The Order of the Black Sheep - Sep11

Friday, 30 September, 2011

Rowan Williams visits The Gates for the launch of the Order of the Black Sheep and Phil Joyce interviews Mark and Sarah Broomhead about his vision for a community that welcomes the black sheep of Chesterfield.

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Mark Broomhead: Thanks ever so much for coming all of you, it's really nice to see everybody. And if I may, I'll just begin with a prayer. Heavenly Father, thank you for this opportunity to meet together, thank you for this space, may you be the centre of all that we do. Amen.

I'd like to just say a few words of thanks before we go on, and mostly I want to start by thanking Archbishop Rowan. Because if it wasn't for the insight he had and the development that he's done in the Anglican church, it wouldn't be possible for me to be working in this way and for us to do this, so some very great thanks that we're really able to... for the freedom to be able to work in this way in the Church of England

Rowan Williams: Well hello and good afternoon and thanks for the welcome here today. I just wanted to say a word before I pray, about what I hope and pray is going on here, and what I see just from this short visit going on here. And it's something to do with this. The one really really unique thing about Jesus was that he was completely not fussed about whose company he was in. He took it for granted that if it was somebody around, that somebody was worth his company. And that's how the church started. There's a book I cam across years ago called Jesus in Bad Company, which is mostly about the mainstream church so I'll not comment on that, but no, Jesus' company is whoever's around and whoever's prepared to spend time just wondering, listening to what he's got to say to them. It's as simple as that. And I think that's the hard core around which any church, any Christian community, builds. The fact that Jesus is there ahead of us, making friends, being in company, and - if I hear you right - that's what this place is about. It's about letting people experience a bit of that company. And in the sheer mysteriousness of this world, you never quite know what's going to happen, what's going on, you never quite know what God's got in store. There's no real way of telling between insiders and outsiders at night in pitch black in the dark as we struggle with dark, and the real darkness of experience sometimes. We're all in the same boat. And that I suppose is one reason why Jesus doesn't bother whose company he's in. So I just hope and pray that that'll be the kind of company you'll find here. With each other, with Jesus, with the God of Jesus. And that the company you give to each other will be a sign of some kind of touching in the darkness, some kind of hanging on together in order to find the very very mysterious but very wonderful God who's at the heart of the darkness and the light together.

Interviewer: The Order of the Black Sheep obviously has been on a bit of a journey already, so we'd like to know when and how it all started.

Mark Broomhead: It's kind of been a gradual thing. I think the whole concept started when I was about fourteen I guess in the fact that I was interested in the alternative culture and heavy metal and things like that and it was the culture that I was attracted to. But I was brought up in a Christian home and had very strong Christian faith and there just seemed to be two different camps where 'never the twain shall meet' and it was as if that whole community was written off by the church. So I've always had that kind of longing to see God expressed in that community. So it's been a long term thing but this specific project, it's probably been about five years in the planning I think and about the last three weeks is when we've done most of it, that's the way it always happens isn't it.

Interviewer: Where is it based?

Mark Broomhead: We're in Chesterfield, right in... slap bang in the centre of Chesterfield. We're kind of hidden up above a shop, so quite cool.

Interviewer: And why do you think it was important to establish something for the alternative community?

Sarah Broomhead: I think that walking into a church for someone that looks a bit different might be quite scary. They might be scared to walk into a normal church and also the people in the church might not react to them if they were wearing say skulls all over their t-shirt, they might not react great, I don't know.

Mark Broomhead: Not understand them maybe. For us in a way it's easy, it's a culture we understand and we're part of, it's like our village - I obviously sound just like a village vicar really, it's just a different community. So for us it's straightforward and easy, it just looks a bit odd from the outside I guess.

Interviewer: How did you come up with the name, The Order of the Black Sheep?

Mark Broomhead: Especially in medieval times they were seen as satanic really, and seen as a mark of the devil and useless. And not so much now, but back a couple of decades ago that was the way that the, sort of... especially the heavy metal communities were looked at, as if they were dark and satanic and worthless. And so kind of the meshing together of those two things, I think to kind of almost in a tongue in cheek way celebrate that black sheep are still sheep, they're not goats, they're still sheep, just it's a perception. And the wool still has all the same value as white wool, it's just a different colour.

Sarah Broomhead: But we're not just reaching out to the alternative, although we probably will get of alternative, but anyone that feels like they're a bit of a black sheep, just that they don't fit in, you know, don't fit in to the normal.

Mark Broomhead: Yeah, we're focussing on that community because we think it's not catered for elsewhere, but we want to be inclusive to anyone who wants to be around really.

I really believe in the Anglican church and I really believe in what's going on through pioneer ministry and fresh expressions and I think we could just kind of go out on a limb and do it on our own and try and break away and just get on with it, it would be easier in some ways, but I think it's really important to do things properly and go through the motions so people understand, so that there's accountability, so people know we're serious about what we're doing, we're not just on a fad, that it's a genuine expression of church, not an add-on really. I mean it really says a lot to the community that the Archbishop's prepared to come here and say this is something good that's going on, it's another way of saying to that community that you're worth it and the way he spoke as well reinforced that, which was great.

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