Scarborough Deanery - a deanery strategy - Oct14

Tuesday, 28 October, 2014

Sam Foster outlines a strategy for fresh expressions of church in the Scarborough Deanery of the Church of England.

Duration: 10:10   | Download Download video (flv) | Download Download video (wmv) | View on YouTube


Sam Foster: I'm fresh expressions deanery missioner and adviser for Scarborough deanery and I started this job six years ago when I was asked to apply for the post to work across Scarborough deanery of 26 churches and to work with those churches in order to take the gospel out onto the streets and the beach; places where the church didn't already have a presence.

The post came about because Scarborough deanery decided that, when a vacancy came up and a vicar retired, they would do something more creative and take a step of faith in creating a post where somebody could come and do fresh expressions across the deanery; be working with churches and people and just reaching out to people that don't know anything about church - let alone the Christian faith.

When I first came to Scarborough deanery to do this job, I was given a blank canvas and that was quite exciting but also daunting as I had the question, 'Well, where do I start really, and who can I work with?' So, immediately, as I was travelling around getting to know people, visiting different churches in different parts of the deanery, I deliberately scouted for people with enthusiasm and vision who had a heart for mission and - rather than take them, or poach them, out of their churches to join a team - their role was to be an advocate for fresh expressions in their local church because we have 26 churches in Scarborough deanery and a lot of expectations were put on me to reach all of those churches which is just impossible. So, by having a team, it meant that we could work well together and serve local people who had nothing to do with church but, at the same time, get alongside local churches to be part of this work together.

The very first thing that we did as a team was to sit down and pray together; to support one another and to think about what God's vision would look like in this place so really our role was to start by dreaming dreams together and to see how that could happen, how that could come into fruition. And we wanted to really just get out there and try something so we decided to go where the local church didn't have a presence and that was in the local Travelodge. So, it was the beginning of the year, January, and we decided to do an Alpha course. We advertised by putting a banner on the railings which just said, 'As you think about your new year resolution, how about thinking about the meaning of life?', something along those lines to get people thinking.

Half way through the Alpha course, you could see that people were beginning to think, 'Well, what next?' And some people within that course really wanted to take steps of faith but church was just a massive bridge to cross so we decided that for those who wanted to, we would have a weekly hub group which is a nurturing and discipleship group, which is still going today but with different people, and we have several of those groups of small missional communities. And I say small missional communities because it's not just a group where they come together - these groups of people who are new to faith or who've had faith and stayed away from church and come back again; we do things on the streets and beach to engage creatively with the local community so the people who attend hub groups get involved in the mission down on the beach or the streets – whatever it is that we're doing. From starting this job and having a deanery brief, it became apparent to me that there were certain parts of the town; one place in particular, Eastfield, which people had a real heart for but it was a place that was struggling. It's in the top 10% of the most deprived in the country and, in terms of church, there was very little church and Christian presence so, from the very beginning, the fresh expressions team in Scarborough had a heart for doing something in that area.

So now, today, on that estate - Eastfield – we have a charity called Westway Open Arms which is based in an old vicarage [and that vicarage]; it hasn't actually been a vicarage for 20 years, it's been boarded up and derelict and we've reopened it and it's a centre. It's a hub of the community which serves people four days a week in times of crisis so from that Centre we have things like food bank, pregnancy crisis support, drop-in, free lunches, debt advice, budgeting and so on. But, alongside this, we're offering people a chance to explore Christian faith and spirituality and also a rhythm of life because, for some people, there are a lot of chaotic lifestyles and, coming in to the Centre and just having somewhere to go that's safe, to have your needs met as well as to think about the real issues of life and spirituality.

We work very closely with the church which is built on to the vicarage, called Holy Nativity, Eastfield. That meets on a Sunday morning and it's beginning to grow but what we have realised is in order to see real growth which reflects the culture of the local community we've got to start something new. So, very soon, through courses and things that we have been doing like Start, or Alpha or Emmaus – there's a variety of things that we've been putting on for local people - they really have this hunger and they want to take it further so we're going to start Sunday@4 which is around food and hospitality and welcome and it will be very informal and we're going to start that next month (November 2014).

From my point of view, all of this work has been able to happen and work well because of the support of not only the deanery in taking a risk and creative steps forward to do things differently but also York diocese which is my sponsoring diocese and to have the diocesan staff, including my bishop, the Bishop of Hull, fully behind and supporting these new initiatives makes all the difference. And for me, personally, and for our team, it's been really important to work very closely and to be deeply rooted within the tradition of the church in order to be released to go out, to have that support in order to go out and do new things in creative ways and the way that worked together, the new and the traditional complementing each other and working together, has worked very well.

One of the things that was really important for me from the beginning of starting this job and any new initiative is that it's important to establish teams and coordinators of those mission initiatives very early on because I'm well aware that I won't be here forever but when that time comes, it's really good to have those things in place from the beginning so that it just happens naturally; that co-ordinators and teams develop their own sense of leadership skills and can do that from day one, without it being dependent on me as the missioner. And now it's got to the point that I don't know when I'll move on from here but, in terms of those teams or some of the things that we do, like Sacred Space on the beach, for example, I just join in with that. I'm not necessarily leading it, I'm not necessarily coordinating it; it happens and I join in with it.

I believe that this is something any deanery could do and it would be important, when appointing somebody, to perhaps look for someone who could work closely with inherited church as well as developing new ways of church and - alongside that - it's really important to work ecumenically. I also think it's essential to have a heart for reaching unchurched people and also to have the ability to develop initiatives and teams but know when the time is right and how important it is to let go.

In Scarborough deanery it wasn't that they are a wealthy deanery. Far from it. It was more about that they decided to channel their resources in a different and more creative way. It's all about taking a risk and I believe that's something any deanery can do.

This story is an update to:


Just brilliant. Well done Sam.

Well done SistaSam. An excellent interview and so many wise words especially doing something new but always remembering your roots and connections. God bless you and the gang
BroBruce ;)

Really enjoyed this interview Samantha so proud of you, God Bless X

Wow! Is this really the teenager whom I prepared for Confirmation nearly 20 years ago. Of course it is!

See what God can do when someone responds, however hesitantly, to His call. 'Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you'.

All from 'Ossie and 'Chad's Club' in Grove Hill, Middlesbrough. God's Grace working with your gifts.

Fr. Geoff x

Amazing! Sam I love how you capture all the threads of Fresh Expressions, and show us how you've pulled them together into God's work in Eastfield and Scarborough, with solid foundations and lasting supports. You've done this so well with your special charisma and personality, which may inspire others to use all or part of this video in their own presentations of how God's work is and can be done.
Thanks so much for your inspiration.
Sandra x

Sam, such a fantastic article, well done! it's so great to see you on this interview showing everyone how fresh expressions works, this will be so encouraging to others. I remember the first time I met you at our church; your warmth and welcoming and also your vision for scarborough! It's now so wonderful to see that vision become a reality! I grew up In Eastfield initially and at that time went to church there and Sunday school in the vicarage (which is now Westway Open Arms) it is therefore even more amazing to see all this work and how you and the team are reaching out to people. If you haven't grown up with going to a church it can be so daunting like you've said! Even If you have I love the way that you and your team use different ways to engage in faith and show how this can help everyone in their lives. It is an approach that fits in so well with modern life and the challenges we all face. You have such a special gift and I know on a personal level how much you've helped my family and I and so many people around the town! Scarborough is blessed to have you! I'm sure you'll encourage so many other people with the scarborough deanery story!
Caroline x

Thanks so much Sam. Wonderful to read of all that is going on. I remember talking with you when this was all beginning. Love the way in which people are growing in discipleship by getting involved in missional life.

It has been such a joy to witness the work of the Fresh Expressions
team in Scarborough. I have had the opportunity to join the team as
part of my training, as both a Pentecostal Bible College student and
more recently as an Anglican Ordinand.

I have seen true discipleship at work, where those that have been
discipled in hub groups are now discipling others. Personally some of
the most powerful reminders of what it is to be Church have been during
my time in Scarborough. The team engage with people on the beach,
Streets, homes and cafes; places and conversations where God has been
so present.

It has been inspiring to watch the work at East Field develop. This
‘Safe Haven’ truly meets the needs of its community, both practically,
emotionally and spiritually. It is most definitely a team effort with
Volunteers and clients being highly valued and learning from and with
each other.

The achievement of the Fresh Expressions team is testament to the fact
that everything is done from a place of prayer.I for one am looking
forward to watching how God impacts the lives of people in Scarborough
through the work of the team.

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