Kairos, Harrogate

Monday, 31 January, 2011

Kairos - previously St Mary's Low Harrogate - was launched when the Rt Revd John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, gave his blessing to the latest Bishop's Mission Order church. What does it mean to be a BMO? Pioneer Minister Mark Carey outlines the story so far.

We launched our radical form of network church in October 2010 so obviously everything is still very new. It's a fledgeling community but we are very excited about the opportunities opening up.

In saying that, we are very much in a transition stage with elements of inherited church in the midst of all the other stuff going on - it’s a classic mixed economy encapsulated into one setting!

Kairos Harrogate - picnicFormerly Priest in Charge at St Mary's, I have been here for three years with the first being taken up by testing and seeing. Two years further down the line and there have been some really encouraging things along the way, not least the development of Kairos, but now we need to try and embed a new vision and work out how it looks to be in a way that's centralised - yet decentralised. We're in new territory here so things take time - but that's fine.

Some things look familiar, such as our using a hall in Harrogate for Sunday worship once a fortnight and a weekly 9am Communion service but other things are very different. Kairos, while one church, is also a group of smaller network churches, small to mid-size groups of up to 30 people known, officially, as mid-sized/mission-shaped communities (MSCs). Each of these communities is treated as a church in its own right, meeting not in a church building but in all sorts of places like homes, cafes or pubs.

Kairos Church is about becoming a new kind of church which focuses on releasing communities of followers to live out the mission of Jesus. This is being worked out through people who are good news in our workplaces, families and friendships.

Kairos Harrogate - Meeting

In saying that we very much value our place in the Church of England as a fresh expression of church within the Anglican tradition. We are:

  • influenced by rule of life of the Order of Mission;
  • involved in the New Wine movement;
  • focused on prioritising partnership in mission with other churches.

But the history of St Mary's and how things have changed in this area can find echoes in CofE parishes up and down the country. This parish was originally established to serve an area of Harrogate from the centre near the Pump Rooms right up to Harlow Hill at the edge of the town. Two worship centres were built, St Mary's as the main parish church and All Saints – a chapel at the top of Harlow Hill for the surrounding area.

St Mary's was closed in January 2007 due to severe problems with the building. At almost the same time All Saints had to close its doors, again because of concerns about the building, and it was formally shut down in 2009. The church continued to pray and work towards effective discipleship and mission and St Mary's moved into Harrogate Grammar School for Sunday services until Summer 2008.

By then it had started a significant transition from parish church to a fresh expression of church serving the whole deanery of Harrogate. Fully part of the Deanery and the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds, St Mary's became Kairos Church because Kairos is a Greek word of great significance for Christians as it speaks of the appointed time in the purpose of God.

Kairos Harrogate - Winter Gardens

We continue to meet together twice a month in a hall that houses the Kairos Church office and various activities. It is also used by a number of local community organisations.

Our vision is to release communities of followers to live the mission of Jesus, encourage many communities of followers of Jesus released to do what they think Jesus would do - and is doing - see all ages engaged in the joy of being the church on the move people and learning together how to be disciples as they go.

We have got a great bunch of people here with some joining us because they fully support our vision while others have taken the journey from the old St Mary's into the new Kairos. There are those who just take it on board instinctively and others like being part of it but who are struggling to understand it or only understand elements of it. Most get the fact that if we don't function in a number of different ways we are unlikely to be able to engage with the large percentage of people who won't be attracted through the doors traditionally.

There is no hostility but there is a real mixture of uptake on the vision and very different interpretations within the mission shaped congregations themselves. People do have very, very, different understandings of what we're doing and why but I'd expect that at this stage!

Kairos Harrogate - Oasis

Some of our MSCs are developing well. Wanderers are led by an early retired couple with experience and real passion for the Gospel. They also have a deep understanding about what they are doing in that they are going out on the streets and are very purposeful. People coming to that tend to be from mid-30s to early 50s.

They have been developing this community long before Kairos became a BMO but the group is developing with regular attendance up to 18 and another 10 people who consider themselves to be in relationship with them.

We also have Eucharist in a pub by using a family room in Wetherspoons for Curry and Communion. Our MSCs do all sorts of things because they are in the sort of environment where they feel free to fail. Some of our MSC leaders, from a traditional church background, are happy to no longer be drawn into any of the 'performance' that can accompany what it means to be church.

One of my hopes for 2011 is that we will get our first multiplications of MSCs this year. I also pray for fruitfulness from all the sowing of relationships across this area. We are going to start a new MSC at the start of the year which will take us to six and I would like to see another couple of MSCs. Some of them are very small but they have a very real sense of purpose.

Kairos Harrogate - candlesEcumenical relations are very important to us and we welcomed quite a lot of church leaders from the area to our launch in October. Among the denominations there is a great deal of understanding and we get a lot of support as a deanery initiative.

One of the key concepts we have worked with since the earliest days of the transition to a fresh expression of church is that of being a tent community with a tent mentality. We have found ourselves without church buildings, enabling us to develop a mentality that is at heart simple and flexible. Only time will tell how that mentality will translate into the life and work of Kairos.

Updates to, and learning points from, this story

Thursday, 27 October, 2011

From traditional parish to mission-shaped communities: adversity or adventure? Mark Carey describes the transformation of Kairos Network Church in Harrogate.

Friday, 28 January, 2011

Kairos - previously St Mary's Low Harrogate - was launched when the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, gave his blessing to it being made a Bishop's Mission Order.