Sara Barron participated in the European Baptist Federation (EBF) gathering in January with her 'children in urban situations' specialist hat on. She writes:
What a privilege to spend time with inspiring, enthusiastic youth and children workers from across Europe. Very different contexts with various sized unions and churches coming together to explore what God might be saying and how we can best join in. One of the conversation threads that emerged was around how young people feel alone in their faith despite the more global feel to our lives in other areas. We asked: how do we help young people to discover others with similar values and with a passion for Jesus that will broaden their connection? In what ways are young people wanting to connect with spirituality in our communities?
In all our conversations and reflections we held space for one another recognising that relationships are key in all the strands we explored. Where we know people we are more likely to find peace ways, more likely to see others views favourably and we have more opportunity to speak into each others lives. Learning from one another.
The presence of so many young leaders felt encouraging both for the future children and young people's work but also for the innovation of the church. Many are asking questions about how and why we do church in the way we do. Many are asking about church planting amongst the youth. Many would like to see thriving churches which connect with community in social action as part of sharing the good news message of Jesus.
We are delighted to announce that Alex Ellish will be leading the team of coordinators from January 2024. Alex has been a member of the team for several years and has been involved in two local UE initiatives – in Tower Hamlets and Harold Hill. Her role will be to provide strategic direction and oversight to the team of coordinators that support UE mission partners.
We are also excited to report that two new coordinators have been appointed to start in January, both with regional responsibilities, and we look forward to welcoming them into the coordinators' team.
Carmel Murphy-Elliott will be our regional coordinator in the north of England. She is a long-standing UE mission partner, now living in Manchester, a Baptist minister, and one of the core team members of Urban Life.
Dave Mann will be our regional coordinator in London and the south-east of England. He is one of the leaders of Bonny Downs Baptist Church in East London and is involved in various Christian organisations. Dave is the first coordinator we have appointed from outside UE, so we look forward to the fresh perspectives he will bring.
After nearly 27 years with Urban Expression Stuart Murray Williams will be stepping down as team leader of the coordinators' team, having been involved since it began in 1997. We are delighted to announce that Alex Ellish will be leading the team of coordinators from January 2024. Alex has been a member of the team for several years and has been involved in two local UE initiatives – in Tower Hamlets and Harold Hill. Her role will be to provide strategic direction and oversight to the team of coordinators that support UE mission partners. Alex will also continue as the minister of Amott Road Baptist Church in Peckham.
In an interesting and unexpected development - whilst he will no longer be a member of the coordinating team Stuart and his wife Sian will be moving from Canterbury to Peckham early in the year where they will become members of Alex’s church! Stuart will also continue to organise the Crucible Course and share involvement in the Black Light Course in partnership with the Ascension Trust.
Stuart says: It has been a great privilege to be involved with UE over the past 26 years as this mission movement has grown beyond all expectations. I have been involved with no other community in which its core values (relationship, creativity and humility) have been so embedded and influential. I am deeply grateful for the friendships made over the years and I hope many of these will continue. I have every confidence in Alex and the rest of the team, and I look forward to hearing how UE continues to develop over the coming years. I’m also looking forward to getting involved again in a much more local context in South London.
Alex says: Urban Expression has been my 'tribe' since I was ordained in 2009 and joined Phil and Sarah Warburton at E1 Community Church in the east end of London. I love the people of UE and I'm passionate about the values and commitments of this community. We have a great team of coordinators and I'm really looking forward to seeing what God has in store for UE over the next 25 years. If you would like to get in touch, please don't hesitate to drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are delighted to welcome Urban Life within the Urban Expression community.
Having operated as a CIO for a few years, Urban Life were becoming increasingly unsure whether it was the best container for their work in the long term. Earlier this year their Trustees concluded that, while there was significant energy and uptake for the work, the amount of time and energy needed to ‘run a charity’ was disproportional to the output and, therefore, untenable going forward. Having had a close relationship since Urban Life’s inception the trustees at Urban Expression agreed to provide an organisational home for their continuing work. The values and activity of both organisations are complementary and we are already finding new and exciting ways of working together that are mutually beneficial.
You can find out more about Urban Life - Carmel Murphy-Elliot and Anna Rudick, and the work that they do via their new https://www.urbanlife.org/
We presently have two coordinator vacancies, both for one day per week; they are geographically based. One in the north of England and one in London and the South-east of England. Job descriptions and details about the application process can be found by clicking the button below.
We have enjoyed a strong relationship for many years with CURBS (children in urban situations). We have featured their activities in previous newsletters and they have often led children’s programmes at our events.
In January, our trustees and theirs agreed to a full merger. CURBS will shortly cease to exist as a separate charity and will operate under the auspices of Urban Expression. This will not only reduce administration and costs, but will enable us to work even more closely together. Sara Barron, CURBS’ development worker, who is already a mission partner, has joined the team of coordinators, and the chair of CURBS, Peter Davison, has become a UE trustee.For more information about CURBS, have a look at https://curbsproject.org.uk/.
From the Curbs trustees:
Curbs will remain Curbs as you know it. We will have the same heart, values and indwelling in the Lord’s word. We will have the same wonderful worker – Sara, who will still work with her Curbs hat on, but we will now work within a larger charity whose values, passion for urban ministry and vision align with ours, allowing us to do more than we ever could have done by ourselves.We will no longer be our own charity, but the identity and presence of Curbs will not change, if anything, we hope it will just grow stronger.
It's great to be able to look back over 25 years of Urban Expression, knowing that new and exciting stories lie ahead!
Urban Expression celebrated our 25th anniversary in 2022. We began in 1997 during the so-called Decade of Evangelism. Church planting was high on the agenda in many denominations, but most of this was taking place in affluent areas where there were already many churches. Urban Expression began as an experiment to find ways of incarnating the gospel creatively in some marginalised urban neighbourhoods. We did not expect to still be going in 2022!This is the first Impact Report we have produced. It is our attempt to reflect on our activities, achievements, struggles and ongoing challenges. To invite friends and fellow-travellers to celebrate with us, and to hold ourselves accountable to those who have supported us (and sometimes criticised us) through the years. We share it with you and welcome any feedback.
To view an online version, click here
Some pages from the report
We want to share with all wider UE community, news about the brilliant time together we had for the 25 year celebration weekend.
In total 84 adults and children participated in our festival weekend, either staying at the superb Somersal Cottages venue in Derbyshire for the weekend or as day visitors. Several others were unable to be there, due to previously booked events, and some who had planned to join in succumbed to covid infections.
Initial feedback on the event included words like ‘amazing’ and ‘wonderful’, which is very encouraging, and there is already enthusiasm for doing something like this again, maybe in 2024 and probably in the same venue, which worked brilliantly.
Barney took photos and we have uploaded a selection of these here.
We had some lovely greetings sent in before the weekend by people who have journeyed with UE over the years, you can find a link to them also.
All in all it was a wonderful community time together, celebrating of the past 25 years, and a hopeful and encouraging look forward to the future for Urban Expression.
It's been a really special Easter time, the team and community exploring Jesus is growing. We had a lovely family fun afternoon in the church garden with a nature trail, egg hunt and leaf threading. We continue to have café gatherings with two recent baptisms and always lots of interactive items - ie mummifying one of the young people! The foodbank is ever busy and we provide lots of advice and signposting. The local community are taking leadership roles in the foodbank, a new small group and coffee morning. Its always real, fun and there is never a dull moment!
Here's a super poem written at the UE Cobridge team's weekly gathering.
A selection of objects were scattered on the carpet and those present asked to select one and reflect on how it made them feel, or prompted their thinking.
Rosemary for remembrance
Stimulating senses, stirring synapses
As I hold your woody stem, I realise
the vast variety of memory I retain.
I also know the cycle of forgetting
has removed much from my ability to recall.
Still this enmeshed mass of memory
makes me ‘me’; holds my individuality.
The good, the bad, the joyous, the painful;
I would not willingly surrender even one of them.
But into your hands they go, my Lord,
with all I hold dear, all I have learned and all I am yet to know –
for my tomorrows are less than my yesterdays.
Nothing is lost in You and each now
moment of remembrance is blessed
and savoured in the sharp sensibility
evoked by a stem of rosemary.
Veriditas – the greening of memory rising.
News from around Urban Expression