Sprowston’s vestry hour outreach

Published on: 1 July 2018

Andy Bunter unpacks how a different approach to vestry hour has opened the door to new opportunities.

We have always had great numbers of weddings and baptisms in Sprowston, and with the arrival of lots of new housing in our parish the idea arose about holding another vestry hour.

Vestry hour is a time when people can come to discuss and book weddings and baptisms with a Church minister. In addition to our two vestry hours on a Tuesday evening and Saturday morning we decided to add a third opportunity to engage with this service.

We spoke to all our local businesses in Sprowston and asked them: “When are people who are likely to want these church services active and available?” Many businesses suggested the middle of the day during a weekend was, according to their knowledge and labour scheduling, the best time to engage with people. Taylor Wimpey Homes kindly agreed to offer us office space at their site office between 12 noon and 1pm on a Sunday and thus our new vestry hour was born.

After a slow start we welcomed more bookings towards the Spring of 2018, but we wanted to welcome more people, meet more people and take a step further into this new community.

Research we have done in our area showed us that we have a large gathering of local people at the Lazy Boots Car Boot Sale that meet at the same time as our new vestry hour. This weekly event runs between April and October at the Sprowston Park & Ride site, around a quarter of a mile from the Taylor Wimpey Site Office.

We made a research trip, led by our new Curate the Revd Philip Harvey, to a ‘Church at the Car Boot’ initiative in Chelmsford. Then I met with the Revd Rob Ryan, a Pioneer Minister in London who has previously led Church at the Car Boot. Learning from their experiences, we decided to launch Church at the Car Boot in Sprowston as a space where we can raise funds, offer a prayer space, engage pastorally and advertise and book weddings and baptisms, using high visibility Church of England advertising from Christian Publishing & Outreach (CPO).

We have worked with a great partner in Taylor Wimpey Homes and look forward to resuming our vestry hour service at their Sprowston Site Office from October 2018 after the car boot season has finished.

It has been really useful to be allowed the space to research and experiment with new outreach ideas here in Sprowston. The freedom to be allowed to try, theologically reflect and on occasion fail, has allowed integrity for proper investigation into how we can be church in Sprowston through traditional ways and new ways in the future.

This culture has led to many initiatives, the most recent being Church at the Car Boot, where we hope to welcome people into the community of our church through being out where people are, amidst the hustle and bustle of the Car Boot Sale.

Recent mission funding will allow us to update equipment, advertise services and engage with people while moving forward. It has become clear that culture has discipled our people while , and we want this job back for God’s glory.

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