Our Church

We are very conscious that all churches have their own identities and ‘flavours’ and hopefully this page will guide you into getting to know us a little better as we look at what kind of church we are…!

What Kind Of Church Are We?

Opening & Questioning:

We are open to God regularly doing new things, in our lives, in our understanding of Him and in his care for us. 

This means we are committed to relating God to his world and joining in with what he is already doing in it and that we are always willing to explore the interface between world and church, including the difficult questions. 

It also means we do creative things… and sometimes, it even means we change our minds!

Generous & Orthodox:

We value the Bible as the Inspired word of God that provides us with what we need to live by. 

This means that the bible and our understanding of it is at the heart of all our activity, that we teach from it and seek to understand it better in worship and in small groups. We sit under its authority as the God-given book that tells us of the great love, forgiveness and compassion God has for us his children. We do not treat the bible as a rule book, science text book or inerrant logic book, but as the inspired words from a loving Father to us his children. It is a book we read to guide and inspire us as we carefully apply it to our world.

Charismatic & Contemplative:

We value the work and ministry of God’s empowering presence, the Holy Spirit. He gives us gifts to live by and draws us into the full life of God’s Trinity – a personal relationship with Jesus Christ our saviour and a deep knowledge of the care that God our loving Father has for us. We would probably prefer the label Trinitarian to charismatic, although that is less well understood! 

In practice, this means we give space and time to the Holy Spirit in all our services. Sometimes these services are lively and vibrant, sometimes they are quieter and peaceful – in all though, we rely, trust and seek the blessing of the Holy Spirit. We also offer ‘Prayer Ministry’ in most of our services where you can receive a fresh filling of God’s Spirit for yourself, or bring to him someone you love who is in need.

Anglican & Church of England:

We are the local parish church for this area and we care for all – those who have faith and those who do not.

We are part of the Church of England, and while we have our own identity which we value, so we are open to learning from and sharing with other churches, traditions and Christians who are different from us. 

 This means we take an active part in the life of the wider church and our local Deanery of South Bristol, serving it in many different ways and supporting its ministry across the whole country and world.

A Church:

A church is not a building, but is a group of Christians who worship together. 

This means that while we value our building and the way it keeps us warm and dry when we gather together, we are not defined by it.

St. Christopher’s:

We are named after St Christopher – the patron saint of journeys. This matters to us as naming is very important to God. We seek to accompany all who journey through life…

What Kind of Worship Do We Have?

What is Worship?

At its very simplest, worship is our human response of love to God’s character of love and His work in our life and all of creation. it is responding in love to God’s love for us.

As such, worship is something the Christian is called to do with all of our life, in our homes and places of work, our schools and travels.

A particular expression of worship is a worship service, where we come together to express something of our shared life. This corporate worship is particularly important for Christians, as we were never meant to be alone, or to live a life of faith alone; we were always meant to do it together. And so, from the earliest expressions of human life in history and in scripture, men and women have come together to worship God.

In the Old Testament, corporate worship expressed itself in a number of ways, particularly in that God chose to reveal himself and ‘be present’ with us in a very particular way, in the Tabernacle and then Temple In Jerusalem.

With the coming of Jesus, God, with us, the temple loses its place as the exclusive and primary place where it is possible to truly meet with God, symbolised by the tearing of the Temple curtain the day he was crucified for us.

Jesus continued to encourage and even command us to continue to meet together after his death and resurrection, and the early church took upon this command by regularly meeting on the day (Sunday) of his resurrection. The Christian church has continued to do this for two millennia now, meeting for Worship services in a myriad of places, from the humblest shanty houses of the South American base communities to the lofty grandeur of a European Gothic Cathedral.

Over the years Worship services have changed and developed but they retain certain common characteristics.There can be singing, chanting and other musical expressions of God and our response to God.There can be readings from the bible and reflections in many different forms upon those readings, helping us to understand God’s love and guidance for our lives. There can be intercessory prayers where we ask for God’s assistance and blessing.There can be confessions where we humbly admit our need of forgiveness.There can be the sharing of bread and wine and the retelling of the story of Jesus, something he instigated and commanded us to continue.There can be blessings to send us out for service.There can be time for manifestations of the Holy Spirit and the power and healing of God and opportunities to simply experience and delight in His presence with us.

Ultimately a Worship service is an event and a place where in the Power of the Holy Spirit and through what Jesus has done for us, we enter in the company, presence and love of the Living God. As such it is the most important thing we do at St Christophers.This is easy to forget as we have Worship services so often and familiarity can sometimes breed, if not contempt, then at least indifference. 

Why Do We Have A Varied Worship Service Pattern?

At St Christopher’s, our main services will vary both in style and content. We are generally relaxed and informal but that doesn’t mean we don’t do formal and liturgical too.

We do robed liturgical eucharists and we do very messy Messy Church. We have quiet days of meditations and reflections and we have lively services of extended praise and worship. We do traditional and contemporary. Some of our services are quieter and reflective. Others are more celebratory and engaging.

Why do we have such varied worship? Well, that comes the type of church we are and want to be, but also the very God we seek to worship, a God who regularly escapes our efforts to constrain, explain or domesticate…. 

First, worship is not about us, it is primarily about God.

This means that although we have our own tastes and preferences in worship, we are not here as Worship consumers or shoppers, but rather as God’s children coming humbly to sing, share and participate in His love for us. By having a diverse range of services we hopefully offer a way in for all people, whatever their backgrounds, tastes and views.Worship has to connect – but it is much more than that.

God has created us to Worship him – we are primarily not creatures of intellect or biology, but creatures of desire. Most of our mistakes or messes in life are when we worship, love or desire something or someone other than God.

Second, and more theologically, worship reflects for us the enormity and unfathomability of the God we come to worship.

Different services offer different aspects of God and taken together they give us a broader and better view of the God we have come to worship; God who we long to understand and know, but who equally delights in escaping any confines we may foolishly try to place upon him.

Third, we have committed, for the most part, to worshipping together as God’s people.

Rather than having as some churches do different services on a Sunday morning which congregation members chose between, we offer one main Sunday morning service to which all are invited and welcomed.

Unity is a central part of God’s Kingdom, not to mention a key facet of what the Holy Spirit does.

Fourth, this has allowed us to explore ‘Fresh Expressions’ of doing church

Our Messy Church is a good example of this. Messy Church, which is our largest congregation, is a separate service and different way of doing church. It is not a gateway to ‘proper’ church or a Children’s service, but a full, distinct and fresh way of doing church in its entirety.Although standing alone, it has deep links with many other aspects of our church life.

God is always doing new things and our worship needs to reflect this truth.

Fifth, we do not think of any way of doing worship is ‘better’ than the other.

We value the deep history and hard-won wisdom of the Anglican Eucharist and liturgy and we also value the fresh and bold new things the Holy Spirit is saying to our church about being accessible and formative.

Unity does not mean uniformity and as such there should and will be different expressions of Worship. God regularly tells us to put others needs and preferences ahead of our own and worship is a key area for this.

Sixth, this allows us to celebrate and attend to the Seasons of the Church Year and Life.

So often the world attempts to pull us out of sync with God and His seasonal approach to life, usually in order to sell us things. Worship by contrasts reorients us to God’s vision, values, priorities and timings.We are also seasonal beings ourselves and although our preference might be for contemporary worship, when we are facing deep challenges or struggles we may value the cadences and poetry of the traditional liturgical service found in our Share service. Equally we may prefer the traditional liturgy but at times find it repetitive and even dry and God may be needing to inject new life into our worship of him with some lively music, challenging preaching or unexpected format.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3

God has created the world to have a flow. A year is marked out by the passage of the earth around the sun and a day by the rise and fall of the sun. Within the year, we have a number of seasons, seasons where things grow and flourish, and seasons where things die and rest.

Yet, by contrast, the human world so often tries to pull us out of shape in two main ways. Firstly, it funnels us into ‘shopping seasons’ – notice the ‘seasonal aisles’ in the shops with the cream eggs arriving on Boxing Day. Secondly, its seasons are ‘always on’, encouraging us to move from one frenetic thing to the next, fostering a sense of dissatisfaction, which again is usually aimed at selling us more things.

Into this context comes the gift, the very real gift of ‘The Church Year’, which encourages us to develop much more healthy and Godly rhythms to our life.The Church year tells the story of Jesus – waiting for Jesus (Advent), celebrating Jesus birth (Christmas), looking at what that birth shows us (Epiphany), preparing for Jesus’ death and resurrection (Lent), hearing the story of Jesus final week (Holy Week), Celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection (Easter) and living the life of the Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit (Trinity/Ordinary time).

There are times of waiting preparation and study, times of activity and mission and times of celebration and joy.

To aid this, we also have some special weekday services that give us some of the markers of God’s time during the year including Candlemas,The Annunciation, the Ascension,Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and All Saints. Many of these services allow us both to celebrate the Godly season as well as to move from season to new season. 

Seventh, our diversity allows us to encourage and develop new ministers.

I am sure you have heard the old joke – “Why are the Clergy so strange?” The answer – “Have you seen where God gets them from…”

It is no surprise that St Christophers has fostered and developed many new ministers, lay and ordained in recent years. Diverse services provide an avenue for a prospective and training minister to learn how to lead worship and to gain experience in leading the different variety of Worship services that exist within the wider church.

Very positively this has also allowed us to develop the wider ministry in worship of all our church family – many of our services most notably our Messy Church involve a large number of people, lay and ordained. 

Worshipping Well

It is not an overstatement to say that Worship, done wrong, or with a wrong attitude, has been a cause of great schism, division and contention within the Christian Church throughout history. This shouldn’t be a surprise as we as human beings are frequently fallible, foolish and imperfect.The bible is full of stories of people behaving badly and in particular with regards worship. Jesus himself observed of the religious leaders of his day :“These people honour me with their lips, bu their heart is far from me.”

Worship proceeds from our hearts, from our inner motivations, from grace. Grace is the underserved and unmerited love of God.

Worship as such is also much more than worship services and it needs to be exhibited not just in services but right throughout our lives, on whatever frontline God has placed us in the Mission Field.

Messing Up

Because Worship is such a personal and intimate thing it has a great capacity to hurt as well as bless us, so we need to be especially careful and attentive to one another’s Worship sensitivities.

Being committed to exploring creative worship will mean that we will get it wrong from time to time.We endeavour to do what we do well and with professionalism and skill. But we are human we will sometimes get it wrong.We misread rotas and emails and fail to do something we said we would, we try something creative that doesn’t work, we forget we had swapped with someone else and so on…

Here is where living as a community in the grace and forgiveness of God is important -when mistakes happen we listen, learn, forgive one another and move on, with grace.

We want to be a community that avoids fault finding or blame giving.We come one and all to Worship seeking forgiveness and grace.

Coping with Difference

We fully recognise that having a diverse range of services provides us with both comfort, and challenge.

Comfort in a stable and familiar pattern, and challenge in the diversity of approaches.This mirrors our God who is ‘the same yesterday, today and forever’ but also a God who is always proclaiming that he is doing ‘a new thing.’ This is a tension, but one of the many creative tensions within our faith.

We trust God to hold it together and are humbled by knowing that so often in life God thinks we can cope with more than we ourselves do.We are also humbled as an institution by the knowledge that the religious leaders of Jesus day were so self obsessed with their own pride, prestige and power that they completely missed the greatest event in Human history, the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.

Equally, we are all at very different places with regards to our ability to cope with change and the life stages we are at. 

How To Worship?

To further explore Worship, we offer two possibilities:

Firstly, enjoy the paintings! Some years back, Sally, a creative artist in our congregation, painted pictures to go with each of our varied worship services. These pictures can be found as an art Installation in our church and you are invited to explore them and read her artist’s notes for each picture and understand why each is as it is.

Second, come along to a Worship service and experience it. We are a small church, but Worship is the most important thing we do together and following God we know ultimately our worship is for Him and not us.

We were created as human beings to worship – and if we don’t worship God, we will find alternatives – if worship is ‘our souls response to what we value most’ so a Worship service is something that challenges us to see just what it is in life we do worship and to reorient ourselves to the Worship of God, the source of love and desire, and the one for whom we were made.