This story illustrates the principles of From 'exploring' to 'church' in the Guide.
When Church Army pioneer, Ian Biscoe, was sent in 2002 to work among a group of Anglican churches in north Oxfordshire, he took on responsibility for an estate with no church. The only worship building on this former US air base was a military chapel.
Ian and his family started to build relationships with their new neighbours and discover whether any other Christians were living there. One close neighbour was particularly interested in their reason for coming to the estate and kept asking
When's the church starting? I want to come.
The Biscoes invited the neighbour to their home, along with another person who had expressed interest, and suggested an Alpha course. Meanwhile, through their community links they put on a Christmas talent show at which they advertised Alpha through posters. The course started in the new year with 24 members.
We had a sense that God had already been working in people's lives long before we showed up,
The early meetings were held at the Biscoes' home but soon moved to the military chapel when they realised that entering one another's homes did not come easily to residents on this estate.
When the Alpha course was over, members wanted to carry on their Thursday evening meetings.
We started with a mission emphasis, then realised it was discipleship time,
Ian says, adding that the 'up, in, out, of' vision of church is a key element of this new Christian community's mindset.
As a worshipping community is growing and different needs are emerging, there is a sense of a maturing church with a core of believers and lots of explorers,
Greater structure to what happens in the church has become necessary. Meetings follow the tried-and-tested format begun with the Alpha course of welcome and refreshments (now usually coffee and biscuits rather than a meal), corporate prayer and worship, a time of Bible study, interactive prayer and three small groups for discussion. These groups are open to anyone, but Ian has found that people tend towards their usual group without this inhibiting their wider community life.
A prayer ministry is being developed at services, which now happen weekly. As the church has grown, members have gained confidence in taking responsibility, enabling the new church to be 'a continual meeting'.
Communion happens once a month in the adult congregation. Children and young people have their own services on the estate, with the whole church family coming together for occasional 'celebrations'. Heyford Chapel's four age-related congregations each have their own leadership team.
We are a growing, worshipping community and are thinking about how we meet together,