Fresh expressions make strategic sense: Legacy XS

Monday, 13 December, 2010

This story illustrates the principles of Fresh expressions make strategic sense in the Guide.

Legacy XS - rampChurch of England Legacy XS youth centre in Benfleet, Essex, grew out of a small youth group meeting in a vicarage in 2001.

These youngsters were initially friends of the vicar's kids, though they also included a few from church families,

says leader of Legacy, Pete Hillman.

Through friendships numbers grew and

chatting about Jesus developed,

says Pete. A trip to Soul Survivor saw twelve members become Christians and a youth congregation, Legacy, was started, led by around half a dozen 'leaders' who saw themselves as members of the community first and leaders second.

The group moved from the vicarage to Pete's house and again to a church hall, a 1940s army hut.

It was growing in spiritual depth and identity and we were recognising there was a limit to our impact,

recalls Pete.

So we developed a vision for a drop-in centre in Benfleet.

When, on that year's trip to Soul Survivor, there happened to be a skate park, 'the two ideas came together'.

We were very aware of the local need for such a facility which local youngsters had been calling out for for years. So after discussions with the young people in the community we decided to press ahead with plans.

'I don't skateboard, but the young people, both Christians and non-Christians, say that they notice a difference when prayer is involved'

The hunt was on for a warehouse that could hold both services and a skateboarding arena. After several months with no success, Pete went to the local authority which granted a piece of council land for a peppercorn rent.

Since this land was in the neighbouring parish to Legacy's founding church, permission was also sought from the congregation there, and given.

Now the Legacy XS youth centre hosts both the Legacy Sunday congregation and a drop-in centre for all young people in the area for both schools work and fun. A café, a computer gaming room, a pool table and other activities make the centre attractive. Sunday worship attracts a congregation of up 80 young people, some of them as a result of attending Legacy XS in the week.

And skateboarding sometimes forms part of the worship.

Pete explains:

People ride during songs, or to drumming, or they use the ramps for prayer. One example would be where one group stood at the side of the ramps holding a piece of paper with a name on it, praying silently for that person, while others held names as they rode or skated the ramps. It's using something normally done for fun as a prayer.

Pete's favourite explanation for the thinking behind this manner of worship is in the words of 1920s Olympic runner, Eric Liddell, in the film Chariots of Fire.

He said, 'When I run I feel God's pleasure',

Pete says.

It's not a gimmick, it's landing tricks for God, the one from whom all blessings flow.

I don't skateboard, but the young people, both Christians and non-Christians, say that they notice a difference when prayer is involved.

Another important difference about Legacy XS is the number of males it attracts, something Pete and his team are keen to encourage rather than balance out.

We do lots geared up for the young men,

he says.

We took some to Snowdon where we carried stones covered in names up the mountain and built a cairn near the top. Luke Cooper (19) said afterwards that he was not good at praying because he was not good with words, but he had realised that he didn't need to be because carrying the stone for three hours had been the prayer.

A highly innovative youth church was partly born at a Christian festival.

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