Vitalise - update Dec13

Monday, 16 December, 2013

The Christmas story is being re-told for smartphone users in a new project by the Vitalise fresh expression of church in Wolverhampton.

Using the gifts that God has given them has prompted many talented members of Vitalise to use dance, drumming, rap and drawing - among other things - on a blog which can be accessed via QR Codes around the city centre. By scanning a code on their smartphone, people will see how the creative arts have been used by the Wolverhampton-based community to reflect characters involved in the Nativity.

The Christmas QR Codes blog has been created by Vitalise, which is predominantly made up of young people and adults under 30, as their 'Christmas present' to the city – something that can be given away for free. Posters advertising the QR Codes are displayed in coffee shops, YMCA hostels and many other places.

Deborah Walton took on the leadership of Vitalise earlier this year and tells us more.

Vitalise - treeIt struck me when I arrived that we had quite a mix of young people; some go to church with their family on a Sunday and then come to us later on in the day while others have only ever gone along to church for Christmas and other special occasions – if at all. But what is interesting is that, whatever links they've got or haven't got, many don't have an opportunity to express their faith in the way that they would want to.

If they are part of a church, they might get asked to make tea or coffee or welcome people when they arrive or help with children's work but many are not using their own gifts. So, when I came, I started by asking them, 'What are you good at? What do you really enjoy doing?'

It was sad to hear some of the responses. 'I'm really good at dance but I guess you are never going to need that' and 'I'm good at rapping but you don't have that in church do you?' So we began to think, 'How can we communicate the Bible in a way that's missional? How can we use what people want to do for God? How can we make the most of our unique context? How can we give back to Wolverhampton?'

So I sat down with a member of Vitalise who's brilliant at strategic thinking and we started to brainstorm ideas around creativity and Christmas.We decided to look at key figures such as Mary, Joseph, Gabriel, and the shepherds - and tell members of our community,'Pick a character that speaks to you and decide what you want to do to interpret their story.' There was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, we wanted it to be diverse. Some ideas didn't work out but we have been working on this since August so we allowed time for that to happen! The wonderful thing is that we haven't had anything submitted for the project that we couldn't use.

Vitalise - phoneThe creative expressions are very raw because we haven't edited or changed them in any way. It may not all be theologically sound but their hearts have gone into it and that's amazing because some of those involved have been genuinely on the margins. When I arrived, somewere the people who sat at the back and didn't join in but this has been quite a transformational project. It has enabled some people to make a massive statement of faith to their friends and family because it has allowed them to say something about their faith they may never have said in the normal way of things.

It is very important to me that this isn't seen as a one-off project and my hope and prayer is that these gifts of expression can continue to be used to speak of God. The dancer, for instance, has now set up the Vitalise dance group which will perform at the Fusion Mass covenant service towards the end of January which the Vitalise community is hosting with our partners in Wolverhampton Central Parish and the Methodist Church. She's now working on a routine for the newly formed dance group to express the Vine and the Branches reading from John 15. We are hoping we can keep developing these things.

I am often asked things like, 'Why should there be fresh expressions of church? Why is it important?' My response is that it is really important because we are able to engage differently which is what we have done with this project which would have been much more difficult in an inherited church context. The Vitalise community includes people of different denominations and so we sit in a 'neutral' place in terms of the wider city. I genuinely believe in the 'both/and' of mixed economy and this is a really good illustration of the practical outworking of this theory: we have advertised some traditional carol services happening in the city in other Churches on our Christmas blog as well as our own.

This story is an update to:


Inspirational Deborah! I resonate with asking people 'what are you good at?' I used the same approach for the telling of the Christmas story to Stirling a few years ago. I included the process of 'destination Bethlehem' as an appendix in Clowns Stories Disciples. If you can't easily access a copy and would like to get in touch. I love the way u've developed interaction digitally!:-)

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