Monday, 27 September, 2010

Sanctum - Mark BroomheadPioneer Minister and heavy metal aficionado Mark Broomhead used to lead a fresh expression of church called Sanctum at the St Barnabas Centre in Danesmoor. He was recently licensed by the Bishop of Derby, Rt Rev Dr Alastair Redfern, to develop an accessible form of church for Alternative sub cultures in the Chesterfield area. What will he be doing?

Sanctum started in 2006 and, as it is now, is the result of the coming together of two congregations. The idea first came about when I was a member of Christian metal band FireFly and we decided to launch Embryo - a multi-denominational alternative worship event hosted by different churches every two months.

It became clear that this event was the only contact with church that some people were having but it lacked the necessary continuity, teaching, community and pastoral care to nurture that contact. In response to this Sanctum was born, a weekly alternative service based at St Bartholomew's Church, Clay Cross. Meanwhile a small congregation at St Barnabas had faithfully been working towards the vision of replacing the old church and hall with a new multi-purpose building for the whole community. The decision to pool the resources of both congregations led to what became Sanctum.

It is a district church of the North Wingfield Team Parish in Derby Diocese and they continue to meet on Sunday evenings at 5pm in the St Barnabas Centre.

The idea for the new community - called 'the order of the black sheep' - is to go back to the original vision of Sanctum in being something more appropriate for the unchurched. We now plan to take out a very small team and from that plant something new; literally taking a seed for Jesus into the community and see what happens. I'm sure that something of Sanctum's worship style will be replicated in the new community; it is heavily influenced by rock culture and previous activities included putting on gigs, starting a small record label and recording a rocked up Christmas carol album.

Sanctum - stageOne of the connections we have got is the Bloodstock Open Air Metal Festival in Derby where I have led the chaplaincy team for several years. Billed as the UK’s No1 heavy metal event, the festival this year hosted about 80 bands across three stages.

Basically we look after anyone who is not in need of hospitalisation or under threat of arrest. Some people lose their tents for one reason or another, for instance. We’re just there 24 hours a day for whenever people a helping hand or a chat or a safe space to recover from a little over indulgence. Lots of people come back to visit us year on year. There are definitely people from the Chesterfield area who go to the festival so being part of Bloodstock gives us respect; they know who we are. That’s a great start.

Sanctum - big topI often wear my dog collar while wandering around the site. The collar offers instant identification and people seem to be fine with it. I have not been burned at the stake yet so it must be OK. Bloodstock does tend to focus on the darker side of metal, and there are some openly satanic bands though there is a huge range of music. It is fantastic to be involved.

I have played bass for the past 21 years in Christian Metal/Rock bands like Exoria, FireFly, Detritus and Seventh Angel so it’s a very familiar world to me. Bloodstock organisers want to run a battle of the bands-type event with a prize called Metal for the Masses. We have talked about setting up a venue as a central meeting place and finding a pub, bar or nightclub for that event. As a result we can try to build a community rather than a service.

My link with Bloodstock has been very good; they are even offering to fund some of our Christian work through the year as a thank you for the work we do on the welfare provision.

In some respects heavy metal music was a kind of retaliation against Christianity, more culturally than anything else, because the Church was seen as a nice middle-class society. The more uncomfortable people feel about Church, the more it is seen as a target and the more extreme the opposing views become – strangely this makes it very easy for me to talk about Christianity.

Sanctum -  tentsI see myself as very much part of that heavy metal community because it's a community I have grown up with since I was 14. It's like the village I grew up in if you like - something you just jump into and get involved in as much as possible.

A friend invited me to see Saxon, my first gig, at the age of 12. I had a really strong sense of gathered community, of not feeling like the odd one out. I recognised the acceptance, the brotherhood of it all and knew I wanted to be part of it.

I really pray that in this next developmental year for the new community that many others will feel that sense of acceptance and brotherhood through being part of a very different form of church.

I've been working with a community that is centred on music, skateboarding etc. People dress in black and hang around on street corners looking frightening. These people I call my friends. I am promoting a form of church that is natural and welcoming to people who wouldn't be able to walk into a normal church building or service and 'get it' straight away.

Updates to, and learning points from, this story

Monday, 1 November, 2010 On Demand clip

Mark Broomhead talks heavy metal and black sheep as he tells us about Sanctum, an alternative worship service in Chesterfield and the community he hopes to start.