Immanuel Church - update Mar11

Monday, 7 March, 2011

Steve and Sarah Flashman discuss Immanuel Church, Chichester.

Duration: 5:48   | Download Download mp3


Introducer: Graylingwell Chapel, in the centre of an 85acre former hospital site in Sussex, had been derelict for years when Steve and Sarah Flashman first saw it. Now, as home to Immanuel Church, it's on course to be the spiritual heart of a landmark eco-friendly housing development. Ministers Steve and Sarah talked to Karen Carter and Steve explained how it all began.]

Steve Flashman: It started about three and a half years ago and I was able to come into this chapel when it was derelict, and I walked in here with one of the project managers of the building site here, and as I walked into the chapel it was all dark and grey and cobwebby, I really felt God saying to me I'm lonely, where are you. And I thought that's it, this is going to be the vision, we'll move into this chapel. And just over three years later we moved in. It was remarkable because the vision was given to us by the architects and the developers. We had a big community function where they were asking the community what their visions and dreams would be for a new housing development, so it in no way connected to Christianity or to faith, and we were all there at this big weekend meeting and as we were asked to write down on pieces of paper what our vision was, some of us wrote down Graylingwell Chapel, the spiritual heart of a community. And the architects picked this phrase up and at the big public function when they were showing their PowerPoint presentation, that's the first thing they said: Immanuel Church will be the spiritual heart – so that became our vision.

Interviewer: You're already attracting quite a few people in and you've had community events before which I guess has helped to feed into that. Can you tell me a little bit about those?

Steve Flashman: Well we're very much community focussed and so we use the chapel as a centre for the community. Every year we have street parties, we've had over 200 people come in each time, so in the summer we run a big street party – we have barbecues and mulled wine and a rock 'n' roll band and games for the children – and a winter street party as well with Father Christmas, and again a rock 'n' roll band and so on. And that's been happening over three years, so we've been developing street parties to connect with the community right where they are. Also street clean-ups, cleaning people's gardens out, decorating, that kind of thing. And now we've got a double decker bus sat outside the chapel here which is again focussed on a mobile community project. So with all these different things happening we feel that we've been building relationships which is key to building any kind of work with the chapel. So the relationships have been built, people are now enquiring about why we do this and people are coming into the chapel – new people every week having a look through the doors and becoming part of this community impact, which is really good.

Interviewer: Building relationship – continuing to develop relationship – that's also with the developers and the people who are, even now, building all these homes around you.

Steve Flashman: That's right, yeah. We've been very fortunate, we have worked hard at making connections with people and a lot of people have found it strange that, I'm a vicar you know, I've got an earring and a bald, shaved head and I don't talk sort of language that a vicar would talk. So it's been quite interesting – people have got lots of stereotypes about what they think church is and we haven't gone out of our way to smash those stereotypes but we're just who we are and people are coming in and finding something very refreshing, very creative – a focus on creativity and the arts, contemporary dance and music – and people are beginning to see that church is not the way they thought it was, their stereotypical view. It's not like that at all actually. And it's been quite refreshing to see people's reaction as they've come into the chapel.

Sarah Flashman: I'm Sarah Flashman and I'm one of the ministers at Immanuel Church. We are actually a Bishop's Mission Order which is part of the fresh expressions, but I guess there are churches like ours that have been trying to find a way of being recognised and becoming part of the established church. We've been doing our own missional thing and the Bishop's Mission Order has enabled us to become formally recognised as part of the Church of England.

Interviewer: And just finally from you Sarah, tell me about your own hopes and dreams and prayers for this area.

Sarah Flashman: Well, for this area there is a tremendous opportunity in a site like this, that is going to very much be mixed housing, 40% social housing, we've got houses going up to sort of five-bedroom houses so it's very much a mixed bag in terms of need, and my heart for this community is to really see this building becoming something of hope for the people that are moving in. It's interesting actually that fresh expressions on the whole are sort of looking to move us out of church buildings, to develop worshipping communities outside buildings, and in fact in our case we're actually making the building the focal point. And for us, for this time in Chichester, this seems to be really right – and people are actually responding by coming and discovering this derelict chapel, what had been boarded up for twelve years, suddenly becoming full of life.

Introducer: Sarah Flashman. And you can find out more about Immanuel Church, Chichester, in the stories section of our website.

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