The Ark at Crawcook (May 2013)

The Ark @ Crawcrook is a church, café and soft play centre near Gateshead. Deacon Tracey Hume and Superintendent Paul Saunders explain the concept.  The Ark opened its doors this month and we aim to help children and adults to talk about God and learn more of Bible stories by providing a safe space in which to explore matters of faith. We look to serve the local communities of Crawcrook and surrounding villages – as well as the wider Gateshead area.

Rev Liz Kent and Deacon Tracey Hume are the ministers there and they work alongside our centre manager Janette Lea. As a venue which can be used for children’s parties, and lots of other events, we rely heavily on volunteers and party hosts.

The Ark, a not-for-profit organisation, has been built on what was the site of the Robert Young Memorial Church in the village of Crawcrook. It is a fresh expression of church which aims to be a place where the community can meet, have fun, be supported and welcomed.

We are inspired by the words of Jesus in Luke 18:16, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these’

Michael Moynagh draws out learning points from the story of The Ark at Crawcrook.

The Ark at Crawcrook is an especially interesting story because it is a fresh expression within a business – Christian business-owners please note!

We are told that The Ark is ‘…taking us in surprising directions’. That is typical of many fresh expressions which are a form of ‘ecclesial entrepreneurship’. Research shows that improvisation is a vital part of the entrepreneurial method.

The Ark follows A fresh expressions journey.

It loves and serves people through its business activities (as well as in other ways).

It builds community as the Christian core develops one-to-one relationships with customers and volunteers and through its Facebook community;

There is also a community-building dimension in its CCCC course (exploring discipleship), where conversations are encouraged and participants can take the discussion in the direction they want. There’s no doubt that relationships deepen as people talk.

The leaders sense that a published course won’t work, so they create their own. Then they allow the participants, in effect, to re-write the sessions. This is contextualisation at its best – and simplest.

The leaders keep following the Spirit and the Spirit tears up the rule book – about baptising new believers into a congregation, for instance. This is nothing new; The Apostle Peter’s rule book was torn up when he met Cornelius, for instance! However, the leaders are not just being pragmatic. They reflect theologically on what they are doing by drawing on the resources of the outside church, not only on local theological expertise but also on the history of the church as they think about community. Rather than pulling away from the inherited church, the leaders are being resourced by it.