The Anchor - update Apr13

Monday, 29 April, 2013

Hayley Matthews, chaplain for MediaCityUK at Salford Quays, has been appointed Rector of Holy Innocents, Fallowfield. She tells of how things have developed during her three years as coordinator of The Anchor, the chaplaincy's on site base.

I'm very much looking forward to serving at Holy Innocents but there's no doubt it will be very different to what I've become accustomed to at MediaCityUK.

At the moment it is unclear as to whether The Anchor will continue in the same way or if it will be time for something new there. I have been very fortunate in starting to form community in this place and I will take with me many happy memories of the people of Salford; the parishioners at St Clement's Church, Ordsall; my small army of volunteers; staff at the Holiday Inn who helped with many a gathering at the hotel; and the countless people I got to know at the BBC North - particularly those at Radio Manchester, Religion and Ethics, and Outreach who I worked very closely with.

The Anchor - lunchA true sense of community has developed around our regular Big Business Breakfasts as people got together to support and encourage each other. We also saw the building up of our community gospel choir and the impact of our Church Urban Fund volunteer programme, which enabled people to gain qualifications, work experience - and most of all confidence to know that MediaCityUK was a place for them, too.

I would have loved a fresh expression of church to develop on site but the role was specifically missional as opposed to proselytising, with the aim of encouraging people into their own local faith communities rather than drawing them away. This has taught me to be more creative about sharing my faith in a way that is hopefully more 'parabolic' i.e. giving food for thought in the longer term rather than fully formed doctrinal answers to questions that haven't yet been asked.

In a way, BBC Radio Manchester and Radio 2's Pause for Thought/Thought for the Day became my 'pulpit' as I took part in their programming on a regular basis. I was in a very privileged position with that but, on the whole, I discovered that it was important to be able to adjust to whatever the context and culture did - or didn't - provide.

I found it encouraging when people began to realise that we didn't need a church building to be church. A lot of non-Christians along the way have asked me, 'But where is your church?' I would say to them that we are all 'bricks' of the church and that we needed to move away from the idea of the one building where everything is in the same place. The Anchor has certainly made me think a lot more about incarnating 'the Church' through people rather than it simply being seen as a place to 'go to'.

The Anchor - groupThere is something about being a chaplain that's like a game of 'tag' because you meet some many people from different networks and situations and, with God's help, reach out to them all in some way that will enable them to pass on God's love and grace, too. Social media was very important for this, some people would want to come to the Daily Prayer or Holy Communion every week but others - due to work patterns or commitments at home - would follow our prayer schedule on Twitter or use my blog as a mini-homily. I've been amazed at the 'secular' community activities that have provoked conversations around faith and spirituality, let alone the meaning of life, that simply being alongside people as a priest has given the opportunity for.

During my time at The Anchor, I have been a spiritual companion to a number of people who would not otherwise have gone to church; others have been with me for a while and then wanted to find a church for themselves. My aim was always to encourage people to be independent in their spirituality; it wasn't my role to make them 'do' or 'be' any one thing – that was to be between them and God. The irony is that this encouraged people to ask more questions and feel more able to explore what they saw in a faith that wasn’t being imposed, just lived out through another ordinary human being experiencing similar everyday issues.

I have really contemplated the parables of the yeast and salt here and there's no doubt that the volunteers offer that salt and light. I believe they have grown in their faith and I think that is something which is a challenge to those in inherited church who can be somewhat parochial. Of course it's important to promote evangelism but I think we can become so intent on preaching the gospel that we forget what it is to be missional.

The Anchor - Hayley MatthewsThere is a profound similarity between chaplaincy and those involved in fresh expressions of church in a sense of being:

  • a Christian presence;
  • pastoral;
  • engaged in social action and healing.

The difference is that in standard chaplaincy we are missing the worshipping, ecclesial community. It can be like working in a desert but isn't that where the water's most needed?

Note: At the time of writing, we do not know about the future of The Anchor which is a Churches Together initiative backed by the Church of England. The chaplain is employed by the Diocese of Manchester.

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