Be informed. Be challenged. Be inspired.

Books: Inspiration for the “new face of liturgy and art for the public square”

Church Beyond Walls small

ANGELA YOUNGMAN reads a book that’s all about taking Jesus outside the church walls…

Martin Poole
Church Beyond Walls: Creative Church in Public Spaces
Canterbury Press, Norwich, UK, 2023
ISBN-13: 978-1786224828

Church Beyond Walls


“Church Beyond Walls is not a guidebook to initiatives that have worked for Poole. Instead it acts as inspiration, providing ideas ideal for a visually-orientated audience, that need encouragement to explore deeper.”

Opening up opportunities for God to follow-up with individuals is an unusual approach to worship, but one which is certainly catching people’s attention. 

Ex-actor, producer, marketing consultant and now parish priest Martin Poole writes that church “should be about generating circumstances, actions, activities and events that create a space where God can act, never dictating what this action might look like, but always opening up the possibility of revelation”.

“That’s the goal of every artistic event I’ve ever created and the activity I believe we are all called to if we really want church to mean something in the twenty-first century.” 

It is a view which has led him into some unusual activities including creating a labyrinth on a showground designed to encourage meditation, a Passiontide window trail around Brighton’s historic Lanes area – complete with scenes like a pair of chained hands symbolising Jesus being locked up and, cold, wintry nights during a beach hut advent calendar while trying to locate a missing group of stilt walkers dressed as the Three Kings.

Poole believes that these are the sort of events that Jesus would have recognised since He spent most of his ministry on the seashore and in the market square. It is “a church that doesn’t seek to contain God in a straightjacket of rules and ritual, but which releases the gospel of love into the world through art and beauty, freedom and understanding”.  To put it simply – if people are not going to church, then take the message of God to them in everyday situations, and think creatively. 

Poole recounts some of these initiatives in his book Church Beyond Walls, explaining how he set them up and highlighting the unexpected challenges that occurred while utilising traditional festivals, folk traditions and theatrical immersion in new ways and locating at venues ranging from pubs to street corners to theatres and, of course, churches.

Even Halloween, with its emphasis on ghosts and witches, was regarded as an opportunity which involved changing the focus of a 31st October event to the Christian festival of All Hallows with activities on mortality leading to journey of light and joy featuring a light trail and pumpkins set afloat on a boating lagoon.

Poole writes about how these initiatives have taken the word of God to thousands of people who might not otherwise have been engaged with it. That first advent calendar event, for example, attracted just 60 people on the first night – but by the end of its run, thousands had turned along with massive publicity in the media. Since then the concept of what Poole calls ‘Beyond’ has spread beyond Brighton with churches elsewhere taking up the idea in their own communities.

Church Beyond Walls is not a guidebook to initiatives that have worked for Poole. Instead it acts as inspiration, providing ideas ideal for a visually-orientated audience, that need encouragement to explore deeper. As Poole points out: “This is the new face of liturgy and art for the public square that this book seeks to express and articulate as I tell stories of our experiments in this spiritual adventure.”

Anyone seeking inspiration will find plenty of ideas here, ones that have worked perfectly and others that have needed tweaking.  The ideas are broken up into sections such as interactive installations, retail spirituality, community art, pub theology, theatrical spirituality. It’s all written in a very readable fashion; there’s no dry-as-dust theology but rather practical suggestions that have been worked although not always as originally expected. 


As a former branding consultant, Poole points out that “there is a debate to be had about whether ‘church’ as a brand is an appropriate vehicle for attracting people to faith in God” saying that “Beyond was an initiative to start something that wasn’t church, rather than trying to start with a church and evolve it into an arts organisation”.

Above all, he sees it as a way in which “people of faith and no faith might experience revelations about God and themselves which can transform them”. It is a challenge which all churches have to face, and one which this book can certainly provide plenty of ideas. 



sight plus logo

Sight+ is a new benefits program we’ve launched to reward people who have supported us with annual donations of $26 or more. To find out more about Sight+ and how you can support the work of Sight, head to our Sight+ page.



We’re interested to find out more about you, our readers, as we improve and expand our coverage and so we’re asking all of our readers to take this survey (it’ll only take a couple of minutes).

To take part in the survey, simply follow this link…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.