Eagles Wings

Monday, 1 June, 2009

Eagles Wings - groupEagles Wings is a church plant and community service ministry on a housing estate in Northamptonshire. It was founded by two neighbouring churches.

Two Northamptonshire Church of England churches were running a community ministry on a nearby council estate. A children's club and a family activity were each held monthly, while a team of 17 met every Tuesday evening to pray, worship and plan. Every member of the team lived outside the estate, but there was a growing desire to develop the monthly activities into church.

In 2005 the Diocese of Peterborough invited Richard Priestley and Mandy Priestley, of Church Army, to live on the estate. The Priestleys inherited a team, which they had to get to know.

Our first task was to live and to listen, to try to understand the team and to share a vision for how the church might look,

says Richard.

The vision was to create a community church, where a shared life might become evident.

Richard and Mandy along with the team spent the first year on the estate learning how to model Christian community. Richard and Mandy operated an open door policy to their home, encouraging the team members to eat with one another and setting the example by inviting members to eat with them regularly.

We opened ourselves up to them,

says Richard.

We tried to make the regular gatherings more social. We encouraged prayer for one another as a group, not just for the events and mission. We were modelling a fresh expression of church.

Eagles Wings: 'A place of refuge, a place providing spiritual food, help for practical problems and a listening ear'

The team began to share a vision for a church that would be

a place of refuge, a place providing spiritual food, help for practical problems and a listening ear.

One of the team's families moved house to live on the estate, while a few estate residents began to join in with the team's Tuesday night meetings.

Two types of members were forming in the now growing team: those living on the estate and those living outside, a development which caused Richard to experiment with dividing the team into two along these lines.

This caused some tension, but it helped us all to understand the needs of the estate,

Richard reflects.

We talked and listened through the problems and produced a different approach.

Two groups were formed but with mixed membership.

The process was helpful for community building and awareness of incarnational ministry, a focus of the mission itself,

Richard adds.

Some members left the team, partly as a result of this time of change, which proved a turning point in members' realisation of their commitment to Eagles Wings. While some wanted to continue, others realised that their time of involvement with the new community was over.

They left with a blessing,

Richard says.

We gave permission for the tired members to stop, and we ended one of the events as it was not working in the way it was intended.

Eagles wings - tableEagles Wings is now heavily involved on the estate. It runs youth work and children's activities and partners with other groups such as a Neighbourhood Learning project, which runs cookery courses for low income families, among other things.

Mandy and members of Eagles Wings run a breakfast club at the primary school, which makes contact with parents on the estate, and there is a partnership with a bicycle recycling project. A weekly Sunday tea reflects its vision for sharing and socialising with the local community. Held in a parish hall with around 55 participants, it has taken on 'an identity and a life'. Members have a chance to lead and contribute to the input.

A time of reflection is followed by tea. For a short period of time they tried once a month to have a reflection extending to half an hour of worship as 'a bridging event' for those who are drawing nearer to full participation in church life. This experiment did not work and was not continued. Other ways to bring people to worship are being sought. Small groups take place on alternate Tuesdays, with a central meeting for teaching and worship on the other Tuesdays.

Our vision is for a growing church, but our method is organic,

Richard says.

We want to be a community of faith that by its nature draws people to God, nurtures disciples and sends to mission.