The North Belfast Centre of Mission is a partnership between Church Army and the Diocese of Connor, launched in Sept 2015. Connect Base was opened in September 2016, originally in a shop unit at the Spectrum Centre on Belfast’s Shankill Road, and was officially launched by Mr Des Scott, Deputy Chief Executive of the Church Army, in the presence of the then Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, on February 8, 2017.
In January 2022, the Centre of Mission relocated to St Columba’s Parish Church, Whiterock, having outgrown its space in the Spectrum Centre.
It is staffed by Lead Evangelist Sister Karen Webb, Evangelist Stephen Whitten, Baby Basics co-ordinator Heather Gibson, and a number of enthusiastic volunteers. A new face will join the team in October 2023.
The Centre of Mission is part of the Mid Belfast Rural Deanery, and Karen and Stephen are also part of the Connor diocesan staff team, with a remit to model practice and activities that can be duplicated in other parts of the diocese and to be a resource for the rest of Connor Diocese.
To this end, the team has run Evangelism courses and the Alpha Course in parishes across the diocese, reaching as far as the north coast of Northern Ireland.
Connect Base is the heart of a number of projects, and one of the biggest is Baby Basics Belfast. This was established in April 2017 as a means of supporting people in the community. “Connect Base wants to help the Church connect with the community, and to meets the needs of the community,” Karen Webb says.
Baby Basics is a baby bank, providing items to help families with a new baby. The project has grown massively – in April 2017 it was distributing 4-5 baskets a month and by 2023 this number had risen to 40 a month, with Connect Base now the Northern Ireland regional hub for Baby Basics UK. The project has since been adopted by Ballynure and Ballyeaston Parish in Ballyclare, within Connor Diocese, and by six other centres across Northern Ireland, with Karen Webb overseeing all centres.
TLG – Transforming Lives for Good – is another core project of the North Belfast Centre of Mission. This is a mentoring programme for children in upper primary school, with TLG volunteers currently working in two local schools.
A focus of the Centre of Mission is supporting local churches, with Karen and Stephen taking regular services within the rural deanery. The two evangelists also have a diocesan role, with Stephen supporting Connor Youth Officer Christina Baillie at events across the diocese, and Karen supporting Children’s Ministry Project Officer Victoria Jackson with activities including school assemblies and puppet shows.
One very visual aspect of the Centre if Mission is the Glencairn Community Garden, established and managed by Stephen Whitten, which has transformed a derelict piece of land behind St Andrew’s Church in Glencairn into a vibrant community garden, growing a selection of flowers, grasses and vegetables which are harvested by and for the local community. Among those working on the raised beds and in the two polytunnels are volunteers provided by the Northern Ireland Parole Board and local people wanting to share the garden experience.
Karen is also involved in the local Peacebuilders project, working with the Rural Dean, the Rev Tracey McRoberts MBE, to connect with people on the other side of the community divide. Karen is linked with a priest based in Clonard Monastery. They meet regularly and last Christmas, Clonard chose Baby Basics Belfast as its crib appeal, raising £4,000.
To find out more about Connect Base, or to express an interest in volunteering with one of the Centre of Mission projects, you can contact Karen Webb – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mobile: 07803 272628.
Who we are…
Church Army is a Christian Charity that exists to share faith and fight poverty. Since 1882, Church Army has existed so that everyone everywhere can encounter God’s love and be empowered to transform their communities through faith shared in words and action. Our work is unconditional, tackling social deprivation through partnership and collaboration to help empower individuals and communities.
Do you love sharing your story of faith with people, and want to bring them to a living faith in God? Do you feel more at home outside the church than inside it? Do you feel called to be with people ‘on the margins?’ If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, you may have a vocation as a Church Army Evangelist.
Church Army Evangelists fulfil a variety of roles in the church: they are evangelists; they may also be chaplains, pioneers, youth workers, community workers, and church planters. Some are employed by Church Army. Many are not. But they all have a heart for sharing the Gospel with everyone, inside and outside church.
Church Army has been training pioneer evangelists in the UK and around the world since Victorian times and specialises in teaching and learning about mission and evangelism. In studying with us, you will be formed as a reflective practitioner, with the opportunity to learn as part of a prayerful Christian community with like-minded tutors and fellow students. We have a diverse learning community and cater to a range of church traditions. After training, people are Admitted to the Office of Evangelist and Commissioned as Evangelists in the Anglican Church: the only nationally licenced pathway for lay evangelists under canons E7/E8.
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Church Army’s Faith Resources aim to help Christians everywhere think about how they can share their faith confidently and comfortably with the people they know. Whether it is reflecting on your own journey with God in Faith Pictures, or thinking about how to connect others with your church in Faith Shared, our resources have been carefully developed to be shaped by your conversations, experiences, and context.
Church Army’s Research Unit have been at the forefront of research on contemporary mission, evangelism, pioneering and fresh expressions of Church for over 25 years.
During this period, we have produced numerous reports of national significance, including The Day of Small Things (2016), Paid Pioneers: From The Margins to the Mainstream? (2022) and Growing Leaders on Urban Estates (2023). We also provide research and consultancy services for dioceses, Church institutions and other funding partners. Each of our projects in unique and tailored to the needs of a particular context but we most typically assist with things programme evaluations, strategic reviews, survey design, and qualitative interviews and focus groups. To find out more and explore how you could partner with us, please visit our research webpages or contact Research Team Leader Andy Wier.
LEAD is Church Army’s leadership development offer for growing leaders. It’s flexible suite of online learning resources alongside learning groups make it suitable for a wide range of people. Whether you’re a new or aspiring or reluctant leader or have years of experience. To find out more check out our LEAD website and book a 1-1 chat today.
Envoy coaching communities help you step by step to develop a way of evangelism that is authentic to you and applicable in your context.
“Envoy helped to bring evangelism alive, from concept to applied life and to bring awareness into everyday routine. The weekly input [podcast] coupled with talking about it and praying into it helped grow roots over time and normalise evangelism”.
For more information, please click here https://www.envoy.website/ukireland