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Rest and recover with a Greenhouse

Olly Shaw, Youth Greenhouse convenor, presents to a group of people out of shot. He stands next to a screen with a colourful display that reads In a garden, a greenhouse incubates new shoots - it provides light and warmth and a place of nurturing until the seedlings are strong enough to go out into the garden. New Congregations Greenhouses act in the same way.

Over the past few months, four Greenhouses have been launched across the diocese to provide support and encouragement to dedicated teams looking to grow new congregations - also known as new worshipping communities or fresh expressions of church. In these days of regathering and rebuilding, Greenhouse functions as an excellent place to reflect, pray and plan. You don't have to have an outreach activity already on the go - if you've got big questions, a Greenhouse is the perfect place to discover your next steps.


St Mary's Cogges launched the Witney Greenhouse in September 2021, with a huge twelve teams committed to nurturing growth across various social contexts. 

Simon Kirby, St Mary's Cogges' project leader, says about the launch:

"The morning was hugely encouraging - ideas were shared, plans were made and goals were set for the next stages in the projects. The teams will meet again in January to share stories of how things have developed and to continue to encourage to be creative and outward looking."

Youth Greenhouse

The following month saw the launch of a Greenhouse specifically geared towards nurturing and encouraging engagement with young people, particularly those who are as yet unchurched. 

Olly Shaw, the Youth Greenhouse convenor, says:

"The thing I love about Greenhouse... is that moment of coming together to listen to God and to listen to each other and love each other. That moment is so precious."

A crucial part of the Greenhouse model is the provision of hospitality - offering teams time and space to reflect on where they are now and where they would like to be. One of the team members commented;

“Greenhouse was really encouraging! The activities and time out to reflect gave me even more enthusiasm to move ahead with where God is taking this project, and meeting the community helped solidify the importance of these groups throughout God’s family.”

Bicester Deanery

Bicester Deanery, in the Dorchester Area, started up their own Greenhouse in January 2022, with a launch event attended by some 28 members.

The Loving First Cycle

A group of people stand in a circle in a church hall. Om the floor is a circle of large hoops, each with a piece of paper in the middle. People stand at or in the hoop(s) that best represent where they are in the Loving First CycleTeams were invited to think about where they felt they were on the Loving First Cycle - the pathway taken by many Fresh Expressions teams as they learn and grown.

The Cycle begins with a period of discernment, with participants listening both to God and those around them, as they begin to find ways of showing love practically to those around them. As relationships develop, a community is built. As appropriate in each individual context, the team can then begin to share their faith within that group, and a new worshipping community emerges. Ultimately, the new believers feel sufficiently encouraged and empowered to share their own faith in a similar way, and the cycle is repeated.

During the Bicester Greenhouse launch, teams used circles on the floor to consider where they felt they were in the Cycle and then reflect on what their next steps should be as a team. Ian Biscoe, the Bicester Greenhouse convenor, gave the following brief summary:

"Some attendees were focused and organised into teams, while most were there exploring the way ahead and thinking about the opening questions;

a) Which group of people are you wanting to love and serve?

b) What have you started to do already?

c) What will you do next?"

The Bicester Deanery Greenhouse regroups in early summer to review their progress across the first half of the year.

North Milton Keynes Greenhouse

On Saturday 5 March, we celebrated the launch of a Greenhouse in Milton Keynes. Convened by lay pioneer Katharine Crowsley, curate the Revd Ayo Audo and with the support of the New Congregations Enabler, eight teams gathered to prayerfully reflect on how they can turn their mission initiatives into intentional congregations. The Revd Sarah Flashman, New Congregations Enabler, commented:

"The mission initiatives were varied and exiting. Everyone seemed to engage really well, and all posted plans by the end of the launch. By the time we left, Katharine had set up a group WhatsApp. The next gathering will be on Saturday 1 October!"

A wonderful lunch was provided by volunteers from other churches, which was a real blessing to the day, and there was time for worship in amongst the conversations and planning.


What does this mean for me?

Greenhouses are very much an invitation to come away, rest and recover. Each of the diocesan Greenhouses offer a recovery space for teams - many of whom are feeling weary or discouraged after the challenges of the last few years. See how they can support you via their webpage, or email Sarah Flashman, New Congregations Enabler, to arrange a chat.

Page last updated: Wednesday 16th March 2022 11:25 AM
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