Boring Wells - update Mar13

Monday, 18 March, 2013

As a fresh expressions of church in and around Belfast, Boring Wells is a network of different communities of faith or 'wells' for people who may find the journey into the culture of church too difficult. Leader Adrian McCartney gives an update.

We have established wells in a variety of contexts, such as people's homes, a community centre, a school, around a pub community, a decommissioned church hall, and a coffee shop. Each well is a different stage of development and not every attempt has been successful.

As a complementary missional community to the inherited church structure, we work alongside parishes to:

  • stimulate, initiate and create missional opportunities;
  • disciple and support pioneer leaders and help them work alongside existing church programmes.

Boring Wells - bannerWe constantly aim to reach those who sit outside those programmes but we don't have a hidden agenda for trying to get them to go to a church somewhere. Instead the idea is that we allow and encourage faith to grow among them, seeing a community of faith develop in their context and for it to be expressed in whatever way that is. Some of the communities have developed a side to them that looks quite like a church type thing; others are way back on the journey and don't look anything like a church-type thing.

But we believe there is a journey in this and there's an exploration so we're working with all of them in that. They are all led by lay people who are self trained and self motivated but, because there are a growing number of people who want to do these things, we feel we have to support them more because most of them have probably come from church backgrounds where there was support and fellowship and belonging.

We have something called The Gathering which is a fortnightly opportunity for anyone associated or interested in any wells' activities to get together for worship, teaching and sharing. That takes place in St Colman's Church Hall, Dunmurry. We also have regular worship evenings in the home of wells' members.

Boring Wells - WOWA well called WOW is based in a school for teenagers with severe and profound learning difficulties; it is probably the best thing we do. It started when the parents of some of these young people told us that it was too difficult to take them into a traditional church environment. The name of the well comes from the question, 'What does Jesus say when he sees you walking in the door?' The answer is, 'WOW!'

The most recent well that we've been working on has developed in an interesting way. In the middle of 2011, another church closed in Belfast - St Christopher's, Mersey Street – with three parishes being amalgamated into one and two sets of church buildings closed down. I contacted the rector of the new 'conglomerate' and asked him, 'How are you going to cope with all of this? It creates an enormous inner city parish'. He said, 'We don't have the resources to do hardly anything'.

It was then I asked if he would let us bring a team of people to one of the disused sets of buildings. In early 2012 he gave us the go-ahead and we moved a crowd of people from another area of the city to meet there. St Christopher's is in the streets of terraced houses that were homes to the workers for the Titanic; the yellow cranes of the now defunct shipyard are landmarks in the area. The people who moved to St Christopher's fresh expression had started with us in a pub and then went from there to a school building - but we discovered that the well didn't work because we started doing services on a Sunday morning and all we gathered was disillusioned Christians from other places and that wasn't the aim. The aim, as always, was to reach people outside, beyond the edges of the church.

Boring Wells - larderThen, in late 2011, one of our guys said, 'Remember how we circled the wagons when we settled ourselves here to do church? It's time to put the wheels back on the wagon...' So put the wheels back on and moved the whole congregation down to inner east Belfast into an empty church building.

Our Bishop told us that the one thing we were not allowed to do was Sunday morning services. We thought, 'Well, that's OK because we now know that having Sunday morning services is exactly what we shouldn't be doing to start something!' Instead we have started a Messy Church, set up our own version of a foodbank called The Larder, organised craft/sewing mornings and provided second hand clothing - and been involved in a lot of community action in one way or another. We are loosely calling it 'The Larder, The Stitch and The Wardrobe' because CS Lewis grew up in this part of Belfast.

Now people have begun to gather, to become a new community of faith, and it's been really exciting to see something begin to flourish again in a place where it felt like the tide had gone out but actually the tide is coming in.

This story is an update to:


I'm very interested in knowing more abut this and will be in Belfast with a group of pilgrims led by the Bishop of Montreal next week.

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