Sanctus1 and Nexus Art Café - update Jun13

Monday, 24 June, 2013

Al Lowe gives the latest news on what's happening with Sanctus1 and Nexus in the heart of city centre Manchester.

There have been quite a few changes in recent times. Nexus Art Café is an independent charity so we experienced quite a shift in emphasis when the charity manager, as the person who also ran the café, decided not to return from maternity leave. We then recruited a new person but altered the focus of the role so that it now concentrates on Nexus as an arts venue and the official job title is that of art and venue coordinator.

That change has allowed us to refocus on where we are in terms of Christian spirituality: it has released us from any inhibitions in assessing the stage we have reached in our journey and what we are doing as part of that journey. It has given us a good nudge in the right direction.

Nexus Art CaféAnother outcome has been for Sanctus1 to think of Nexus as a 'legitimate' place to be linked with. The café is now more financially viable than it has been previously, so again, Sanctus1 feel happier merging with something of worth - rather than thinking they have taken on a liability.

This is all part of Sanctus1 making the gradual move towards being missional. We have seen some of the fruit of that when Sanctus1 recently contributed to an art exhibition at Nexus.

As well as our weekly service on Sundays and Wednesdays, Sanctus1 is also involved in:

  • Spirituality Film Nights
    These are run every month by Nexus Art Café (supported by Sanctus1) on their big screen in response to a survey about spirituality.
  • Halfway
    This is a joint venture between Nexus Art Cafe and Sanctus 1 and takes the form of a short weekly mediation, lasting about half an hour and designed to bring some spiritual relief and relaxation in the middle of the busy week.
  • Going Deeper
    A small group offers deeper discussion about what is happening in our lives and try to find God in what is happening. It meets twice a month at Nexus.
  • Sub
    Sanctus1 provides spiritual covering for a small group of Christians exploring their faith through the lens of alternative sub-cultures. Meeting every few months they spend time with a subject, often in a location that compliments the subject matter. Sub has also run services at Greenbelt over the last few years and will be doing so again this year.

Nexus events boardSanctus1 had struggled a little bit with a mission identity but things are moving on and we have now employed a children's worker for four hours a week to be with the children on a Sunday morning during the Sanctus1 gathering. That's great but when you start employing people you have to be aware that it is something which can challenge your constitutional status. That was certainly the case for us and, as a result, we needed to address the constitutional relationship with Nexus. Both constitutions highlight the promotion of the Christian religion so what we do has to be seen as mutually beneficial.

We are in the throes of getting to grips with the terms of the new constitutions; that's complex because we have a number of interested parties in that, including the Nexus trustees, the Manchester Methodist Circuit, the Diocese of Manchester, Sanctus1 and of course the people involved with Nexus.

Identity has turned out to be a major issue at Nexus as well during this time. The way it had been set up meant that there was some confusion about what it was, along the lines of 'it can be whatever you want it to be' but if you don't have a clear agenda, people will create their own agenda. But you can't be all things to all people so a lot of what we've been going through recently is reclaiming that sense of Nexus identity.

Nexus - donations boxPreviously we were giving out quite mixed messages and there was a sense that we were hoodwinking people who wanted to volunteer as to what we are all about. It became increasingly important for us to make clear that we are not just an arts café and we're not simply a community centre.

It means saying that this is what we are about but doing it in such a way that it creates a lot of scope for creative lateral thinking. As long as what we do doesn't interfere with the 'promotion of the Christian religion' within our constitution, then why not do it?  We are just creating more opportunities to engage with a view to some people then wanting to open up faith discussions. I would say it's important to let people have free rein to develop these creative ideas and from that we can hone the sense of community and be stepping stones into commitment.

The results of all of this in terms of relationship between Sanctus1 and Nexus are:

  • less suspicion between the two organisations;
  • some joint ideas associated with prayer groups and events;
  • letting Sanctus1 have a little more ownership of the Nexus space.

Sanctus1 - chaplainsAnother major development is our involvement in the Methodist Church's Chaplaincy Everywhere course. We have taken the opportunity of engaging with Jonathan Green, Chaplaincy Development Project Officer on the Methodist Connexional team. We ran some teaching on the subject for interested community members and we now have six lay chaplains - and me - in Afflecks Palace, a Manchester landmark and an 'eclectic emporium of indie commerce'. This Manchester landmark includes tattoo parlours, a 'pagancraft' centre, and vintage clothing outlets.

There are another three or four people who want to get on board and we'll be running further training in July with the aim of expanding the chaplaincy work across the city's Northern Quarter. There's no doubt that chaplaincy is offering very special opportunities for engagement with the local community and the great thing is that if people want to take the next step and meet somewhere we can point them in the direction of Nexus and Sanctus1 as a place to be.

Nexus Art Café SignI have been here nearly four years and I would say it is only in the past twelve months that we have seen Sanctus1 and Nexus working so closely together. Finance is always an issue and the café doesn't pay my stipend but it is now generating an income. As an independent charity, this means we are in a better position to apply for external grants. We had agreed funding from the Diocese and the Circuit for five years – the Diocese has now agreed to a further two and the Circuit is looking to do the same, though that decision still has to be ratified. Personally I am going through reinvitation stationing this year so we'll have to see what happens in 2014.

This story is an update to:


Thanks so much. Whenever I want to know what's happening in Manchester.. Al Lowe is there to help out!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
We use spam protection. View privacy policy.