Running to keep up with God
Tim Sanderson leads a café church for 18-30s at St Barnabas and St Jude’s, Sandyford, Newcastle. Organisers feel they have been ‘running to keep up with God’ since Barney and Judes got off the ground in 2010.
One year ago, we were exploring closing our building in this community as the Sunday service had seven regular attenders and building costs were mounting.
Barney and Jude’s – MosaicSandyford used to be a family-based community but in recent years has become a place known for cheap student houses, a place where 83% of the local community is aged between 18 and 30. Working with the existing church membership and in partnership with Holy Trinity Church, Jesmond, we converted the building into a cafe space to reach that 83%.
Our aim was to establish a fresh expression of church for those unchurched 18-30s in Sandyford by creating a welcoming and vibrant living space; planting and growing a worshipping community and serving that community.
Renovating the existing facilities has resulted in the cafe-style venue, comprising a warm, relaxing ‘lounge’ for those in multiple occupancy dwellings. The flexible area, where coffees and cakes are served, is furnished with sofas and offers free Wi-Fi. Students and other young adults are invited to drop in and use the space for chat, performance, art and so on whilst building relationships with the team.
Our café style fresh expression of church runs on Wednesday nights and we have a parallel new work amongst seniors called ‘vintage’ on Thursdays. The café space itself opens from 4pm to 11pm every weekday evening. We also have teams going door-to-door in the community offering to clear up front gardens and remove graffiti. These teams are drawn from Holy Trinity and Agape student ministries – and a few local residents.
Barney and Jude’s – foodWe feel we are running to keep up with God and are delighted at how well the work has started. In a community dominated by multi-occupancy dwellings where no-one has a lounge any more, we are providing one! As part of a community in which seniors and students clash over noise issues and untidy gardens, we are working with both groups and pray that Barney and Judes will become a venue for communication and reconciliation. It’s early days, but the first signs are promising.
The Wednesday night fresh expression is intentionally missional and is becoming a new congregation for unchurched and some dechurched. At this stage it’s just a small number but they are attracted to the café space and the team who run the fresh expression. We offer many alternative worship opportunities at Holy Trinity in the next parish and have been encouraging any Christians who turn up at Barney and Judes to go there rather than stay with us.
Barney and Jude’s – crossNewcastle has a number of large student/young adult churches which do great work but we are interested in the students and young professionals who are put off by large church initiatives, or who would never think to go near them, even when invited by their friends. These are people who struggle with hierarchies and up-front driven programmes. Taking a café style approach seems to be working; it means we not only come together as a fledgling community but also keep in our small groups around tables. This distinctive and focussed missional approach means that regular use of the venue by other church-based student/young adult groups is not encouraged.
We really want to engage with what is called the ‘Urban Intelligent’. That title comes from a socio-economic analysis system known as MOSAIC which classifies UK households by ward or postcode. The April 2010 MOSAIC profile of South Jesmond ward, indicates that 83% of the population are ‘Urban Intelligent’: these are students or young professionals living in multi-occupancy dwellings (42% short term student renters; 29% economically successful singles; 15% well educated singles and childless couples). They are the dominant constituent of the local population and therefore the primary focus of mission.
Some 15% of the population here are active older people. The current inherited churches between them cover an extensive local network of seniors. This is a secondary focus of mission.
Barney and Jude’s – posterThe church centre is still faithfully used on a Sunday morning at 9.30am by a small group of older ladies – three of whom have just celebrated their 90th birthdays. That operates as a completely separate congregation. What is fun is overseeing a mixed economy in the same building. I’m also interested in how the two congregations might talk together in future about some of the inevitable tensions between students and seniors in this area.
We want to continue planting and growing a worshipping community within the context of a weekly meal, grouped around small group discussion, creative worship opportunities, and some input from the front. Collaborative working is at the heart of this venture. The congregation of St Barnabas and St Jude’s have offered significant finances to help with buildings improvement and the part-employment of a parish assistant, but personnel for this venture has been more widely drawn from two main sources: Holy Trinity Church, and Agape Student Ministries.
I lead the small steering team representing all three partners which reports back to each meeting of the PCC of St Barnabas and St Jude. The wider diocese has offered a level of financial support and is kept informed as the initiative develops. The steering team is committed to work flexibly, holding structures lightly and engage in regular review/assessment of the work. In that way we want to model flexibility and openness – in all that we do.
Read more stories of fresh expresions here