‘Hey good looking – welcome to St Mark’s Dot Com’

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THE headline above is the greeting that meets you on the home page of the website of one of Milton Keynes’s newest Christian communities, St Mark’s.

There the Sunday meetings do not involve formal worship and a group of committed people are working to provide hope in the quickly expanding Buckinghamshire city. The tagline at the bottom of the ‘about’ page on the website states: “When everything else has faded away three things remain; Faith, Hope and Love.” (1. Corinithians 13, vs 13.)

The Revd Paul Oxley, who leads St Mark’s, is a Milton Keynes bloke who moved away for university in 1998. He was inspired to set something up on a trip home to visit his mum while he was completing his curacy in London. He noticed large notice boards about the expansion of Milton Keynes, outlining plans for thousands of people to move to the city.

“We started a conversation with Bishop Alan as to whether we’d be able to start a Christian community from scratch, focusing fully on meeting people outside of the mainstream Church,” says Paul. That was three years ago and since then Paul has moved back to Milton Keynes with his wife Laura and two-year-old daughter, Isabella. Together the family have worked to develop St Mark’s into a community of 25 to 30 people who meet regularly.

Snowdome launch

The official launch of St Mark’s was with a carol service in the Cineworld – the same building that houses the famous MK Snowdome. The service attracted about 200 people.

Sunday meetings take place in the Buzzy, a building that has previously been the Chicago’s nightclub and later the bus station. “Now a youth organisation runs it and they have various activities going on. We use it on a Sunday.

“Our aim is that if you are happy in the church you are going to we don’t want to take you away from that. We are trying to reach people who are not going to a church, who have maybe had bad experiences with church. Everyone has a need for faith and Jesus is for everyone. If we do something we feel will put people off we will scrap it.”

The Sunday meetings include muffins, crumpets, tea, coffee and the chance to hang out and deepen friendships. There is a separate prayer meeting each week, but the idea is that the Sunday meetings are completely accessible to all.

Pub Alpha

St Marks uses other venues too – a marriage course and an Alpha course have been held in the Slug and Lettuce pub and meetings regularly take place in people’s homes.

“We are building a community inspired by Acts 2: vs 42 to 47, meeting in each other’s homes, breaking bread together and sharing fellowship,” says Paul.

This month the girls are planning a Bollywood night with a curry while the guys are going out for a Mexican meal.

“Milton Keynes is a unique place. Eleven people move here every day and it is a unique place in that it does not work in the same way other cities do.

“It can be hard to meet people because we don’t have normal streets so building community is a real key. Our aim is that as people discover faith they will find hope. We work with a couple of charities in the city because we want to help give hope to people that don’t have it. Milton Keynes has a young and vibrant population but is lower than average in church attendance. One in five children live below the breadline.”

See www.stmarksmk.com for more details.

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