Deeper Network Church - Dec14

Monday, 8 December, 2014

Andy Poultney updates the story of Deeper Network Church, a church on the street amongst pubbers and clubbers in Romford.

Duration: 9:05   | Download Download video (flv) | Download Download video (wmv) | View on YouTube


Andy Poultney, Priest, Deeper Network Church: Deeper Network Church began when I started as curate. There was a bunch of adults, young adults, in the church that I was keen to get alongside and see what God was doing with them and what God could do with them. And so we began to meet and very soon we quickly felt that God was calling us to get involved with other young adults in central Romford – we were based in north Romford at the time – and so we explored lots of different ways we could do that and, after quite a journey and exploring lots of different things, we ended up really feeling God was calling us to serve the pubbers and clubbers who come into Romford over the weekend.

And so on Friday nights we set up a gazebo just near the pub and club area and we serve refreshments from 10 in the evening 'til 2am on a Saturday morning. Over the weekend there's around 10-12,000 young people and young adults that come in to enjoy the night time economy, so there's a huge number of people that have never engaged with church, never go to church most of them and they never experience church. And we are out serving with the Street Pastors on Friday nights and we have all sorts of different conversations; some people just take a drink and really appreciate that and just feel blessed by that and that has opened up a whole series of conversations. Some people are very keen to talk about all their issues of why they love church, why they hate church, their experiences of church good and bad, and other people have genuine faith encounters as we talk and discuss what they're feeling, sometimes we have an opportunity to pray for people as well.

On numerous occasions I've thought to myself, 'I'm engaging with more people and on a much deeper level than often I would with people in a church building'. And so we're right where the people are, we're doing that incarnational missional thing, trying to serve them where they are. And there's a sense we're being the church rather than coming to church on a Friday night so we're acting as the church, we are serving, trying to bring the Kingdom and trying to engage people in conversation about faith and life and all sorts of conversations that they might not normally have. And we're trying to do that in order to be church rather than just do church or come to church.

Male interviewee 1: I think the people that do Deeper Lounge; it's really good that they interact with the community and try to help them out on nights like this because on Friday nights it's always different kinds of people, always drinking or there are some homeless people really hungry so it's nice that they help in the community with free drinks like coffee, hot chocolate.

Male interviewee 2: I came across Deeper Lounge when I was just out in Romford with my friends. We were just casually walking along and then it was really nice to have folk walk straight up to us in person, not being rude or anything. I feel fine about them coming out saying they're Christian; in fact it's nice to know they're into a religion.

Andy Poultney: The first conversation we might have with someone we will imagine they are a disciple in the making so even though they may never have had any profession of faith or belong to a Christian community; we treat them as a kind of pre-disciple. So the Friday night's the very beginning point; on a Thursday evening, we'll be looking to draw people into community and really walk with people from where they're at and that means quite a lot of one to one contact rather than just group stuff and trying to do as much as we can, which is about sharing our life together and trying to work out what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in the everyday of life rather than just doing church on a Sunday.

So, yes there's a sense of forming community but there's also a sense of walking with people as we travel together as a community together that's known as the Deeper Lounge.

Having been serving in central Romford on Friday nights for some time under a gazebo, we really felt God was calling us to be a permanent presence in central Romford and so, at the start of this year, we took on – great faith – the rent of a shop that is also now known as the Deeper Lounge. So we meet for worship on Sunday mornings, we use it on a Thursday evening to engage with the Deeper Lounge community, we use it as a youth space on a Wednesday evening. And we just will open it up, the Deeper Lounge, as well, as a community café during the week as well. There is also a prayer space and we're very keen that people use that with lots of different things going on in there and the idea is that people who might never darken the doors of a normal church building will be able to have time of reflection, a time of prayer, in that safe and interactive prayer space.

Female interviewee 1: I had a bit of a bad time in the past but I heard Alan's testimony on how he found Christ and I could relate to it in a lot of ways, and I decided to go to Deeper the following weekend and I've been going there ever since.

Female interviewee 2: I came across the people from Deeper through one of the youth workers, Alan, who comes to the park and helps out our group and he has the shop as well – the Deeper Lounge – and we go there quite regularly to help him out and stuff like that. I think finding things like the Deeper Lounge in the town centre is quite unusual; I haven't really seen anything like this before which I think's quite good.

Andy Poultney: We have a core community of Christians that are known as Deeper, that was the original group of people that were at St James and St John's and we were sent out from there in order to establish a new worshipping community in central Romford. There's actually quite a high bar in terms of discipleship and commitment from Christians and so it's not as if we're flooded with people wanting to be here because this is a real missionary endeavour. As far as Deeper Network Church is concerned, we wouldn't be able to do what we have done, and are doing, without the help and support of Chelmsford diocese and lots of time, money, energy that has been invested in us – and that includes being granted a Bishop's Mission Order to be able to operate, not just in the parish of central Romford but actually the whole of Havering.

Long term we hope that my role, or half of my role, will be able to be funded as part of a stipend within the diocese so we're not reliant on grants in the long-term. The way we're trying to work is that Deeper Lounge and all that goes on there is one aspect of what we're about, we're hoping that as we grow, as we get to know other people, as we get to know some of the needs, that we'll have other projects that are similar to the Deeper Lounge that will be able to replicate, will be able to do the community thing, do the serving thing. That might be for young people – we're starting that already; it might be for homeless people; it might be for the unemployed. There's a whole number of different needs and the idea would be that we would try and reproduce in what we're calling missional communities the Deeper Lounge so there would be a whole number of different missional projects that would be under the umbrella of Deeper Network Church.

When I first began to explore God's calling on my life towards ordained ministry and priesthood, one of my big concerns was I didn't want to end up being the 'Vicar of Dibley' out in the sticks somewhere in a parish where it didn't feel like there was cutting edge ministry going on. I think I've since realised that actually there's a lot of cutting edge ministry that does go on in 'Vicar of Dibley' type parishes but, for me, I wanted to be doing something where we were being obedient to God's call and we were going to where people are, where they are not into church, they are not coming regularly to be part of a Christian community. I wanted to go and try to serve and lead a group of people who would serve and be incarnational in a particular place, amongst people that may never darken the doors of a church. But the exciting thing about it is following God's calling, it's following God's leading.

Naturally I'm not a pioneering, extrovert kind of person but there's a sense in which we are trying to be obedient to God's call and follow where he leads us. And at the moment this is where he's led us, to be in this place, to be establishing a beacon of light in a place where there is not a lot of light that goes on in order to be a transforming presence in the community.

This story is an update to:


Loved reading this; though I kind of knew what you did this explains the rationale. It's a great thing and I'm sure you're a blessing to the people you meet as you are to those who know you already. Xxxx

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