28th March 2024

Working At The Well

Operating at a coworking space within a shopping centre, has prompted much curiosity and questioning from the ever-changing businesspeople surrounding Stephen Field of Canterbury Baptist Church (CBC).

Due to a future building program CBC needed a new office space, and this prompted the church to look into the Waterman Camberwell co-working site for Stephen, who is the church’s sole pastor and office member.

The move took place in August, after much prayer and discussion at CBC on how the alternative office arrangement might suit the functions and values of the church.

Since moving to the site in Camberwell Place, he has found that “being in this space with ‘church’ written over your head” has fostered some beautiful relationships and allowed people to open discussions about issues that are on their hearts.

“I’m here to work, as everyone else is here to work. I answer my emails, I prepare sermons and other things here at my desk, but as I’m working, I’m also visible and available. I have made a point to never initiate a spiritual conversation – I feel quite strongly about that. But being here has sparked dozens of conversations with people who want to ask me things, or bring up things that are going on in their lives.

“For many people, I am the first pastor they’ve ever met face to face. They often ask, ‘What does a pastor do?’ Sometimes they share deeper things, and sometimes they initiate more reflective conversations, for example, ‘If there’s a God, why do bad things happen?’ There are no easy answers, but more important than having all the answers is engaging with them and allowing them the opportunity to express the hurt and pain on their heart. There are some people who don’t want spiritual conversations – some people I’ve known for eight months and we haven’t had one spiritual conversation, and that’s fine. I’m self-conscious about not being the soapbox guy.

Some of Stephen’s new neighbouring coworkers hire a dedicated desk with their company’s sign, others come and go using on-demand hotdesks, and some use a private office space with several staff members. He is able to use meeting rooms and sound-proof phone booths for private conversations, and there is a shared kitchen-dining area.

Stephen said the shared environment had been enjoyable since he would usually work alone – as he tells others in the share space, being a pastor often meant “to be with people who are having the worst day of their life”, which can be taxing.

“In my job as a sole pastor it can be very isolating. I don’t break confidences with people, but after spending time with people on their worst days, going back to a workplace where you see familiar faces and have a friendly chat – it’s very refreshing, and better than just returning to a church building alone, which can be bad for your mental health. It’s allowing connections for me and I’ve really appreciated it.”

He said he was “super aware” that the church had lost a measure of respect, honour and credibility in the eyes of the public in recent years, causing people to see it through a “lens of abuse”, and he sought to demonstrate God’s love and message of hope to those he meets in this environment.

“Being visible, available and present, in this moment in history, is the way to do that. Then let whatever happens happen – and what happens, frankly, is extraordinary!”

Related Posts