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  • Writer's pictureMatt Woodcock

#15 Spirited.

As a tactile, extroverted, overly-excitable activist who craves the company of large gatherings of people, this year of Covid has been nightmarish.

Thank the Lord I’ve had high-energy daughters to run around with and an awesome, patient wife with endless amounts of hopeful optimism.

Church ministry-wise it’s been a year of constant frustration.

Of false dawns and disappointments.

An endless cycle of postponing, cancelling and awkward, fidgety Zoom meetings.

If you don’t know, I’m what’s called a Church of England ‘Pioneer Minister’.

Basically, an agent of change in an institution that doesn’t find it easy.

My brief is to build a new Christian community in west York for those in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

I’m encouraged to use creative ways to connect with our predominantly secular culture.

To be fair, we’d made a decent start before Covid struck.

Things had started to grow a bit.

We were buzzing and felt ready to kick on and go to the next level.

But - like for everyone else - Covid changed everything.

We had to quickly learn to become more digitally-minded - and, reluctantly, far less sociable (in person at least).

But for all the challenges and frustrations, we dug in and got on with what we could.

On a positive note, our 20s-40s community - which we call The Upper Room - has become more robust this year

We’ve taken the chance to really take stock about who we are, where we are and where we feel God might be leading us.

We’ve planned, prayed, and layed some stronger foundations.

My two superb co-leaders, Pete and Rhiannon, have become more firmly established

They are now part of a core team of six and will receive training from the York diocese’s helpful Multiply team.

My hope is that they’ll soon be formally commissioned into their roles.

Another excuse for a big party. We’ve missed those. We’re really good at them.

Surprisingly, we’ve welcomed some new people this year - despite the restrictions.

One guy just walked into one of our masked gatherings off the street with his housemate.

Now we can’t get rid of him!

Inevitably some other folk have also drifted away.

Maybe we’ll get the opportunity to reconnect when things open up a bit.

Our weekly pattern this difficult year (when possible) has been to gather in St Barnabas, Leeman Road, on Monday nights for discussion, teaching, music, games, prayer and laughs.

During the lockdowns we’ve met over Zoom and produced YouTube and Facebook Live content.

We’ve also held several ‘rule of six’ firepits in various gardens.

Many of the group have supported each other with one-to-one walks.

I’ve found them to be a life-saver.

Pete has also begun to establish an Upper Room band which will be crucial to our work.

Our community values have been greatly influenced by this wonderful Bible passage from Philippians 2:1-2 (Message version):

‘If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care — then do me a favor:

Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.’

We’d love The Upper Room to continue to grow to be a community of ‘deep-spirited friends’ - of all personalities and backgrounds, interests and stages of belief.

We have future plans to help this happen.

They include:

  • A cracking summer weekend away to the seaside.

  • Inspiring Monday night gatherings with special guests tackling interesting subjects.

  • Wednesday night socials with volleyball, curry and live music in a local bar.

  • Hosting a monthly community gathering in Leeman Road offering support, friendship, music, family games and a simple lunch.

  • Providing morning refreshments once a week for school-run parents and carers outside St Barnabas.

  • Plenty of opportunities to explore faith, spirituality and prayer.

So, there's been loads to learn from this year and we have much to look forward to.

If you’re not connected to a church community in west York and fancy coming to any of our Upper Room gatherings, please get in touch.

People tell us we're really friendly.

And please don't worry if you're tone deaf, terrible at volleyball and have never prayed or been to church in your life - you'll fit right in!

Drop us an email at

Come and explore what it means to be a ‘deep-spirited friend’.

We’re having loads of fun trying to find out together.

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