Urban Expression Bristol - March 2012
In this second UE Bristol newsletter we hear from Mike Pears, and from Geoff Sims and Andy Tidball who are members of the two Bristol teams. (One team is based in East Bristol, round Easton/Barton Hill area and the other in Knowle West, although Andy and his wife Abi live in Hartcliffe.)
Urban Expression in Bristol: some musings from Mike (March 2012)
I’ve just been speaking to Alister, the vicar here on the estate who also serves on our UE steering group here in Bristol. He had just met the man going down the road with a long piece of rope. “Will you bless me vicar before I top myself?” was his request. What do you say to that? After a bit of a saga the police were able to bring him home, but obviously, all is not well.
On a completely different note, two days ago I was meeting with an academic geographer-theologian who had just returned from a large conference in America. Geographers, he explained, are beginning to understand that poverty around the world is increasingly about precariousness; material poverty is understood, but what is really growing is the level of instability in people’s lives. The experience of the so-called ‘poor’ is that few certainties are left—home, work, health, family and friendships— are for many very precarious realities. One incident and they all collapse.
The idea of precariousness rings true for many that we are encountering, such as the man with the rope. Perhaps the response is to nurture resilience. This is a challenge, not just for individuals but for the wider community and society at large. What does resilience look like for us as we seek to engage as emerging Christian communities here in Bristol’s urban areas? Who is Jesus in this complex urban mess? These are the questions that we continue to grapple with – informed and helped by those who write books, but perhaps more so by those we meet on the street.
We value your prayers for our teams in East and South Bristol. Do pray for those team members who have had babies – four born over the last 3 months and two more still to come! Please pray too for families who are planning to join Urban Expression here in the near future. Do pray that we will know Jesus more deeply in all aspects of our lives together.
In February last year Abi and I were introduced to Urban Expression. We had moved into the area (Hartcliffe) just over two years earlier with a mind to setting up an Acts 2 style community. That was it; that was the mandate. Essentially we had moved into Hartcliffe to start a church in our front room. But then we discovered that there were some difficulties facing the local churches, and some of the local Christians. Shortly after that we became aware of the extent of the damage caused in the community, by groups and projects which were routinely set up, and within two years had become stagnant, if not closed. It became clear that setting up a new project could become unhelpful even damaging. So two years later we woke up realising that God had placed us in an estate that we had engaged with in no meaningful capacity.
Since then I have left my job and taken to exploring the community with the full support of my wife (Abi). Urban Expression and the team in Knowle West have offered us a framework and the encouragement to explore meaningful engagement in the community. Without that support and guidance, We would still not engage in community and I would have struggled to overcome the expectations upon myself to be the main bread winner and sustain my family rather than value the encounters I have had with local residents and professionals.
Urban Expression has offered us a new mandate, with a more intelligent approach to understanding the estate and its people, and helped us questioned the traditional approaches to Christian ministry which might not have fit organically into our home here in Hartcliffe.
Over the last year we have been growing together as core community, exploring faith together and learning to be open, honest and accountable to each other. Time spent within the local area (Easton and Barton Hill) has mainly been with a few individuals, with whom trusting relationships are growing. Linking our encounters with study and reflection at Bristol Baptist College and the Crucible weekends is helping us to be more questioning of our prejudices and assumptions, to hear more deeply those around us and to be reflective in seeking the presence of the Kingdom in East Bristol. For myself, I have been challenged this year by the need to see people and not problems. Something I would have said was crucial a couple of years ago and a trap which I still catch myself falling into today!
Simply Church – 26 May
You might be interested in a day on the topic of Simply Church, hosted at Horfield Baptist, 10am to 4pm, £20 (unwaged £12). Stuart Murray-Williams is one of the speakers, and UE one of the sponsors, along with various Baptist associations, and the Bristol Baptist College. For further information, contact Stuart stuart a_t murraywilliams d_o_t co d_o_t uk
Bridging the divide
In Bristol there is a significant division between north and south of the river. Easton/Barton Hill is north and Knowle West/Hartcliffe is south, but a sense of shared values and common purpose spans the north/south divide.
Urban Expression has been pioneering new churches in urban communities for over twelve years. To find out more about UE, visit the website:
Crucible is a training course which takes place over a series of weekends, run by UE in partnership with others, aimed at equipping people for developing church in urban situations. See www.cruciblecourse.org.uk
This newsletter is put together by Linda Wilson: email linda.wilson a_t blueyonder d_o_t co d_o_t uk
The aim is to produce a newsletter roughly twice a year for those who are interested in the work of UE in Bristol, and in praying for those involved. Please feel free to forward, print, and otherwise distribute.