Thursday, 7 February 2013

Article by Karen Carter, National Fresh Expressions Team February 2013

Sam Foster, fresh expressions pioneer missioner in the Scarborough Deanery, tells how a former vicarage is at the heart of a new ministry.
Since I started this role four years ago I've always felt a need to do something practical to serve the community of Eastfield, a large housing estate that is in the top 10% of the most deprived in the country. For four years, I and the Scarborough fresh expressions team prayed for God to guide us, give us patience (knowing that it wouldn't happen straight away) and to give us His vision rather than a Sam Foster bright idea!
The Diocese of York approached me in 2010 about possibly using an old vicarage known as Westway House on the estate. It was no longer a residential dwelling available to rent out because the NSPCC, which had been based there for a while, had renovated it into a multi-purpose building. Basically if we couldn't use it, it would be knocked down. We couldn't see this happen so, over a period of 18 months, talked regularly with the diocese about mission for that area.
Scarborough Deanery - groupWe also got to know local agencies, the parish council, residents and police to find out what some of the needs were in the community from their point of view - rather than simply looking at statistics. The issues for them were, and are, teenage pregnancy, debt, unemployment, loneliness and other factors associated with living in an area of deprivation.
At Westway House we will need to have charitable status but the Christian ethos will remain fundamental to what we do. As we develop the social action type project, we also hope to see the growth of a fresh expression of church within the Holy Nativity building. Although local residents don't go on a Sunday there are a lot of baptisms and the church is seen as the heart of the community so we want to build on this.
Why should we reinvent the wheel when others are doing such brilliant work? 
Through Pregnancy Crisis and Debt Advice we have not only expanded the ministry but also succeeded in sharing the costs and seen our new volunteers become fully trained in the past 18 months.
A similar thing has just happened with the local Food Bank. We are in partnership with the Rainbow Centre and Yorkshire Coast Homes in supplying different parts of the town with food parcels. The Rainbow Centre is the central bank and we share the same database so that each parcel/client is monitored properly and eventually we will share the cost. The only way forward in my opinion is partnering in the gospel and to see this in action in practical and loving ways to serve all people.
Scarborough Deanery - teamI have now got a really great team around me; there are eight of us and each person co-ordinates an aspect of what we're involved in. Whenever it is that I move on eventually, the work won't solely depend on me because different volunteers are now responsible for debt advice, pregnancy crisis work, and so on. I always say that I work towards making myself redundant!
It has made such a difference to have a full-time colleague working with me. At one point we thought that Shena Moray, a Church Army evangelist, would be moving on but when a post opened up to work as part of our team, she applied and got the job.
My bishop and the Deanery have been brilliant in supporting us here and it has been great to see the community begin to respond to our presence too. When we first used the church, we put a labyrinth in there and opened the doors. People were asking us, 'When did the church re-open?' And we said, 'It never closed…' 
Westway House has been empty for three years so we are now at the point where builders and contractors have started sorting everything out but a lot of the re-ordering done by the NSPCC will stand us in good stead. There is even a space in there that we’re going to set aside as a multi-sensory prayer room. An added bonus is that the diocese is giving it to us rent-free as a diocesan project. We are scheduled to open at end of February/beginning of March.
Scarborough Deanery - Holy Nativity ChurchWe have also taken an interest in new monasticism and would like to have a Rhythm of Life within the house; it would be great to see that happening because it does seem to be the 'language' that speaks to many. People will speak of spirituality and Jesus and prayer but when we Christians talk of a 10am service on a Sunday, or something similar, those same people are not interested at all!

Scarborough Deanery