Sanctus1 - update Apr10

Wednesday, 21 April, 2010

Manchester-based Sanctus1 has inspired many since appearing on expressions: the dvd – 1: stories of church for a changing culture. Based at Nexus art café, it reaches out to those living and working in the city centre. Over the past few months, key leaders have moved on and it is proving to be a time of transition for everyone. The new leader of both communities, Methodist minister Al Lowe, explains why.

I joined in September last year when the Anglicans and Methodists here decided it was a good time for a joint ecumenical appointment. As a result I became the leader of both Sanctus1 and the Nexus art café communities. I was very much aware of the heritage of both as Cris Acher had overseen Nexus as a space for encounter since it was opened in 2005 by the Methodist Church in partnership with Sanctus1.

But Cris moved on this year and so did Sanctus 1's Ben Edson. Many fresh expression churches are focused on one particular leader and their gifts but what happens when that leader is no longer there? How do we cope? Transition, how we manage it, and sustainability will play a very important part in my work in these early stages.

I have to look at the benefits of Sanctus1 and Nexus working more closely together because for me it's all about discipleship, growth of discipleship and depth of discipleship. Nexus is a place where you can come and explore without coming across Jesus too much. Historically, after a while, a few people started stepping across into Sanctus1 as somewhere which looks to continually refresh its ways of doing worship but somewhere along the way, Sanctus1 has become a bit of an introspective community. We need to be more outward looking there, have an increased sense of mission, and more of a focused idea on who we are and what we are doing.

Concentrating on discipleship rather than on building church is key. The idea of 'church' carries so much baggage these days, and - as far as I'm concerned - when two or three are gathered together then Christ is there. If you grow discipleship you are more likely to grow church rather than saying we have to have five hymns and Communion and it has to be done this way. The challenge for us is to put a structure together so that we are less introspective.

Sanctus1 - masksWe still seem to have a core of eight to 10 people at Sanctus1 and there is a lot of come and go but that is the nature of the generation we serve. As part of the changing pattern since the community first got off the ground, we now offer Sanctus on Sundays because the young professionals who first came to us now have children of their own. They were telling us, 'Wednesday night used to work for us as a meeting time but it doesn't any more.' So we decided to launch on a Sunday morning and meet at Nexus for a 10.45am start followed by lunch at 12. What goes around comes around! Basically what we do is a repeat of the Wednesday material but we also have a crate of toys and a little bit of interaction with the kids. The ongoing challenge will be to offer something for those children as they move on from the baby and toddler stage.

People say, 'It's nice to see something on a Sunday morning'. It’s not quite a radical idea is it?! Just goes to show that not everything we do in established Church is wrong, it's often just not pliable enough to move forward and meet the needs of people where they're at.

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