The Day I Went To Zac’s Place

We recently hosted a Fresh Expressions Vision Day at Zac’s Place – below is the text from Andrew Roberts’ reflection from his experience of his time with us. Andrew heads up FX training and development

A heart for God and Harley Davidsons (Andrew Roberts)

Andrew Roberts reflects on a visit to Zac’s Place in Swansea.

Some days we are reminded of why we do what we do. I recently experienced one such day. It was the day I went to Zac’s Place.

On arrival my first reaction was, ‘It’s just like the film!’ Having played the Zac’s Place clip from “expressions making a difference” DVD many, many times it was great to meet the people and see so much of what appears on the dvd. All of the characters who speak on the film were there.

If you ever meet anyone who is cynical, sceptical or dismissive when it comes to fresh expressions of church, may I suggest that – in love of course – you bundle them in the back of a van and drive them to Swansea. If meeting the ‘Zaclicans’ does not transform them then I don’t know what will.

I encountered a community of self-proclaimed ‘ragamuffins’ that is one of the most authentic Christian communities I have ever met. In my weaker moments I would gladly destroy many a church noticeboard that says ‘All are welcome’ because it is simply not true – unless the visitor totally conforms to the whims and wishes of the controlling powers.

At Zac’s, I instead met people really trying their very best to make all welcome and it doesn’t matter whether you arrive in a limousine, on a pushbike or simply walk in off the street. Of course, as we know from the film, there are bikers – big guys in leathers and combat trousers who love their Harley Davidsons. Please Lord, if there are any internal combustion engines in heaven may they growl like a Harley.

It’s well known that Zac’s Place offers an open door to the battered and broken and those with serious addiction issues but it also offers a real welcome to middle class professionals. There is no inverse snobbery, no resentment of those who have some of the nicer things of life – just real people trying their best to be real disciples of Jesus.

And then there is Sean. This was the second time I had met him and again I came away thinking he is one of the most Christ-like people I have met. Let’s be fair, he looks the part for starters but then he feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, heals the hurting, turns the other cheek and gets a beating when other bikers want to punish someone for the crimes of paedophile priests. Unashamedly centred on God’s Word, he likes nothing more to open up the Bible and offer to others the Bread of Life. He offers a striking reminder that we should give proper prominence to the role of the Bible in forming disciples.

I was there to do a vision day in partnership with Associate Missioners Alicia Baker and Sean, both of whom were superb in presentation and conversation. We had asked to go to Zac’s to try doing a day in a bona fide fresh expression of church and it worked extremely well. Zac’s went to town on the hospitality. There was coffee, cakes and sweets galore and a fabulous lunch of homemade soup, baked potatoes and salads. The standards when it came to timings and technology were very high – ragamuffin culture and the professional standards we aspire to worked very well together.

Perhaps most importantly, the learning was added to and enhanced by the venue – partly because:

people there were living and breathing a fresh expression all day;
Zac’s Place people joined in. So when we presented our learning/theory/models, we could test it straight away against the realities of that community – and I’m delighted to report that most of it fitted extremely well.
Discussion of values was particularly interesting, with the Zaclicans highlighting the importance of the value of transformation – both personal transformation (including conversion and discipleship) and the transformation brought about by the struggles for social justice. I came away challenged that we need to do more to explore, encourage and be part of prophetic witness and the struggle for social justice.

We talk about the need for culturally authenticity and this was a culturally authentic vision day. If we had been spouting nonsense we would have been told in no uncertain terms that we were doing so! Instead, it was a delight to see the members of Zac’s being affirmed in who they are and what they do.

At the end of the day Sean said how helpful it had been for the community to think through who they are and realise they are a valued part of this thing called the fresh expressions movement.

For future reference, work and planning, this way of learning in situ would be really good to proliferate. Sharing co-produced experiential learning takes things up a level! The Zac’s folk highlighted the value of transformation. Their living of the value transformed me. It was a wonderful day.

The original article can be found here: http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/views/heart-for-god-and-harleys
Also explore the other pages of the FX site to see where we fit in, our contributions and stories.