Eden

Monday, 1 June, 2009

When, in 2001, Deanery Youth Missioner Derek Spencer began researching youth work among the parishes in his Horsham area deanery, he found that nothing was on.

He invited young people connected with his 20 local, largely village churches to fortnightly meetings. One was held in a village hall, the other in a grammar school, both at different ends of the deanery to make the groups widely accessible.

With an emphasis on the social aspect of the Sunday evenings, the initial twelve members grew over a year to 35 Christians and non-Christians, who were keen to attend every week regardless of distance. As a result, the two groups amalgamated.

The best youth work is done in social events when the guards come down and they are relaxed,

Derek believes.

We built in a spiritual programme, but it was relaxed, not hard-line, a platform for their questions.

Further activities included a week's camping and a weekend away in a forest cottage, events still regarded as highlights.

'The best youth work is done in social events when the guards come down and they are relaxed'

Derek had also been visiting local schools, giving lessons and assemblies. The drama hall of the largest struck him as a potential venue for a service.

I spoke to the young people who were excited about using their school for God,

he says.

A meeting was held in Derek's own home - of those he had approached from among the adults of the deanery, including some parents - to pray and plan. A pilot service in 2003 led to Eden, a monthly, Sunday evening multimedia service, often employing zones (which people could dip in and out of), and with the freedom to grab coffee or coke at any time. While generally around 100, for special events such as a visit from Matt Redman, numbers can rise dramatically as young people and interested adults come from across the diocese.

In 2004, Derek was ordained in a unique training programme, a development in his personal journey, and this has enabled Eden to hold services of Holy Communion, often using material from the Iona Community. Derek's ordination to priest was held during an Eden service at the school.

Despite Eden's diocesan-wide appeal, Derek is concerned for the youth he began with, many of whom count Eden as their church and who were uninvolved with church previously.

'I don't want it to become just another church; I want to keep original and keep pushing the boundaries'

I want to make church for them,

he says. In 2005, Eden became a fortnightly service, alternating between a service and a 'talkzone' which takes the form of a public debate between local experts, followed by discussion groups and feedback. An extra service was held on Easter Day

to show that Eden is a church.

Derek foresees the ongoing youth groups amalgamating within Eden to become weekly cells and Eden itself happening weekly. In the meantime, it already has its own bank account and support from donations.

I don't want it to become just another church,

Derek says.

I want to keep original and keep pushing the boundaries.

What began with twelve local teenagers meeting in two different spots has grown into a fortnightly Eucharistic gathering held in a school, attended by around 100 young people and adults with a vision to grow into deeper fellowship.

Updates to, and learning points from, this story

Monday, 1 June, 2009

This story illustrates the principles of The OUT dimension of church in the Guide.