Five questions and six habits.

Find out more about the questions we've been asking about what God wants of us here in Barnard Castle...and the Holy Habits we are trying to learn.

Five questions...

What have we been learning through the Partnership for Missional Church process?

Where are we?

Central to Christian belief is an understanding that 'God is with us'...but where exactly is that? We spent some time studying the make up of our church, the town and its surrounding area, conducting interviews and reflecting on our history (good and bad) and the things that matter to this place. This has helped us to get a sense of where we are...and therefore where God is.

Whose are we?

We are learning to listen to one another and to God speaking to us through one another. We do this through regularly spending time attending to the scriptures using a practice called Dwelling in the Word.

What is God up to?

We are trying to learn to reflect on what God is doing in our community so that we can join in! This involves a shift from just 'believing in God' to 'believing in a living God'.

How does God send us?

We trust that God has a purpose for our churches and wants the best for our community but how do we go about serving His purposes and being a blessing to the place where we are set? We are learning how to partner with others for the good of all but to do so unashamedly as 'public Christians' whose action stems from a desire to follow Jesus.

How might we live into God's promised and preferred future?

God has a preferred and promised future for all of we are a hopeful church. Schemes and plans come and go. Initiatives are introduced and then have their day. This question asks how we might embed a long-term strategy into our common life so that we become a 'missional church'.

...and Six Holy Habits

It takes time for something that is new or unusual to become a normal part of 'what we do'. We are gradually learning six holy habits, slowly introducing them into our common life.

Dwelling in the Word

We believe that God speaks to us, we just need to learn how to hear Him. One way He speaks to us is through the scriptures. Another is through one another. ‘Dwelling’ is a way of listening to Him together.

What happens?  We read a passage of scripture and listen out for any phrase or word that strikes us. We tell a ‘friendly looking stranger’ in the group what we have heard and listen to their insight. We then report back not what we have said but what we have heard.

Dwelling is a powerful yet challenging habit. It trains us in listening to one another. It overcomes our reticence to speak of faith. It ‘democratises’ access to the scriptures as it doesn’t depend on religious professionals telling anyone what to think or believe.

Each year we focus our ‘Dwelling’ on just one bible passage. You can find this year’s passage here.

Dwelling in the world

We believe in a living God. …but what is He up to? Dwelling in the world helps us to see where He might be at work in the world that he loves and to join in.

How do we do this? We look out for ‘people of peace’. People who may or may not share our faith but who share our concerns and values….and we listen to them to see whether we might partner with them.

Our involvement with people of peace is as public Christians acting as part of St. Mary’s, not just folk who happen to attend church. This shift to public engagement in common life is a major step out from a wholly internal and privatised view of faith….and for most of us this takes courage.

Corporate Spiritual discernment

How do we (as a whole church community) make decisions about important matters? Corporate Spiritual Discernment offers us a way of hearing and valuing everyone’s input to the discernment of what God might want us to be doing. It takes time, but the first two of our Holy Habits help us to attend to one another and listen  out carefully for God’s voice: this habit takes us a step further…our experience so far is that by working through this process carefully we unite behind the end result more readily.


We all like to think we are hospitable but this Holy Habit is about what we call ‘upside down’ hospitality. It is one thing to offer hospitality…another thing to receive it. PMC helps us to learn that we don’t have all the answers.

If we are to partner with others in the work of God’s Kingdom then we can only do so if we come together as equals in a relationship – accepting and giving hospitality, learning from one another’s insights.

This website is an example of a partnership: without the partnership with DigVentures we could never have created it…but we have had to learn from their expertise along the way. Other examples would be our work in schools; uncovering the history of the church and much of our music ministry.

Announcing the Kingdom

As we join with others in partnership we do so unashamedly as ‘the church’. Our purpose in working with others is to seek the well-being of our community not to convert or browbeat but because we have entered our partnership working as ‘St. Mary’s’  our partners expect us to frame what we are doing and saying in terms of our faith.

An example of announcing the kingdom might be: ‘When I see this community (young and old) pulling together, so many smiling faces helping and supporting one another it shows me something of God’s Kingdom’. By ‘announcing the Kingdom’ like this God’s work ceases to be an idea and is shown to be ‘real and lived’ – embodied…and this is attractive!

Focussing for missional action

Focussing for missional action is crucial. There is so much to be doing and so much to be done. The whole world is God’s and it has many needs. ‘Focussing’ stops us from wasting our energies. It involves saying ‘No’ to good things as well as obvious ‘no brainers’ and allows us to respond to His call on us.

‘What does God want us to be doing here and now?’