safespace - update Apr09

Wednesday, 1 April, 2009

Mark Berry, lay pioneer ministry in the Lichfield Diocese, tells the emerging story of safespace, a missional community in Telford.

Duration: 7:17   | Download Download mp3


Mark Berry: For me, part of being a pioneer is taking risks and pushing into new ground and asking questions and trying… you know, not simply accepting structures and models because they've been here for x number of years, but really challenging what models, what structures we need in a new place. And for me I guess ordination, all the different levels of ordination are part of that. There's ordination as a model itself, in this new world that we're entering, do we really need to be talking about the one-man ministry, do we really need to be actually having somebody ordained for life and given a job title and an identity and should we not be thinking much more flexibly about how we do leadership and how we do vision and how we do… you know, there's a seasonal aspect to leadership in communities so why are we giving one person a lifelong job title when actually lives change and communities change.

And then I think there's all sorts of other aspects about actually, I guess I call it attempting to put new wine in old wine skins. And we ought to be asking questions about the nature of ordination, the process of ordination, the selection of ordinands, the training of ordinands… you know, all of this stuff where it's all very well to start saying let's do new ways of being church, but we've got to do them using the old models of leadership. For me that's new wine in old wine skins, it's time to start questioning the wine skins as well as the wine.

Interviewer: Tell me a little bit about the job that you do here.

Mark Berry: There are some things that we do each week, you know obviously we meet together as a community, we do a sanctuary kind of chill out safe haven every Saturday night/Sunday morning, pretty much, but again even that we're supposed to… we plan on doing it every Saturday night but when they have events on at the other nightclubs and, like we've got Tim Westwood playing on the Friday night, so we have them on a Friday night. There's no sense of oh we can't do that because we open on a Saturday night, well no we've got to be reflective and resonant of what's going on and being that sense of presence. So there are things that are regular, but there is an ebb and a flow sometimes to the way that we minister in community, so sometimes there's not a lot… for example the football club, there are times of year when actually it's fairly relaxed and there's not a lot going on, and then something will explode or you're actually responding to a situation or need, or whatever it might be. So there's no sort of set pattern in that sense, you have to actually… I mean you walk people, you end up walking at their pace rather than dictating your own pace or your own rhythm.

Interviewer: Can you just describe, the community you say – you know, the community that meets on a Thursday night, just unpack that a little bit, how did that community come together? Is that what you would call your 'church' in inverted commas?

Mark Berry: I guess I'd call it something in inverted commas. It came about really just by people… I mean there was no real effort to grow it, and there is no effort to grow it. It's people who find themselves walking together for a while, it might be for a long time it might be for a short time and we have people who come for six months or a few months or whatever and that's fine, we don't possess people, they don't belong to us in a sense. The community just emerged really from people who shared a passion to explore those questions and a passion to see change and transformation and love and to be active in the wider community. So we're of all sorts… we're only a small bunch, there's about ten of us, and as I say there's a fluidity to it in terms of people coming and going a little bit. But I guess… and we're all from very different traditions, you know, we're charismatics with people who've never been to church in their life with Anglicans with Methodists, you know, there's not sort of… it's not a club based on a style of worship or any of that. Some people are involved in churches on Sunday, one guy's a pastor of a church, and as I say some people have never been to church in their life. So it's not… we don't define church as a single gathering or even a single community, we are a community of people who want to explore and deepen our experience of the kingdom both as a community and the way that we become agents of the kingdom and do what we can to bring the kingdom in terms of the community. So yeah, so people have just gradually gravitated – or congregated, not gravitated – as a way of sustaining that kind of living. They're all people who've wanted to do that and then found safespace as a community a place which sustains them in doing that, and challenges them and asks questions and comforts them and supports them in living that way, and that's the intention of the community.

Sanctuary is a project which emerged from safespace around the table one night when we were just… I'm not even sure what started the conversation, but this idea emerged from the table about a safe place, a safe haven that young people – nightclubbers particularly – could be, could drop on. And so we just dreamt this idea of having a venue that had good coffee, fresh smoothies, homemade flapjacks, brownies, the like etc. and was a safe place, chilled kind of chill-out zone. So nice, good music, chilled music, good environment that people could come in and they could sit and wait for a taxi, they could be safe, they could talk to somebody if they wanted to, whatever it would be.  But we just had this dream of doing this vision I guess. And we went to the Methodist Minister in one of our… Wellington, in Telford, which is where most of the nightclubs are. Because they have a new… it's about six years old this Methodist Church and it's right in the middle – in fact it's on the car park where all the nightclubs empty out. And we spoke to the Minister and said well what about this, and he said well I've been dreaming of doing this for two year, but I just don't have the people. But every time, he said, I come down I see it and I think wouldn't it be great. So he said you've approached me with my dream, so of course you can do it. And then we had the council email and say by the way we’ve got £1,500 for you and we didn't even know who they were, they just emailed us and said we've got this money for you from the home office, so we're working with the Methodist Church and with Telford and Wrekin Council – Safer Communities Partnership in the Council – to run this every, well mainly Saturday nights from midnight until about 4.30 in the morning.

Interviewer: Are you hoping to stay in Telford?

Mark Berry: Yeah, our personal sense is that we're here until God moves us on. I mean I have a contract but that's just the human kind of side of it. We're here until we feel that it's right to move on. At this moment in time we'd say that we're here for good, we don't have any plans to move on. I think this is a long term thing about committing to a community and becoming part of that community, it's not about a project where after it finishes we move on, we sense there's a much deeper thread to the relationship and being part of the community.

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