TANGO - update Sep12

Wednesday, 18 December, 2013

Avril Chisnall and Christine Kay explain how a fresh expression of church has become part and parcel of the ministry at the TANGO community project at St Mark's, Haydock.

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Avril Chisnall: I'm Avril Chisnall from the TANGO community project in Haydock, part of St Mark's Church and wondering why Haydock was chosen to be part of God's kingdom in terms of a fresh expression doing community stuff. We have quite a successful café, King's Table Café, and a lot of community people coming through but some people wouldn't because they thought it was quite posh and a little bit expensive and it was over the years when we started to try and work out what we were doing in community that we were challenged to do something more. And we set ourselves out like a market, lots of stalls, lots of café and we gave free food at the time. And we started of with two hundred pounds from church and in twelve months we repaid that. And by then we were only charging 25p an item and free food - don't ask me how we did it! But we felt it had something to do with God.

The next step was to realise that a lot more people were coming through and we sort of worried that church wasn't providing more volunteers and it was a while before we realised that God had asked us to go out into our community and we were a bit sort of slow on the uptake. And then we realised that actually it was community that wanted to be involved and we began to realise that people were interested and wanted to volunteer. So our volunteers grew quite rapidly and it was a matter of trying to hold it all together and it grew to the stage where we were thinking that we needed staff and payment and things and we did go down the route of trying to find funding for it. But God shut the doors for that and we realised that what he was trying to get us to realise was that we could be self-sustainable and that's how we became - that the money that was coming in was sufficient to cover all the expenses. We were walking a fine line between a business and trying to do it really well and still having those kingdom values that drove all of TANGO. So now we have teams and we pay seven people and some of those people never had jobs before so making a difference to our community was much bigger than we realised God was asking us to be in the first place.

Slowly over the time when people realised we were praying for their needs, praying for sick people, praying for how we were working they began to trust us more and started to say well I will volunteer for that, I can't pray though. And they would find poems and they would find little writing things and they would generally just join in. So our quiet times developed into a really important part of TANGO, and a time to reflect on why they were there.

Christine Kay: Every morning before we open at quarter to ten we have what we call quarter to TANGO when we just meet together, as many as can possibly meet - some have to stay at their posts obviously - but we come in and we share and something that we've been doing for the last few months is as we actually pray together we join hands which is a sense of unity amongst us then which perhaps people don't realise that but it's very evident that we're coming together as one before the start of the day.

Avril Chisnall: And people genuinely now, I think they realise that church isn't doing it to them but church is here as part of the community. And church as they see it is not this stuffy old place in the building where they have to go, church is actually the people who make the church and that's us - and everyone together.

What's the place that most of our customers like to go - and it's the local pub. And the landlord at the time was quite open to this so we went and negotiated and he said we could have the pub once a month before opening time on a Sunday. So we put on coffee and tea and invited some of our customers to come and surprisingly, six came at the beginning. And we banned all church people from it because we really didn't want it to be church as everybody knew church.

It was really successful for eight, nine, ten months and people were willing to share some of their life stories and some of our people were willing to share testimony as church people would call it, but it's their story, part of the story where God came into their lives and they could identify it. And that was important. And then we'd finish with a modern song which went down very well and prayer time where people kept their eyes open and just simply talked to God in a normal way. And one of our families that was very dysfunctional with loads of problems, four of them were coming to the pub and by this time had indicated that they wanted to belong in a better way so we offered baptism. And two chose to be baptised by the vicar in the pub which was absolutely wonderful. And two others decided as confirmation was coming up in the November they'd be baptised first and that they would be confirmed later. So we felt that that was quite good.

But the other thing that developed was that people began to settle into what they were expecting on that Sunday at the God slot and one person or two people were more articulate than others and some began to withdraw and said well they could tell a story better. And it began to feel more like church, that one person was speaking, the others were listening and they weren't sort of participating like we wanted them to in the first place. So we realised that that had become church, church as we knew it and not church as they knew it. So we decided we would stop that, and we did, and waited for other opportunities.

When you're doing a fresh expression like we're doing, and we certainly believe that what we have is church, with our volunteers and our community members, I get really wound up when people come along and ask you to fill a form in and tick boxes and say how many people have you had in your church this week. I do not know and I cannot say how it is but I know in my heart what we see and I know how we touch people's lives and I can tell you umpteen stories of people that have had their lives changed because of who we've been - and that's all it's been - we haven't done churchy stuff, we've just been who we are, real people like Jesus was. And how do you build a kingdom - by the way Jesus did it. He didn't take loads of his disciples off to the synagogue every week and sit them on the pews, he actually dealt with them on a daily basis, with their lives and their issues. And prayed for them and told stories about his father - and that's how I feel we do our fresh expression here.

Christine Kay: We just feel that we could do something now on a Sunday called TANGO on a Sunday - question mark - and we're going to do it in our café and it will just be a cup of tea and a cake or something and just a chat over some question that is brought up in a very informal way. And we're hoping that that will bring out issues in their lives that we can discuss and help them with.

God is definitely in what we do here. He's the heartbeat really of everything that we do. Without him it just would be impossible and people who come in as volunteers and customers and just people who pass through just looking at what we do feel that presence that is strange to some people but is just there.

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