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Who we are


Spirited Exchanges

It grows from a recognition of the fact that many people of all ages are struggling with issues related to faith and the church.

§         some have been abused in a controlling church culture

§         some want freedom to explore the questions without being told the answers

§         some have had life experiences that cause them to doubt God

§         some are hurting, some are angry, some are bored

§         some are deeply hungry for more spiritual reality.

For all sorts of reasons, people are leaving the church.

Some leave their faith behind as well, a number even find a stronger, more mature faith outside the church.


Spirited Exchanges

§         doesn’t try to convert people

§         doesn’t try to lure people back into a church fellowship

§         doesn’t try to ‘fix’ the problems.

§         Lets God defend God.

Spirited Exchanges

§         facilitates existing groups for people to process the issues and discuss the questions

§         offers resources, particularly in the area of faith development

§         hosts this website for ongoing sharing of information, articles, book reviews and helpful  links. If you would like to contribute to this, please   email info[at]spiritedexchanges.org.nz

the story of Spirited Exchanges

In the eight years Spirited Exchanges existed, it grew from one small group based in Wellington to a significant network of people and other initiatives, a UK network and pockets of interest from other parts of the world.

 It was birthed early in 1999, emerging out of a combination of the personal experience of church leaving and faith stage transition of Jenny McIntosh,  church, and publicity around the findings from research done by Alan Jamieson (who subsequently wrote ‘A Churchless Faith’ out of that research) into why people leave churches.  Both had a concern to provide some form of response to the thousands of people who were leaving the church.  Their experiences and insights led to their desire to name and validate the issues that leavers were facing and to provide support and resources for people in this space.

 It started up initially as an open-ended discussion forum for people in Wellington. ‘Spirited’ described the kind of discussion we hoped it would be as people shared their thinking and experiences with one another; as well as acknowledging that the Holy Spirit was a very integral part of what was going on.  And ‘Exchanges’ to indicate that this was an interactive and conversational exchange of opinions and discussion rather than only one person speaking from the front telling us how it should be.  We wanted to encourage people to take responsibility for developing their own faith.

 Soon it was realised there were two distinct age groups of people, those in mid life and 20-30 year olds.  At the end of the first year a second group specifically for 20-30 year olds began under the name of Deep Stuff.  The same things challenging the faith and church attendance of mid-lifers were also challenging those in their mid to late twenties largely because of post modern ideology. 

At the same time other initiatives were developed and Spirited Exchanges became the umbrella name for a variety of responses offering support, resources and accompaniment to those on their faith journey outside of the church.  These included:

  • safe and open-ended discussion forums;
  • a newsletter containing people’s stories, articles, poetry, book reviews and information that stimulates thinking and understanding in this area, as well as opportunity for readers to respond. Initially published bi-monthly it then went to ten issues per year.
  • resources in the area of faith development, how to run groups, where to find other helpful material, books, etc;
  • a website which makes the newsletters, other resources and information available on line.
  • listening within the group and one to one - face to face, by phone, email or texting.
  • training for potential facilitators of groups;
  • seminars and workshops to help build understanding in wider Christian circles of what occurs for people in faith transition.

What began as something of an experiment became an established resource for people in faith stage transition. 

a metaphor for Spirited Exchanges

Many times people have asked whether Spirited Exchanges is a church.  Our answer was always ‘No. Spirited Exchanges supports people through faith/church transition.  It is not a church and has never tried to do or offer many of the primary ‘elements’ of church.’

Spirited Exchanges offers resources, support and connection with like minded others for people who sense their faith is changing and their relationship with church is being renegotiated. In other words, it (SE) is a bridge on a much bigger journey.  A bridge that helps people to make their way from one phase/zone of Christian faith to another.  Not to determine destination, but to normalize and support people through an often very difficult and disorienting transformation of faith.

People initially approached SE with scepticism and caution.  They wanted to work out what the agenda of the group was and whether it was simply set up to try to get people back to church.  Once reassured that SE groups were open spaces where faith and life, doubt and critique, anger and disillusionment, heresy and hope could be bluntly and freely expressed, then people tended to relax.  For a time, often about a year, individuals would use the space to pull apart, critically assess and tentatively begin to rebuild their own faith.  The rich context of honest discussion, shared stories and brutal critique both encouraged and helped sharpen each individuals processing.  But, as people formed and increasingly felt at home in their new self-owned faith, their need and energy for the SE groups, resources and supports diminished.  Often around eighteen months to two years after first making contact they would move on to the next phase of their own faith/life journey.

Looking back over the SE journey it is increasingly clear that not only was SE an important bridge for individuals, it has been a bridge for the wider Christian community too. The existence of SE has, in small ways, been one of the voices that  has helped to bring greater understanding of faith transitions, acceptance that Christian faith is a journey which often involves radical faith change, and made many reassess their perception of ‘church leavers’. 

SE gave people permission and it said the unthinkable.  Ten years ago it was almost revolutionary today it is almost passé.  SE has been part of this shift in the Christian Community and beyond, both here in NZ and beyond – a bridge!


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