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Norwich: new church targets those on the margins

A new church called Radical is looking to reach ex-offenders, sex workers, the homeless and others who don't fit easily into conventional churches ...

A new church called Radical has been meeting since February 2013 providing a church family to those on the margins of society in Norwich and Great Yarmouth, particularly ex-offenders, sex workers, the homeless and those with addictions reports Network Norwich and Norfolk ...

Radical Church began as a vision given to former Mental Health nurse and evangelist, Matt Richards in January 2013.

Norwich-based Matt, who previously attended City Church, recounts that God called him to start a new church for the marginalised, targeting those who don’t conventionally fit into “normal” middle class congregations.
 
The aim is to establish a church for ex-offenders, sex workers, addicts and homeless that will meet on a daily basis, eating together, sharing resources, providing housing and employment where needed and moving in power.  

In developing a new church, Matt and his team are seeking to mirror the example of the early believers in Acts as closely as possible.

Matt said: “With the people I’ve got a passion for, they need more than just a once-a-week service.  They need family, support, someone to be there.”

He said: “Our vision is for lots of small churches rather that one big church in order that people can be family. It is very difficult if you are in a massive church, or even a congregation above 100 to be known and develop in the things of God.

"So our vision is to raise people up where they are at, and then get them to do it.  It is about getting the people in the congregation free enough and discipled enough to be operating the gifts God has called them to … We really believe in discipleship, getting people trained up, buddied up and getting involved from the very beginning.”

One year on from that initial calling and Matt is working full time developing the vision into a reality alongside a small leadership team. The church is overseen and accountable to Paul Randerson, Senior Pastor of Breckland Christian Fellowship in Swaffham and King's Lynn Christian Fellowship.

Meetings began last February in front rooms but homes were soon outgrown and so over the summer the church began holding regular, informal open air services in Chapelfield Gardens (pictured above right) with baptisms for new believers held at Great Yarmouth beach (pictured below left).
 
Since August the congregation has been meeting at Frere Road Community Hall in Heartsease each Sunday, 2pm-5pm. Each Tuesday the church meets in different peoples’ homes in Norwich and each Wednesday there is a meeting in Great Yarmouth. An outreach service is held once a month at St Stephen's Church, Norwich giving Christians from across Norwich the opportunity to bring along people who aren’t saved with the guarantee that they will hear the Gospel preached.  

Matt said: “We may not have all the equipment, we may not have all the personnel, but we have the presence of God and that is something you can’t manufacture and fake. And it is a real privilege to see peoples’ lives change.”
 
Matt is clear that Radical is not looking to steal Christians from other churches. He said: “That is not the aim. If someone felt that God was calling them to Radical to serve with the homeless, serve with sex workers, serve with those coming out of prison, we’d ask them to seek God and then we’d ask them to get a blessing from their pastor. What we don’t want is for people just to leave."

During the church’s ministry over the past 12 months there have been amazing testimonies, miracles and lives changed, but Matt admits there have been difficulties. 

He said: “It’s been a hard journey. We’ve had lots of people get saved and we’ve had lots go away as well. We’ve had lots of people move onto other churches, which is fantastic if they’ve been saved.  But we’ve also had lots of people disappear. But we are going to persevere and we are going to see God come through because Jesus loves the broken and messed up.”

The next stage of the vision is to set up a sustainable way of housing and employing those from the street who make a commitment. Matt is currently praying for a farm with at least 12 beds, where people can move from the streets to live in a community setting for six months to a year before being housed by the church and helped into a trade.    

Asked how the Christian community can support the work of Radical, Matt said: “Pray for us and be supportive of us. And if you want us to help you, we are happy to help you. If you know people with substance misuse problems or homelessness problems we are happy to help. And if anyone has a farm that would be great … you never know!”

  • For further information about Radical Church please call Matt on 07833 498 562 or Clint on 07500 979 532 or e-mail mattbeth7180@yahoo.com

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