Sunday 4:6

Monday, 1 June, 2009

6 - hallA year into Mandy Wright's job as Deanery Evangelist with a group of 21 rural Anglican churches in Devon, it occurred to her that if anyone wanted to attend church as a result of her evangelism, a Sunday service would likely put them off.

I thought, I've got to do something to appeal to people right outside church,

she says.

She hired the village hall for a new monthly meeting advertised as a friendly, non-judgmental space in which to bring questions and enjoy food and drink.

The first meeting, held at 6pm on a fourth Sunday in a month in 2004, attracted 33 people, more than four times the usual attendance of any local church service. Quite a few of those were churchgoers, but a good few were others known to Mandy through her work among the largely elderly community.

That first evening was spent getting to know each other, finding out where we were on our spiritual journeys,

she recalls.

Although numbers fell by half on the second meeting of Sunday 4:6, over the next half year more and more unchurched people began to realise that this was a place where their questions and thoughts could find a safe hearing.

'Fresh expressions are not clear-cut; they are pretty messy'

Another half year later and local churchgoers were catching on.

Starving Christians began to come gradually,

Mandy says.

They were wanting more worship and slowly the seekers were leaving by the back door. Now the numbers are up, but they are all churchgoers.

At the beginning of 2006, a vision evening was held, at which the group of 25 defined its first year of existence as one in which community was built, but expressed the desire that the second year focus on worship.

I had promised from the start that Sunday 4:6 would be theirs,

Mandy says.

It is meeting a huge need for Christians to explore their faith more deeply; lifelong churchgoers have discovered faith perhaps for the first time. But it's not my original vision. I want to work with those outside the church.

She is now developing a core team from within Sunday 4:6 to take over its leadership and hopes to find new outlets for her ministry to seekers from the local communities.

Fresh expressions are not clear-cut; they are pretty messy. Even the good news ones have questions,

she says. Following the transformation of what began as a seeker group and developed into a fellowship of Christians, Mandy is now asking which is more important: reaching the unchurched or feeding 'the needy churched'?