Presence - update May11

Monday, 23 May, 2011

Presence, based in Leicester, has been operating as Bishop's Mission Order since December 2009. How is it getting on? David Cundill, Presence leader and City Centre Pioneer Minister, outlines the story so far.

Presence - bannerPresence continues to be a CofE church doing things differently. It is primarily a church for people who don't go to church and focuses on friendship, community and finding God in the ordinary.

In our work with students we are working in partnership with De Montfort University Chaplaincy to create fresh approaches to encountering and following Jesus around the city campus.

We've just started a monthly Cafe Church event - a relaxed way for people who do or don’t go to church to meet up, share life and explore spiritual things at their own pace. We offer 'cake, coffee, great company and spiritual stuff' and our next café church will be on 19 June at St Andrew's Hall.

We're also trying a fresh approach to worship in public spaces through a calendar of festivals and celebrations. These take place about once a month and have a definite alternative flavour. Our grass roots worship is designed around the people we meet and we are currently exploring more regular events in homes and flats, coffee shops and in a blues club. We're also making friends through meeting local people's needs, providing special events, short term lifeskills courses and support groups, social action projects and getting involved in longer-term social action through our links with people like Christians Against Poverty.

Presence - lantern and sign

What we call our Life Groups are the building blocks of our church. These are authentic mission shaped communities meeting midweek in people's homes. for friendship, food, worship, talks and discussions, prayer and ministry.

Site Meetings are meetings for the planting team in the area to dream, explore and pray, develop vision and action and to keep mission at the heart of our lives. We usually use these to plan cafe church events.

We're involved in a lot of activities including Presence in the Pub, meeting in a local pub for Tuesday quiz nights; film nights at the Showcase Cinema in Highcross – usually on the second Saturday of the month. Often we get something to eat, then watch a film and talk about it afterwards over a drink.

We also organise men's events such as activity weekends in the Peak District with walks, pub lunch and games into the night, or helping to kit out a community centre using our DIY skills. Sometimes we get involved in local environmental or compassionate issues such as helping people with debt and money management.

Presence - labyrinthA major development for us has been our involvement in festivals as well as staging one of our own. This year we have an 'extra' Presence Festival from 29th to 30th May at Launde Abbey, Leicestershire, which is an overnight taster of the full festival in June. On Bank Holiday Monday more than 3,000 people are due at Launde for a farmers' market, entertainment, car boot sale, fresh food and beer tent, free access to the retreat house grounds and so on. Presence will be providing fun and spiritual installations for everyone.

The full festival, from 10th to 12th June is also at Launde Abbey with shared feasts, live music, sports, crafts and workshops. We aim to have a family feel and for all to feel part of a unique community that gathers for a weekend.

We have organised it to add a spiritual stream of optional activities and experiences alongside all the usual festival fun. Workshops and activities range from foot massage to dancing, story circles to crafts, music, family fun, games and sports for people of all ages, meditation, discussions, spiritual installations, a labyrinth, shared worship experiences and space for silence, contemplation and personal spiritual exploration and much more.

Presence - lanternsIn the weekend before the main festival Presence will also be hosting a shared community ritual as part of Leicester's Riverside Festival on 4th June. We will be making a memory garden for people to enjoy and contribute to and we're hoping that people will add their recollections to a Memory Tree on the day. We'll also have our chillout gazebo and pub quizzes.

Last year we hosted a floating lantern ceremony when there were 1,000 lanterns on the canal as the festival finale. Hundreds of people took part during the day making free lanterns for themselves or writing a message for a friend or loved one. Others made statements about climate change. The ceremony was a moving and deeply spiritual moment for those who enjoyed the spectacle and allowed the spiritual to be at the heart of the festival.

In August at Castle Park Festival, Leicester, we will provide a labyrinth and barbecue on 24th August. We typically set up two labyrinths; one on the grass outside and one inside the church for people to walk at some point in the evening.

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