Church aims to spread the word in pubs and parks

London, England - A SKATEBOARDING park, a converted barge, pubs and cafés are being used for innovative church services as Methodists and the Church of England pioneer a new approach to worship.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has commissioned 12 “disciples” to build on the experimental approach that is starting to reverse years of decline in church attendance.

Dr Williams, initiating the Fresh Expressions project at Lambeth Palace, said that it was an attempt to crystallise his vision of what the mainstream Church could be. He said: “It’s a vision for the renewal and reconstruction of the Church of England and other historic mainstream churches.”

Almost 300 new-style churches representing 20,000 worshippers have signed up to the project, which was inspired by a report to the General Synod by the Bishop of Maidstone, the Right Rev Graham Cray, exploring how the Church might adapt to an increasingly secular society.

Dr Williams wants the Church to appeal to people on the fringes. Latest figures show a small increase in attendance and, in the last Census, more than seven out of ten people identified themselves as Christian. But few attend church other than at Christmas and Easter and for the occasional hatch, match or dispatch service.

One of the more unusual new churches helping to stem the decline is the Legacy XS skate park and Christian youth centre in Benfleet, Essex. A youth congregation at the park encourages skaters to use the ramps during prayer and worship to express their spirituality.

Fresh Expressions is funded by the Lambeth Partners, a team set up by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, to finance evangelism.

The Rev Rob Marshall, one of the 12 Fresh Expressions staff commissioned by Dr Williams on Thursday, emphasised that “fresh expressions” was not intended to imply that the rest of the Church was stale. He said: “A lot of our church buildings are not suitable or appropriate for modern-day worship.”

The church had to look more to new ideas such as café churches, he said. Modern clergy were more likely to turn up in jeans and T-shirts to run evening services in city-centre flats.

Mr Marshall said: “What is happening now is as exciting as the early Church after Jesus’s time in the Ancient World.”


LEGACY XS, BENFLEET Legacy Youth Congregation opened this part indoor skate park, part Christian youth centre in March and has more than 2,000 members. Services are in the café upstairs, baptisms in the paddling pool

ST PETER’S BARGE, CANARY WHARF London’s only floating church. Converted from a 29-metre barge, St Peter’s attracts more than 80 people a week to its service on Wednesday lunchtimes, with another 70 attending on Sundays

FELLOWSHIP, GRANNIES TEA ROOM, COTGRAVE A small tea room in Nottinghamshire and a church for 25 Methodists. The Rev Andy Fyall hosts an Alpha course for family and friends of his congregation

CHURCH WITHOUT WALLS, HANLEY Meets in the civilised surroundings of the Aruba wine bar every Sunday