XY Church - update Oct10

Monday, 11 October, 2010

XY Church started three years ago as a developing community of spiritual travellers. Pioneer Minister Ben Norton gives an update on what has happened to the lads' church meeting in a pub every week.

We still get together every Sunday night in Wetherspoons, Bridlington, for a drink and a chat about key issues of the week and what the Christian faith has to say about those issues. There is now a core group of about 10 guys who come along to that and there's another 10-15 who drop in and out depending on family circumstances, work commitments or money. Similar pub churches for men have sprung up all over the country and it has been great to see the idea catch on.

Things are going really well but, of course, there have been questions along the way – things like 'What is it really achieving?', 'Are we a church or a drinking club?' The fact is that all of the core guys who come along now have some affiliation with church, some going on a Sunday morning to Emmanuel Church, Bridlington; others going to different churches in the area or our other fresh expression of church, St Max's.

Although XY is about discipleship and people have journeyed on in faith through it, it's interesting that the guys have become involved in other Christian communities. It has proved to be an easy way to access the Christian faith.

There have been lots of lessons learned along the way, particularly leadership lessons. At what stage do you bring people through into leadership roles? Some of these guys don't resemble the sort of leaders we have come to expect in the Church but I find great comfort in the thought that if St Peter and St Paul were within many of our church communities, they wouldn't fit in at all!

We just keep focusing on what we are doing and learning. The guys come from very varied backgrounds and are at very different stages in their own faith journey; sometimes it's difficult for me - as leader - to recognise their development. It's like you never see how your own kids are growing up because you are there with them all the time; it often takes others to remark on how much they've grown and then you realise they have travelled a long way.

We are doing things like running Alpha all the time but I'd love us to reach a point where we are a Eucharistic community - something that would be terribly normal for us to do. It is one of the benchmarks that we tend to measure this sort of community by.

It has always had the feel of being an open group so we are accustomed to people just turning up on the night to see what we do; the guys take it on the chin. Interestingly we have had some Christians come along with very firm views on certain things and they have found it uncomfortable to be challenged on those views. Yet that's how I believe men begin to grow and become disciples.

The age range remains roughly 18-40. It has been interesting to see how the community grows and develops and how it deals with issues. One of the big questions revolved around 'who buys the drinks?'. Of course we had never had any rules about it but at one point it was a little unfair because it always seemed to be the same people getting a round in. It all just bubbled to the surface, there were a few big swear words and quite a lot of finger pointing and then the whole thing was sorted out – much easier than trying to resolve issues in church sometimes!

A lot of churches are going out and doing events for blokes but I haven't seen many people discipling blokes. That's what the XY stuff is beginning to achieve. 

There is an incredible amount of pressure these days on men, whether it's about gender roles, there being no such thing as a job for life any more, becoming unemployed, or living with a partner for a long time but not committing to marriage. Statistically the suicide rates among young men are dreadfully high because they are very vulnerable. At XY, they say they really need to come and be there at the end of the week because they can just talk everything out. Looking at it traditionally it's simply confession so that they can start again afresh.

The dynamic of what works in the XY context is that of small growth. I would very much like to see the leadership develop and eventually take on XY for themselves; I would then step out of it and do something else. But these things take time.

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