Thursday, April 12, 2012

wanted dead and alive: UK alt.worship communities

As part of my PhD research (what became “A New Way of Being Church”, University of Otago, 2004), I conducted research during March – June, 2001 into mission experimentation in the UK. This was focused on alternative worship communities and included both participant observation and interviews with both leaders and laity.

Some ten years on from that research, I have been reflecting on sustainability. As any parent will know, it’s one thing to birth a child. It’s quite another to do the early mornings and late nights, to piece your way through the ups and downs.

So I have begun a “Sustainability in new mission initiatives” Research Project. This first part has focused on the church that was the major focus of my research, Cityside Baptist. I have returned to participate in worship, to interview key leaders, to re-survey the congregation, and to conduct focus groups in response to reflect upon their data. Currently I’m writing up the results.

The next stage of the project involves wanting to explore the sustainability of the UK alt.worship communities I had researched back in 2001.

Here I need some help.  Some initial website research has revealed that of the twelve I researched, four six continue today (two three under another name). Two Four appear closed.  I remain unsure about six two of the communities. They look to have little web presence and so perhaps are closed.

So I have two requests. First, can any of my UK readers check the table here and provide any further information on the current status of any of these groups. I’m particular after information on

  • Late Late Service, Glasgow
  • Sanctuary, Bath (Updated: website found)
  • Resonance, Bristol (Updated: renamed as Foundation in 2005. Thanks Paul )
  • The Bigger Picture, London
  • Graceland, Cardiff (Updated: according to a blog comment (thanks heaps), has closed, although relational connections continue.
  • Holy Joes, London (Updated: Maggi Dawn thinks this group is currently in recess)

Second, I am interested in trying to interview all these groups, or representatives (whether dead or alive!). We need to learn from all our experiments, no matter their current status. I am working toward a research visit to the UK (December 2012-February 2013).  So I would like to locate folk, particularly from those that are closed, or appear to be. So can any of my UK readers provide any followup or contact details?

Thanks, in hope 🙂

Posted by steve at 02:31 PM


  1. Sounds fascinating, and especially important information for many church bodies who find it difficult to endorse such experimentation for fear of unsustainability.

    I would like to know how you plan to interview the dead representatives though? Are we talking seance here?

    Comment by Ivan — April 13, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

  2. Ivan, it’s an an experimental type of research called Vulcan mind reading. A bit controversial with the ethics committee actually 🙂


    Comment by steve — April 13, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

  3. Would be very interested to see the results of your research. I’m part of Sanctus 1 in Manchester & we’ve hit the 10 year mark. It’s always been my pondering (as with many others) of what happens to the emerging church when it has emerged? When is an emerging church considered emerged? Is that change of state a good thing? And so on. We’ve had leadership change and location change, members making families (how do we teach our kids in different ways), challenges around financial independence and more. Insights are always welcome (although alt worship challenges may be different to emerging church challenges). Matt

    Comment by Matt Carson — April 13, 2012 @ 5:59 pm

  4. Great questions Matt and exactly why I’m doing this. Wish I’d been able to interview sanctus when I did my research back in 2001, as your changes are so really fascinating. But I think Sanctus was too embryonic when I did my research (March-April, 2001).

    And Ben’s thesis should do a pretty good job of exploring some of this?


    Comment by steve — April 13, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

  5. Steve

    I have a contact who was instrumental in Graceland Cardiff. They did get to 10 years (I was at their 10th birthday BBQ on a farm just outside of Cardiff in 2006) but they folded as a worshiping community in the following year (or 2008). The members still keep in touch but they are now spread out across the UK although there are still a number of them in Cardiff. Ed Richmond and Mike Barnett seemed to be the main drivers when I was there in 2006 and I caught up with them (and several other members of Graceland at Greenbelt in 2009.
    Let me know if I can be of any more help – I can give you Mike’s and ed’s emails addresses at least!
    It sounds like some facinating research!
    (and on another matter I found “The Cross is not Enough” challenging and very though provoking. It really does call one to live as a witness to the resurrection!)

    Comment by Rob! — April 16, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

  6. Thanks for this. I would love to have Mike and Ed’s email addresses please. Or if you want, you could give them mine steve at emergentkiwi dot org dot nz, with a short note saying that I am researching new forms of church in the UK, that I did an interview with folk from Graceland in 2001, that I am re-doing my research 10 years on and I would love to hear what happened in the decade since and what the lessons are. I plan to be in UK December 2012-February 2013 and can I make contact. Please 🙂

    I will also email you separately,


    Comment by steve — April 16, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

  7. Wow, was just reflecting on this and found your comment.
    I was one founder team of Graceland but only in a candle / cooking capacity, the leader was Mikey Barnett, with Ed & Nick an awesome humble leader, who saved so many Christians who were on the edge of the church.
    I moved to London at the turn of the century and continued to dabble in alt worship, being part of the team at Elemental, Glastonbury, lead by Claire and Greg, ex third Sunday Service, Bristol, with Mike other Graceland founders for 10 years.
    That period at Graceland transformed my life as I learnt how to seek God, and really build a personal relationship with him. Graceland met up 10 years after at the Farm for reunion, which again was awesome. I’m now a trustee of a huge Pentecostal church in London…. Funny where God takes you eh!
    Love everyone who was part of that incredible journey…

    Comment by D. — December 17, 2012 @ 8:06 pm

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