Heyford Chapel - update Jul11

Friday, 29 June, 2012

Pioneer minister Ian Biscoe looks back on developments at Heyford Chapel since its launch in 2002 and looks forward to many new opportunities at the former US air base in Heyford Park - and further afield.

Since Heyford Chapel started eight years ago, it has become self-governing and a conventional district within a group of seven Anglican churches in the Cherwell Valley benefice. A lot of what we've been thinking of as a result is sustainability.

Initially we just had an informal leadership team within another parish. Then for a while we had a joint PCC with the parish church of St Mary's, Upper Heyford, and then – probably 18 months ago now – we were recognised as a conventional district. We have our own PCC, we contribute to the parish share for the whole benefice and we also contribute towards ministry expenses. We're basically looking at the self-governing, self-financing and self-propagating model.

At first we just put in small amounts to the parish share but we have increased it each year. The plan is that we continue to step it up so we are completely paying our own way.

As of April 2010, there are 76 adults on the electoral roll and about 80 children and young people involved in the 10-12 different groups associated with the Chapel's different congregations, all of them age specific. In all, we are getting about 200 or more people going through the different groups each week.

There are also a number of new groups which are very missional. The Eve Project, for vulnerable women, meets in a community centre. It has been running since September and the woman are now beginning to meet in smaller groups to look at the Christian faith. One of our churchwardens leads the Project, and we can see it developing into a fresh expression of church.

We have also got a youth minister now and he has started a pub church for young adults. That has got a very missional emphasis about building community and modelling a positive way of life. They meet in the local pub in the village every week, and they’re currently running it as a trial with a group of nine.

Our core church now has a Sunday gathering as well as a mid week contemporary service at 8pm on a Thursday. We didn't initially meet on a Sunday for quite a few years but a number of Zimbabweans have moved into this community and it seemed culturally appropriate to respond to their requests for a Sunday meeting. Alongside all of this there are also plans to build a lot of new housing here, redeveloping the site for a further 1000 new homes.

Formal structures are now in place to relate to the established church with two churchwardens, a PCC and so on. Each of our congregations has its own leadership team and helpers, and most also have representatives on the PCC. We have set up pastoral clusters, seven small groups which have a key person or couple of people as leaders and these act as the first point of contact for pastoral care. That small group system runs alongside the different congregations.

It's very exciting to see the way that God has called people to faith here and led mature Christians to come along and help with leadership. Looking to the future, I was initially trained as a Church Army evangelist before being ordained as a pioneer minister in 2007 so the emphasis moved from evangelism to developing church and now I'm considering what the third stage is going to be.

My wife Erika and I planted the church together. Now she is exploring ministry and looking at perhaps becoming a pioneer minister herself. I have got one year left on my current contract so, as it stands, I will be leaving in July 2011 but I'm currently discussing what might be next with the bishop and the deanery.

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