The Point Church - Sep14

Monday, 22 September, 2014

Jules Middleton updates the story of The Point Church in Burgess Hill and their new Church in a Pub.

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Jules Middleton, Pastoral Assistant, The Point Church: Hi, my name's Jules Middleton and I work for The Point Church in Burgess Hill in mid Sussex. And my job title is, I'm a Pastoral Assistant which pretty much means I do a bit of whatever needs doing to be honest. I'm also an ordinand and I'm training at SEITE, which is the South East Institute of Theological Education. A bit of a mouthful! And I'm based at Southwark for that.

The Point Church has been going for 10 years. The original vision for The Point was based on Acts 2 and was really wanting us to meet the unchurched, the people who don't know Jesus, the people who would never set foot inside a church. And initially that was great but I think what's happened over the years is we've attracted a whole range of other people. So, about two years ago now, we began to go through a new vision process with the church and there were various reasons that brought that about but we wanted to seek God for where he was taking The Point next.

We really looked at the ethos of what church is, about being a fresh expression of church in this area. Our new vision statement is to be a transforming presence in mid Sussex. And so we've really been looking at what that means and what that means in the area that we cover. And one thing we've been doing is a reasonably new initiative called Church in a Pub.

Church in a Pub started when one of our staff team had a contact with a local pub and the landlord basically said, 'Come and do church in the pub'. You can't say no to that can you?! And so that started about a year ago now and we've been going there once a quarter just doing a really low key, you would call it a service I suppose but very low key. There's some music, there's a thought for the day, possibly an interview, and just trying to interact with people in a different way; in a way that is completely unthreatening; going out to people, reaching outside of the church, and not expecting them to come to the building but just to come to the pub. And, so far, it's been really successful. We're seeing relationships being made with people in the pub, quite often there's people just sat there – maybe having a meal or a pint but are really interested in what's going on so they'll come and have a chat to us and it just seems like a really great way to take the church outside of the building.

What we really want to do is to start to solidify those relationships that we're making with people there; you know start to have opportunities to share the gospel in a more obvious way and to really be bringing Jesus into the heart of that pub. That is a challenge to us; where we take that next.

One of the things we are doing locally as well, in an area of quite a lot of social housing, is Skip Day which we've done for the last seven years or so where we literally, we just hire a skip, we put it down there and we help people to clear their rubbish. It is an area where not that many people drive, or at least own their own cars, so to take stuff to the local tip is completely impossible for them.

So, really simple idea, putting a skip on someone's driveway; somebody who is a member of our church and is happy for their driveway to be used…we put a skip there, encourage the team to go down there and help people to clear out their rubbish. And in recent years we've been able to expand that. This year we really expanded it to have a great Family Fun Day, at the end of the day there was a barbecue, bouncy castles and all sorts of things and, again, that is enabling us to really form relationships with people so we're not just turning up and doing an event but actually getting to know people, getting to know the needs of the area and what we can do there.

And there's a great story about when the Skip Day very first started; a couple within our church who have been really key in getting this all off the ground and they had a skip on their driveway and, during the day, he had a knock on the door from a slightly dishevelled looking chap saying, 'So I've heard there's a skip on your driveway and I can just put my stuff in it for free?' And James said, 'Yes, that's absolutely fine'. The chap said, 'Well, why are you doing it?' And James was explaining it's a church initiative. And then this chap stood on his doorstep and said to him, 'So really, what you're saying is, you're taking my rubbish for free just like Jesus takes all our rubbish away from us for free?' And that was a really defining moment, I think for James and for us as a church as well, thinking about exactly why we're doing what we're doing.

I know that to some people the idea of fresh expressions of church can be quite scary and some people don't really fully understand what that means but it doesn't have to be. And I'm a firm believer that God gives us what we need within our churches, and they are full of talented people and I think within our own church context as well, we really wanted to encourage people within the church to use their giftings as best as they can. So it doesn't have to be this kind of vast thing of, 'O we don't know where to start'. Actually look at what God's given you. That's a great place to start!

I know I've mentioned that we've worked with other churches locally and I just think it's such an important thing for us to be doing. After all, we all worship the same God – no matter what our style of churchmanship is, actually we're all in this together and I kind of feel like as churches we have a responsibility to each other as well as to our parishes so it's great when churches can work together and I think for some of us larger churches, can we be resourcing, coming alongside and encourage any churches who are struggling a bit or who are in difficult areas? And that's something I would just love to see more of going on across this Diocese.

I mean, let's face it, this is a new season for Chichester Diocese isn't it and it's such an exciting place to be right now, it really is, particularly as a woman! But not just because of that, there's a lot of stuff going on here and it really feel like God's just moving in a new way here and it's a really exciting place to be.

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