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Hopeful, Resilient Love
February 8, 2016, 8:15 pm
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Birmingham Outer Estates Conference 2016:

Hopeful, Resilient Love – Practicing Outer Estates Ministry

As part of the life of the Birmingham Outer Estates Group, about twenty clergy came together for a 24 hour residential to reflect on the sorts of changes and adaptations we might be making in outer estate parishes to help them to thrive in that context.

This paper attempts to capture as many of the insights that emerged as possible.  Please send me any amendments, things that I have left out, or further links and I will add them in.  I hope that this will be of use both to participants and to other practitioners.


  1. Stories of Hope

We began with small group work, sharing ‘stories of hope’ from our experiences over Advent and Christmas in our parishes.

Here are some of the themes which emerged:
How do you have accommodating welcome?
The necessary journey (of the congregation and the minister)
Subtle changes over quite a long time
What is the church?
Links of service to the community
How off the peg things don’t seem to work…(alpha / start / lycig) – context important – in communities that often want to follow the ‘rules’

Need to be willing to adapt
Holding nerve in leadership – knowing you’re travelling the right path
What are the key points in culture that we can connect with?
Longer time frames – two to three Christmases to make an impact, for example

Community -fellowship – including children who feel part of community autonomously
Trying something new / newness
Doing something with what you’ve got and making the best of it – ‘this is what we can do here’ – ‘going with the flow and finding that it is good’

Affirming and enabling people – taking responsibility if it goes wrong

Hopeful stories
were in places where we were working with the community rather than for the community – the blessing that comes out of that
Valuing and esteeming community – recognizing value and worth
Opportunities growing out of being there
We identified some key themes from this which we reflected on deeply during the rest of the Conference

  • Courage, risk taking, resilience, being there for the long haul
  • High impact, imaginative, exciting, fun practices
  • Celebrating the small things
  • The interface between the Church and the community


  1. Courage / Resilience / The Long Haul

We used the Pastoral Cycle in small groups, seeing which biblical passages came into our minds


  • Trust
  • Domestic stresses
  • Journeying together
  • Going God’s way, not yours
  • Encounter with horrible things that stretch you beyond limits
  • Promise – not forgetting it.
  • What promises do we hold in our ministry?
  • How do we keep courage on the journey?
  • Where does the resilience come from?


  • God keeps reducing the troops
  • He wasn’t the obvious choice
  • How to keep the congregation’s motivation when they are getting less and nothing happens
  • Hiding the light
  • It’s the Lord’s battle

Jesus’ ministry and resilience

  • How did he do it?
  • Is there a model we see here?


How do you minister in the shadow of the Longbridge closure?

Needing to name things and not buy into the Council’s everything will be alright narrative


How was Jesus’ ministry shaped by a mother who named and called what was wrong?


Interpreting and reinterpreting


Practices around courage and resilience:

  • Space to pray and to serve – this was Jesus’ ethos
  • Wisdom to see
  • Wisdom to get out of the way
  • Space in worship to hear one another’s stories
  • Celebrating the small things
  • Journeying with others
  • Giving people confidence and permission to do all this
  • Honoring what people do that is not seen as important – quiet faithfulness
  • Resisting the temptation to look back (Lot’s wife)
  • Equipping and resourcing people so that they can be confident – a long job
  • Using worship as a vehicle for breaking the scriptures


  1. High impact, imaginative, exciting, fun practices

Roving nativity – telling the story around the estate.  People from the pub came out and said ‘no room’.  It finished in Church with mince pies and mulled wine. It felt really right.

Passion play – in sites around parish – followed around – written by a local person

The New Road nativity – ‘flash mob’ nativity – main characters agreed in advance

Pop up nativity in church (sheep knitted for shops and not used) – characters were adults – started with lost sheep, going astray. Adults very engaged.  Children ate the food first (meant to be after) – next time will do it that way round.

Nativity using empty 2 litre plastic drink bottles – put some water in the bottom then decorate as characters.  Characters brought out during the carol service.

Quizzes – Shrove Tuesday Pancake Quiz, for example.  Brings in the other halves.  Money raising.

Christmas quiz – how many donkeys?! etc

So many who came to Midnight Communion not to take communion but to light a candle, an act of remembrance is now included in the service

Partner with funeral directors to have a memorial tree – invited to carol service who find the names of their loved ones on the tree.  ‘Carols with Tears’.

Memory tree – first Saturday of December – stays until New Year

Mothering Sunday – give space for people for whom it’s a difficult day.  Cross – white rose and red rose – white roses put at cross to remember bereavements.
Giving flowers away – remembering the bereaved (parents for whom we’ve done the funerals of children)

Wedding celebration service – evening service close to valentines day – a chance to invite wedding couples back.  Bucks fizz afterwards, receive a box of favours as they arrive.  Not to do – walking in to the wedding march!

Special services where we give a bag for children to use and something meaningful for the services.

Marking anniversaries – 25 years of toddler group.

Christingle service – asking baptism families to bring back their baptism candles and light them together – also done at Candlemass.  Everyone has the opportunity to renew baptism promises.

Hodge Hill cuppa – specially printed tea bags.  To go and see a neighbour for a drink and also to offer refreshments at parents’ evenings etc.


  1. Celebrating the small things


We again used the Pastoral Cycle as a way of unlocking those biblical passages which came to mind, and the wisdom we could mine from them.


  • Washing feet – doing a small thing, a humble thing


  • Small things can signify a huge amount – the encounter with the Canaanite woman changes so much.


  • Reflection – what might God be saying to us?


  • The Widow’s Mite – Jesus is watching carefully, noticing


  • The power of symbol


  • Who ministers to who?


  • Peter and John being sent for – is like the Bishop coming. People want a proper job done. Bishop David writing a letter of thanks to a particular individual.


  • Who is the greatest? The child in the middle.


  • Celebrating who people are rather then what people do.


  • Of necessity, the things to celebrate will be small.


Practical Outcomes from this:


  • The problems of having a “what has God been doing slot”


  • Things can exclude if we are not careful – bring and share can turn into a private party


  • There is a danger that we don’t try things we are not in control of


  • Being aware of how we interpret things in different ways


  • The importance of social media and messaging in keeping people in touch, inviting people, and pastoral care


  • Use of newsletters to thank people


  • Using photographs – using the projector to show photos of life in the Church


  • Doing this at the Annual Meeting


  • The Annual Meeting as a Service of Thanksgiving



  • Someone coming in from outside the parish to encourage and build up – eg Andy Delmege visiting JSP parishes. Is this something we can do in the estates group?


  • How can people change and hand things on?



  1. The Interface between the Church and the Community


(including accommodating welcome and adaptability)


What are we hoping for?


  • A two way process between the Church and the community in terms of who initiates what


  • A place where people may encounter Church for the first time – a place of faith


  • That people will become followers of Jesus


  • That we will be safe places for people


  • For the Church to represent local people in its make up


  • If we want to give an accommodating welcome, we need to be aware of people


  • Transformation into people who can cope graciously with whatever comes


  • A bigger picture of the whole and where God is at work


  • The development of real relationships – invitational


  • Adaptability


  • Who ministers to who?


  • A community that works in the way that something like Slimming World does




We watched this film of a pea shoot growing:



  • A lot of the time you don’t realise it is growing


  • It doesn’t grow in the way you had intended, or perhaps the way it should be growing


  • It stopped when there was a drought


  • It reduced before growth


  • Ideas have to change with the reality – for example you wanted someone to work with children, but find they are really good with youth


  • Adults turn up rather than children



We worked in groups to brainstorm ideas and resources on:

Mapping / Reading Context

Dreaming Dreams

Diving Deep


  1. Mapping / Reading Context


  • Being there, real relationship


  • Church rooted presence


  • God’s heart for each particular place



  • The Spotlight Reports and Stats on the parish that the Diocese provide




  • How do we catch and tell stories?


  • Who can we work with? Who can do the work for us?


  • Celebrating what the Church can bring


  • How to get the congregation to really engage


  • Prayer walking / driving / cycling


  • Connecting with community groups that meet in Church buildings or elsewhere, also with local pressure groups and schools


  • Appreciative Enquiry (google it for lots of introductory articles)


  • Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) – in Birmingham Diocese, speak to Al Barrett


  • How can we join in with what God is already doing?


  • We value community and the community values us


  • Good idea / God idea discernment


  • Finding the “people of peace” – the group of people you can work with



  • Light a Glow Course (does anyone have information about this – I can’t find it)



  1. Dreaming Dreams


  • Knowing what the community’s vision is


  • SWOT analysis


  • We are all the future, both young and old. Having a vision for the future


  • Dealing with blockages and baggages


  • Having aspirational aims – the use of language is important


  • Congregation to let me know:
  1. What we do well
  2. What we could do better
  • What their dream is for the Church
  • Get into God’s story first – you are part of the story


  • Helping people see the grand narrative and their part in it


  • Do what we can do and not what we can’t – achievable goals, realistic dreams


  • Importance of unrealistic dreams


  • Listening to children


  • Giving hope to very broken people – breaking the mould – new horizons / expectations


  • Recognizing that dreaming dreams can be very difficult


  • How do our dreams match other stakeholders’?


  • Creating a time and space and a way to do it


  • Danger of raising expectations too much – prioritization; incremental, practical, planned steps in order to build confidence and continue the discernment process


  • Initial refreshment and building of faith necessary


  • Letting go and letting God




  • Diving Deep


  • Quiet Days and retreats for the congregation


  • Taking us back to Jesus’ teaching – eg Jesus Shaped People


  • Working with another denomination


  • Encouraging personal devotions, eg Pray as You Go app


  • Encouraging people to join in the Offices


  • Connecting to people’s daily lives


  • Taking time to go deeper


  • Starting with God’s grace in Scripture – what does that look like in our lives?


  • Create a hunger


  • Link into wider initiatives – diocese, Soul Survivor, Franciscan Companions


  • Making connections between sermon and context


  • Doing a few things well


  • Start from strengths


  • Something important about the community and the group rather than the individual


  • Pray for the desire to go deeper


  • Use of social media, etc


  • Growing the depth of relationship


  • ‘official pathways’ for non-book people


  • does this reach beyond the Church – there is a spiritual hunger out there


  • using all forms of communication


  1. Gathering the Fragments and Looking Ahead


We spent a final hour, after celebrating the Eucharist together and eating breakfast, catching anything we had thought of overnight and looking to the future.

We spoke a lot about sharing the difficult times and encouraging one another.  Usually, if someone in estate ministry is in a good place, they have walked a lot of hard yards to get there.  It is important, as well as celebrating the successes to be honest about cost, fragility and failure, not least for the sake of those who are experiencing particularly difficult parts of their and their parish’s journey.

There were particular questions about how you carry the scars; working through what we have inherited; what helps us to bear the cost of where we are now.

We decided that next year’s conference will be about this, probably with a lot of small group work as we share our stories honestly and learn from them.


We spent time talking about two key initiatives that many of us have found helpful.

Places of Welcome http://www.placesofwelcome.org/ is where a Church or other community organization offers hospitality and welcome to local people at a regular time each week.  This was seen as a vital way of connecting with the needs of local people in a way that is manageable, and which fits well with the ethos and energy of estate churches.

However, it was noted that they can be very slow to get going.  It is very important to keep your nerve.

Jesus Shaped People http://www.jesusshapedpeople.net/ is a whole Church discipleship programme designed especially for estate churches.  It takes Jesus’ teaching to his disciples and allows the whole of a Church, including children and young people, to reshape their lives around Jesus’ priorities.  Several of our parishes have engaged with it, and everyone has found it to have had a positive effect.  In Birmingham Diocese, please contact Andy Delmege if you would like to talk about how JSP might work in your parish.  We offer an ongoing missional relationship through it.


  1. Resources


Please let me know any more resources you have which can go on this page. I will keep it updated.

This is initially a skeleton list that will be added to – I am bound to have missed important things out. Remind me and they will go onto the list.



Pray as You Go: http://www.pray-as-you-go.org/home/

Taize Daily Readings: http://www.taize.fr/en_article1854.html

Richard Rohr Daily Meditations: https://cac.org/a-different-worldview-2016-02-08/





  • Blessed are the Poor? – Laurie Green (see also Bishop Laurie’s other books)
  • Crying out for a Polycentric Church – Joe Hasler
  • Chavs – Owen Jones
  • Estates – Lynsey Hanley
  • The Church in the Backstreets – Stanley Evans
  • The Heart of Change – Kotter
  • Getting By – Lisa MacKenzie






Courses, etc


  • The CIGB Chaplaincy Modules are designed in a way that fit estate folk and help with ministry in the wider community


  • Hospital Chaplaincy Courses are similar












National Estate Churches Network

(Annual Conference, Netlink Magazine, http://www.nationalestatechurches.org/)



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