A city centre shaped for mission

10 March 2021

Rock climbing, a community choir and broadcasting on a young people’s radio station are all part of the life of the innovative Bluefish chaplaincy in Wolverhampton.

shine_bluefish_hr_-1731Bluefish has grown out of a Fresh Expression of church developed by Wolverhampton Pioneer Ministries, a joint Methodist/Anglican project in Wolverhampton city centre. It works with 17 to 30-year-olds, growing a vibrant discipleship movement.

“We seek to worship fully, love all and serve the city,” said Deborah Walton, team leader and lay pioneer minister.

“Members of the community are encouraged to embrace opportunities to serve and grow as disciples shaped for mission. We meet regularly each Sunday evening at a gathering called Vitalise.”

Because Wolverhampton city centre is mainly retail and commercial premises, the team has to find young adults and work out how to approach them in an intentionally Christian way that is appropriate and gives the opportunity to show the love of Christ.

“We decided to explore the use of chaplaincy as our primary mission tool,” said Deborah. “In November 2013 we started providing weekly chaplaincy at Badger Court, a YMCA hostel for homeless young adults.

“We consulted with chaplains working in other contexts about how to develop this idea. As a result 4 members of our community who were all under the age of 26 were trained and commissioned as lay chaplains in July 2014 and Bluefish Chaplaincy was born.”

The team gets training support and supervision from more experienced chaplains at the Black Country Urban Industrial Mission.

“The Bluefish team now provides weekly chaplaincy to YMCA Black Country at Badger Court and KicFM,” said Deborah. “KicFM is a young person’s community radio station based in Wolverhampton, broadcasting 24/7 online across the world!” The team ran an ambitious Christmas project last year, re-telling the Christmas story by writing a radio nativity play set in modern times and broadcast by KicFM.

shine_bluefish_hr_-1907Bev Momenabadi, Participation Coordinator at YMCA Badger Court, said: “The impact that chaplaincy has had on our residents and organisation has been phenomenal but is so hard to put into words. “The chaplaincy and Vitalise give our residents someone to talk to, someone to listen to their worries, achievements, problems. Surprisingly, for our young people this is something that they may never have had before.”

In addition to the traditional chaplaincy role of listening and being an intentional presence in a place where they are invited guests, the Bluefish team also offers activities for people to engage with chaplains in a different context.

Deborah said: “We have been involved in eight weeks of keep fit dance classes, ten weeks of rock climbing, monthly football and, during December, a Christmas community choir.

“We have been delighted that our chaplains have had opportunities of working with other chaplains, for example at V-Festival and the Staffordshire Show. We continue to look for other places where we can offer chaplaincy and build relationships with people who might not otherwise knowingly come into contact with Christians.”

Graham Wiggley, 26, one of the chaplains, has found serving people through chaplaincy “not only a deeply rewarding service but a necessary one”.

Another of the chaplains, Shaz Mellis (25), said: “I’ve often thought about Church presence at events, like the Staffordshire Show, and seeing it in action reassured me that it is much needed and a successful way of engaging with people.”

This article originally appeared in the connexion magazine, issue 2.
Banner photo of team meeting: © Revd Langley Mackrell-Hey/Shine Photographics, TMCP
Photo of Morning Prayer in Starbucks: © Revd Langley Mackrell-Hey/Shine Photographics, TMCP
Photo of Catherine, Deborah and Nicola (some members of the chaplaincy team): © Revd Langley Mackrell-Hey/Shine Photographics, TMCP