Goth Church, Coventry - update Feb11

Monday, 7 February, 2011

Goth Church in Coventry began when Diocesan Youth Officer Greg Bartlem and Cathedral Youth Minister Keith Parr started to walk around the city and discovered a group of Gothic young people who met together in one particular area. Greg explains what happened next.

I began to go and join the young people regularly to chat and get to know them better. After a time I invited them to church and other youth activities going on in the area but soon discovered this approach didn't really work because they had no concept of 'church' as such.

Goth church - Coventry cathedralWe then decided to run a Youth Alpha course (with pizza!) for them at Bardsley House (Cathedral Youth Centre). This was well attended for the first few weeks but it was soon clear that although the newcomers were enjoying the food, they weren't connecting with the course. We were answering questions that they weren't asking and they weren't listening to what the talks were about.

We could see that the young people were responding to the love and respect being shown them and that they wanted to be there. However we also recognised a need to develop something different that fitted the culture of the young people and didn't try to 'shoehorn' them into a familiar shape of church.

So for a while we just offered space and a listening ear, realising that many of the young people were facing difficult situations at home which we began to help them with when we could. It was then that Jill Tucker, an ordinand from a more catholic tradition came to join us, and she noticed that the young people liked writing poetry and having candles and incense around them. She suggested we try the short service of Compline at the end of our meeting times.

This simple form of worship turned out to be far more culturally accessible to these young people and they responded well to it. This time developed into a great space for a new community where they could share and pray for one another. Slowly, after five years of working with this same group, the young people themselves are now the leaders of this Community time and the work has begun to take the shape of a cell church with the cells led by young people who have been discipled there.

Goth church - snow

The young people that began in the group are now young adults and so the church has developed into a mix of youth cells and young adult cells.

In 2008 we realised that as the age of the original group rose there was a lack of new young people coming to Bardsley House. So together I and the Cathedral Youth Worker decided to go back out into the city to find out where 'a new generation' of young people were gathering.

We asked local police and the City Centre Management Company for their help and they told us that there was an area close to our youth centre where a group were meeting regularly – sometimes in a very anti-social way which had caused problems.

We went to meet them on their own patch, offering cans of Coke and taking away their prayer requests each week. Slowly the conversation developed and we started to discuss issues of God and faith. We did this for 10 months. In the summer of 2009 we hosted a large barbecue; 60 young people came and they enjoyed it so much they asked us to host a party for one of their group.

The party went ahead and we issued an invitation to the youth centre. Twelve months later there were 500 young people on the books, most of whom now attend regularly. Goths no longer make up the majority of the crowd – instead there's an eclectic mix. The centre is open five nights a week and we always end the session with conversation and prayer; about half of the group stays on for that. The diocese is now actively exploring how to recognise this as a fresh expression of church with me having trained to become a Pioneer Minister.

(Images courtesy of CV One)

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