XY Church - update Dec12

Monday, 17 December, 2012

Ben Norton, Fresh Expressions Associate Missioner and founder of xy church, tells how the 'lads' church' has developed since he left - and what he has moved on to.

Duration: 6:52   | Download Download mp3


Ben Norton: I'm pioneer minister Revd Ben Norton, I'm now based in Teesside working for the church up there in St Cuthberts in Marton, but I was one of the founder members of xy lad's church in Bridlington where I was based for six years. So we pioneered that fresh expression of church. It had its ups and downs and we particularly aimed to reach men between the ages of 18 and 40 who had nothing to do with church. So we'd sit round on a Sunday night and talk about some issues that had been in the news and try and get under the skin of the ethical, moral and social issues of that sort of things.

So I moved at Easter, 2012, so we've been… I've left there now about eight months. I still keep in touch with quite a few of the lads back in Bridlington and particularly with Simon Smale who… Simon when he first came on board with the team to set up this fresh expression was working full time as an accountant. Simon is now ordained, which is great, but he's still an accountant full-time, bless him, so he's still kind of working in… he's also working in inherited church running three churches, two fresh expressions of church and doing his full-time job. So Simon's under quite a bit of pressure obviously with all that demands of him.

Well the community's still going, they had a meeting, I think a month ago, to really kind of unpack what they were doing and why they were doing it, kind of after I'd left and left the leadership structure of that. And in their own kind of fashion and way they sat round with a couple of beers and really began to get under the skin of what it was that they were there for. And I'm sure I'm not breaking any confidences in saying this but there were some big questions being asked about how they move forward. Should they continue meeting? The numbers aren't big, but actually the depth of what happens around that table is really important. And one of the chaps who'd come along that night, who hadn't been for a little while, came along because there were some really big issues going on in his life, things that were beyond his control with relationships and things like that and he found that that was a place where he could come and kind of open up in a way that he knew would be safe. And one of the other chaps around the table said look guys, this is why we meet. It's not just to come and have a few beers and for the conversation, but actually they I think really began to understand the depth of the community that they have around that table. That actually, although sometimes that language isn't there to articulate it, but this was the kingdom of God being played out. Loving one another, caring for one another and in one of their expressions it's a safe place to be broken. And I think if that's not church then I don't really know what is.

So there's still lots of questions I think that they need to go through about who they are and what they're doing and who they're reaching and it does take a lot of effort and a lot of strain but I think one of the great things that I've learned from the whole experience is that the chaps that meet around that table don't meet there just for themselves. They meet there for the benefit of those that do come and for those that don't yet come as well.

All the way through my time there I was very aware of the fact that I would be leaving and so, you know, we've invested heavily within the guys… the chaps that were coming. And it… as I left, as I think all the time I was there, I thought to myself I'm not sure whether this will continue or not. But then that's part of the beauty of it really. And I know that that's been an issue and I think the support from the wider church is incredibly important, especially for young fresh expressions of church. Now that's been difficult in that context, without going into too much about kind of how the local church has responded to that, but the wider church kind of the bishops and those in them sorts of areas have been incredibly supportive and I think for those that are coming along and finding their identity and their Christian faith through these, to see that they do have the support of the bishops and people like that and they do realise the value that them meeting has for the wider church is incredibly important. But context is everything. And I think making sure that the avenues of communication are open at every single level of church life from local PCCs or deanery synod or wider versions is really important. Maybe not in the beginning days of fresh expressions because that can lead to all sorts of different things but once a fresh expression begins to find its legs and begins to find its own identity I think it's really important that that all crosses over.

So now I'm based up in Teesside at St Cuthbert's Church in Marton and Colby Newham. So I've been there eight months and I think the great thing about fresh expressions and pioneer ministry is that it gives you the skills to be able to put into any… sort of drops into any sort of context and then begin listening again afresh to what God's doing and where the mission begins to be found. So as part of that I've given over my Mondays, every Monday I go and work in a local barber's shop, I'm a hairdresser by trade, did that before I came into the ministry and I thought I'd use those gifts again to try and again listen for what God is already up to, to try and get under the skin of the local area and the people and to see what makes them tick and to see kind of what the agendas are. So that's been good, that's been really good, really positive. And it's been good that they've kind of welcomed the church in that respect as well.

So, coming up to Christmas, I now have quite a few contacts of people that are open to who I am and what I do and hopefully that will be something that we can go on and build on, maybe kind of explore the bigger questions that they begin to ask. So I think we'll probably have a Christmas party or something and just invite people round for some food and then maybe in the new year start prodding and poking and seeing if there's any weight in beginning a new or fresh community in that sort of way.

So that's kind of where we're at at the moment, still a lot of inherited work going on which is great, again another way of understanding what's going on and as well the inherited church is fully aware of who I am and what I'm doing and that integration between the emerging fresh expressions and the inherited church is so important for support on both sides, that this feels like still part… something of the Church of England and in its local parish context as well.

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