The Anchor - update Feb12

Monday, 13 February, 2012

Hayley Matthews, chaplain to MediaCityUK, discusses her work as a pioneer - connecting people, reaching the unchurched and engaging with spirituality through multimedia.

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Hayley Matthews: Well I've been chaplain at MediaCity since September 22nd last year, so just about to come up to my first year anniversary. Quite a broad range of activity going on in the chaplaincy. I'm linked together with Salford University, I'm part of their chaplaincy team, I work with the media and the comms department obviously working with local communities really important, particularly the communities that border MediaCity on every side, and then of course working with everybody who lives and works here.

There are about 75 other businesses on site aside from the BBC, ITN Granada will be moving in and as you know Salford University opens here on October 4th which I'm really excited about. A lot of the other businesses that work here are small local companies and entrepreneurs who are working in media and all sorts of graphic and support industries and that includes people who are working in Booths and Costa.

So one of the things that I do look for are people to partner with and collaborate with. So there are artistic co-operatives that I work with, there are the neighbourhood teams that I work with and of course the churches and the deanery, I work with an interfaith group and again working with all the support staff at Salford University, the BBC's outreach partner, so there are all sorts of people who I work with on MediaCity to carry out what we do here.

Generating relationships is obviously time-consuming and at first it involved saying yes to every meeting. Obviously that's one of the key things you're taught not to do when you're in ministry, but initially getting to know who's who, because people's job descriptions don't always define what they do and, as we know in the church, there will always be one person who's brilliant at something and it's spotting those people and encouraging them to take part. So I have been to lots of meetings and I'm scaling back on that now as I now know the people I need to work with and they know me, because having met them you don't need to keep reappearing, you can just give them a call, give them an email, so again working together - and I feel a bit like, you know Michaelangelo's David and the two fingers pointing, that I bring lots of people into connections with one another because I sit on so many different partner groups. I'm able to say oh you know you need to speak to so and so and then things can happen, and that's one of the most exciting parts of the job for me actually, is that I don't actually have to do everything myself, but enabling people to be in touch with the right partners.

I think reaching the unchurched and reaching people who aren't comfortable with traditional expressions of church is... it's almost second nature to somebody who works in a creative and media-centric environment. So you automatically think about audio-visual means of generating worship, you think about means of people being able to access worship online and download it onto their iPhones because they might be on location or they might be travelling or their work patterns don't enable a regular sort of time and a place to go to. And also as I said before, working with some of these co-operatives who use film, who use actual artists and poets and looking at all different ways where we can enable people to express their spirituality and to encourage others to express their spirituality in a diverse array of worship events. And I think that all of our acts of worship will be fresh expressions because nothing like this has ever been built before, there's never been a context like this before, there's never been such a broad range of people in one place before and to enable and facilitate worship on a site like this, it can only be fresh - traditional ways and means of worshipping and generating church just won't work on a site like this.

Highlights have definitely been seeing different people come together. So really exciting to go and see the Salford Foundation and hear the young people singing and to hear that one of them was later spotted by the BBC and is going to be used and she lives in the Pendleton area, so that's a huge event for her. Really exciting to have the gospel choir coming together and, I mean I love the gospel choir, not only for the singing and the joyfulness of it but we bring together people from various parts of the community and it's really nice to see those people mixing together, so that's really wonderful. Being able to meet all sorts of creatives and artists who do have a sense of spirituality, because I think sometimes when we go to church and we engage in liturgical worship we forget about the artistic and the creative and spontaneous, and to see some of that happening, that's really thrilling for me.

Some of the challenges have been obviously the politics of a very public role like this and also people wanting to be connected for the wrong sorts of reasons, because as Christians we are about enabling people's voices to be heard, we are about drawing faith into a very sort of cynical environment at times, and we are about sort of empowering people with their spirituality and helping them to see that there are all sorts of diverse ways of expressing that.

I think the church is the people and we have got very sort of... immersed ourselves in this idea that the church is a set of buildings and a set of nationalised almost services that happen almost at the same time every week and we live in a very multifarious society with people living all sorts of lifestyles, working all sorts of hours, with all sorts of personalities, and even personality in spirituality would immediately say that that method of church isn't going to be a one size fits all. So I think fresh expressions are really important if we truly are going to take the gospel to everyone.

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