartford Bridge.

Duration: 4:28   | Download Download mp3


Introducer: When Bart Woodhouse and his family moved to the Bridge, a large new housing development in Dartford, he was determined to start a fresh expression of church. Supported by the local Methodist circuit and the national VentureFX initiative, Bart soon started making friends and before long the Beacon was born.

Bart Woodhouse: We were one of the first five or six people to move onsite, so there really wasn't many people here at all. But we very quickly started to just try and meet people really, so we would just take our children out about walking, bump into people, bump into our neighbours, get some conversations going. So that was the first thing that we did really, just very very basic listening kind of thing. But as more and more people began to move onsite, one of the things I was very keen to do was to start a residents' association. And we had an informal meeting in one of the buildings just down the road here, put letters through people's doors and we had about 40 or 50 people come along to that first meeting. And we were very clear that we were a church and we were wanting to work and kind of enhance and help build community here. And we saw that as part of our role as building kingdom really, part of our witness here as Christians was to actually, in a new community, how do we make it a strong, vibrant and healthy place to live? So very early on we did things like a community carol service, it was in the open air – there was no other building to hold it in and no other venue, so we held it in one of these pocket park areas.

Last year we stumbled upon the big lunch initiative and we had a lovely time, we had a bouncy castle and a barbecue and we got local people to bring food along that they'd made in their own home that expressed something of them. So a kind of signature dish or something from their culture. So we had goat curry and many other wonderful dishes that were brought along to that big lunch. And the community came together and we had about 60 or 70 people come along to that, which from a small community that we are at the moment, that was quite a big proportion of the people here.

When we first came to site, to this site, we brought with us quite a small team. And now we have about between nine and ten who would form the core team. They're a broad mixture of people but they do have a real sense of call to be doing this kind of work. And we meet on a Tuesday evening and then every month on a Sunday, once every month, we have a celebration – we just have a big meal together, we just cook some lasagne and food and we just all sit round a big table together and then some sort of interactive prayer time maybe together. But in essence it all happens around this table.

One of the great things as well is that the new community campus that's been built on the site, they have a room there which is just the right size for us, there's a kitchen just next to the room with everything you need, so all the provision is there for us to do this, to have these generous meals together in that building in the heart of the community, which has been very very good.

Some people wanted to try and argue that what we're doing isn't really church, it's just an extended house group or something. But I really would want to sort of defend what we're doing here by sort of saying that we are authentically church, you know, we are a worshipping community together, we're about God's mission here, we're about demonstrating the kingdom in this place, we're about worshipping God together and finding ways that are relevant for us to do that. We certainly are creating disciples in what we're doing and encouraging others to explore what it might mean to be a disciple of Christ in this place. Just something that is really authentically rooted here and authentically Christian and authentically church. And seeing people discovering faith in Jesus, seeing people having their lives changed, transformed, broken lives mended, all that the gospel will bring, but seeing that really happen and rooted here. But I think for us, one of the real dynamics that we want to invest in and grow and vision for is this seamless link between community and the messiness of community here in a new community, and the voice of Christ and the kingdom.

Introducer: Bart Woodhouse outlining his vision for the future of the Beacon, a fresh expression of church in Dartford.

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