'Practical theology - HeartEdge feels different'
Baptist minister Andy Goodliff explains why his church has joined a new network helping churches develop their mission
Earlier this year as a church we joined HeartEdge. It’s a new church network initiated by St Martin-in-the-Fields in central London which launched in February 2017. It's an attempt to take what St Martin's has learned as a church around four areas - congregation, culture, commerce and compassion - and share this with other churches, which of course will all have their own ways of sharing and teaching what they have learned.
The beginnings of HeartEdge are therefore the story of St Martin’s: of homeless people who became a gift instead of a problem, and commercial operations (café, concerts) that became mission and not just a cash cow.
HeartEdge asks what are the obvious and hidden assets we have as churches, and how might they be used in ministries of culture, commerce and compassion that shape the church’s life and mission, so that they do not become just things we do, but become part of we are.
Many churches are engaged in compassion ministries - foodbanks, night shelters - but few of us are really taking seriously the opportunities to do mission through culture and through commerce. And our compassion ministries tend to be the kind where we do things for people, rather than seeing them as gift to us.
This word gift is important. Instead of seeing the deficits in our church life, the vision of HeartEdge challenges you to see the assets, those often unrecognised or not fully appreciated gifts, which can become something more in the kingdom of God.
Why the name HeartEdge? Well it’s about the heart of God being with those at the edge; it’s about those things in church life at the edge becoming the beating heart of what it means to live as the people of God.
It’s early days, but I there is think a lot of potential. What I like about HeartEdge is it's a story that's founded in theology. This is not just another last-gasp attempt to try and save the church. For us too often pragmatic Baptists, prone to chasing the latest fad, HeartEdge feels different, in that it is practical theology, where the theology is not just a veneer, but running right through it. It's rooted in a theology, articulated especially by Sam Wells, the vicar of St. Martin’s (and a Catalyst Live speaker in 2016), which he has been developing and articulating over the last ten years. You can read about the theology in various books, like The Nazareth Manifesto (2015), Incarnational Ministry (just out), For Good: The Church and the Future of Welfare (out November 2017) and Incarnational Misson (coming out in 2018).
It’s not expensive to join. You receive a monthly email, with a whole host of resources, including the church visits, one day conferences and as it develops networking opportunities with other churches that are both similar, and sometimes different.
I know several Baptist churches that have joined like us, and it would be great to see more.
There are introductory days to HeartEdge taking place in Bristol, 8 November and in Edinburgh, 21 Nov, with days having already held in London and Birmingham. There will be more coming. You can find them on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theHeartEdge/ and/or follow them on twitter: @HeartEdge_
Andy Goodliff is minister of Belle Vue Baptist Church, Southend