Sunday, December 23, 2012

Big thanks and warmest greetings

Many thanks to all our friends, supporters, volunteers and purveyors of occasional choreographed chaos for a wonderfully eventful 2012 at Zac's Place. 

It works, cause it's all about people - thanks for being part of it. May something of 'Immanuel', God With Us, be evident during this Christmas time to each one - evident in the gaze of a friend, the smell of the rain, the security of a cwtch and the evidence of hope in unexpected places. Cheers, God bless and watch this space for some Zac's Place developments into 2013 . . . 

In the mean time here's a video to ponder on, with the sound track of one of my favourite Christmas themed songs: written by Bruce Cockburn and joined, live, by Lou Reed and Rosanne Cash.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New Creations of God's Grace

Some of our friends and supporters will be aware of Zac's Place connections with Fresh Expressions, originally a joint initiative of both the Church of England and Methodist denominations, for exploring new ways of being church. Some may wonder how and where Zac's Place fits in as it is neither Anglican or Methodist by formal association!

Here in a farewell speech from Rowan Williams, whilst speaking at 'Following The Missionary Spirit' last week in London, summing up the progress of the Fresh Expressions movement, he gives some indication where Zac's Place fitted in with his early thinking behind it and why we have the connection we do.

It's also a message the wholeheartedly endorses much of the way we have been functioning as a community of faith together, as a 'new creation of God's grace'. Have a listen and be encouraged about the bigger picture. We have been very grateful for Rowan's ongoing keen interest and support over this past ten years during his time as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Lancashire Visit - Sunday 25 Nov

I will be speaking at Lowton Independant Methodist Church's morning service on Sunday 25 Nov if any friends in that neck of the woods are interested in dropping by. It's a 10.45 am start and I'll be speaking around some similar themes to those on the recent tour.
It's near Leigh in South West Lancashire not far from M6 Junction 22. Google Map Here.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The BBC Radio Wales 'All Things Considered' Interview with Sean Stillman - 30/9/12

The BBC Radio Wales 'All Things Considered' Interview with Sean Stillman - 30/9/12

itunes pic
Sean Stillman is interviewed by Roy Jenkins for the award winning BBC Radio Wales programme, 'All Things Considered'. Original transmission date was 30/9/12. Produced by Lisa Hawkins.
Roy Jenkins is in Swansea to meet Sean Stillman, the Harley Davidson riding preacher who is behind one of the most distinctive places of worship in Wales - ‘Zac’s Place’ which describes itself as ‘A Church for Ragamuffins’.
Religious and ethical affairs programme, tackling the thornier issues of the day in a thought-provoking manner. Also available as a free weekly podcast at
Visit the programme web site for current episodes at:
This podcast upload by Exousia Trust (Zac's Place) has been granted permission from BBC Radio Wales and is subject to the conditions set out below.
Terms of Use
The BBC Podcasts are for your personal non-commercial use only.
All title, ownership rights and intellectual property rights in and to the BBC Podcasts shall remain the property of the BBC or third parties. You may not edit, alter, adapt or add to the BBC Podcast in any way. The BBC Podcasts are made available by the BBC on an "as is" and "as available" basis and the BBC gives no warranty of any kind in relation to the BBC Podcast. To the maximum extent permitted by law the BBC will not be liable for any loss or damage which you may suffer as a result of, or connected to, the download or use of the BBC Podcasts.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Video Update for Fresh Expressions

Here's a short video update I did for Fresh Expressions just prior to the tour dates back in September - mainly chatting about the struggles and encouragements we experience at Zac's Place. Hope you find it helpful.
See the video in it's context on the Fresh Expressions site here and have a bit of an explore around the site to see what else is going on. For those with specific interest in the Fresh Expressions initiatives, there's an event in London on 22 Nov which maybe of interest.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Never Stop Asking The Questions

When Zac's Place began 14 years ago, we called it, 'Zac's Place - Church In A Pub?' The question mark was always very important, as we really didn't know what, if anything, it would develop into. In many ways, although we are now 'Zac's Place - A Church For Ragamuffins', it remains important to ask the questions - What is Church and are we fulfilling the mandate that we find in the Scriptures?

In the current series of studies and discussions at our Tuesday evening Tribal Gatherings, we are looking at those issues. I often ask three questions of any church activity to ascertain whether it fulfills a role or whether it's just something we do because that's what we've always done. They are all based on relationship - how does what we do affect our relationship, (and therefore connection, view, understanding etc) with a) God b) each other and c) the wider community we serve. If we struggle to answer at least one of those positively for any endeavor as 'church', we really did ought to be asking ourselves, 'what are we doing it all for then?'

This week, we also welcomed Roy Jenkins from BBC Radio Wales to join with us. You can catch an interview with me and various  sound bites from our time together on his 'All Things Considered' Programme on BBC Radio Wales this Sunday, 30 Sep at 9am and it will be available on iPlayer afterwards and on their Podcast.

Listen to this interview here:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

... And Home Again

It was great to have had so much opportunity on the road this past week. Meeting new people and catching up with so many old friends along the way was a great encouragement. Each event attracted a wide diversity of people, which is exactly how I think it should be. The final two dates in Leeds and Stoke were no exception to this and I enjoyed the varied dialogue with as many people as possible.

Feedback has been really positive and very kind - certainly enough to make me think the week on the road has been worthwhile. I really do hope that some have been inspired to re-evaluate the basis of what it means to be a follow of Christ on the margins and others who came along, feeling somewhat walking wounded, feel they have had some food for the soul to keep going.

The week finished off with a diversion back north to the BBC in Manchester, to do a short interview for Radio 4, before heading south to Swansea.

Thanks to everyone that helped out at the venues, put me up, fed me and supported the dates.

For those that weren't able to get along, here's a few snippets of feedback that have come our way:

"My head is spinning today, I couldn't get to sleep last night. What you said hit me and the mrs like a sniper's bullet. Daring to take up the challenge of following the Lord where he leads us."

"It was great to hear your radical and refreshing approach Sean in Reading on Monday."

"170 MILES, bit damp and chilly after a days work. BUT oh so worth it mate, enjoyed the entire evening. Keep up the good work."

"Encouraging, uplifting, honest, down to earth and to the point!
Nothing more than I would expect from Sean Stillman but I wouldn't have missed it for the world."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tour Update

The good news is the format seems to be working well and the response from folk at each venue has been wonderful. The bad news is only two dates are left!
Reading was a precious homecoming - so many reunions - some after 25 years and wonderful to see so many loyal travelling companions that have supported, shaped and encouraged me along the way for so many years.

Cambridge seemed like a long shot due to not many contacts in the area - but what a fab evening of soul searching and a welcome so warm. So pleased to have included this date on the tour.
Crashing out at friends throughout the week means conversation runs late into the night before hitting the road where the solitude that that brings, provides the head space to collect thoughts for the next stop.
Great to be in Derby at Ozzy Road Church. The minister there, Graham, called by Zac's whilst on his sabbatical a few years ago - so it's been good to see signs of the great work they are doing in the heart of their city. More special reunions with a surprise visit from the Fresh Expressions media team added to what was another diverse gathering of folk - again a wonderful welcome and enthusiastic response.
Continue up the M1 to Leeds for Thursday night, back down to Stoke Friday and home via Salford on Saturday to record an interview for Sunday's BBC Radio 4 morning programme.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Tour Venue Details

As I make the final preps to next week's five dates on the road - here's a reminder of the venue details. I'm looking forward to seeing many old friends, travelling companions and meeting new people along the way! Deeply appreciate the good folks at Fresh Expressions who have supported this venture and also the host venues for being open to it. See you on the road . . . !

READING Mon 10 Sep
All Nations Christian Centre, Berkeley Ave, Reading, RG1 6JE
Melbourn Baptist Church,  Melbourn, SG8 6DB
DERBY Weds 12 Sep
Ozzy Road Church, Derby, DE1 2GU
01332 349468 
LEEDS Thur 13 Sep
Harehills Lane Baptist Church, Leeds, LS8 4HF. 
0113 2628080
STOKE Fri 14 Sep
Wesley Hall Church, ST1 6HR
01782  281818
All events run from 7.30 - 9.30pm. 
Admission is free but donations will be accepted.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

BBC Radio Interviews

Sean will be featuring on the following regional BBC radio stations on Sunday 2 Sep - speaking about Zac's Place and other aspects of mission.

0730 STOKE

0810 DERBY
0830 CORNWALL (On iPlayer until 9/9/12 apx 2h30min in)
0840 LEEDS
0850 CAMBS

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Close Shave ...

It was great to hear from local muso friend Steve Balsamo some weeks back asking me to be involved in a new video project with him and Rosalie Deighton. The result of which has just been released as a single ahead of their new album of duets. Steve, who is from Swansea, is perhaps best known for his highly acclaimed award winning role Jesus in the West End back in the 90's, but in more recent years he and Rosalie were part of the fantastic 'Storys' and Steve was also touring as vocalist for the recently departed Jon Lord of Deep Purple.

I hope you enjoy the following - Steve is quite rightly bound to get rave reviews from his huge fan base but Rosalie's voice is just so wonderful also, they blend beautifully - it promises to be a great album to follow. The video itself was filmed by Kamma Pastoll and Martyn Stevens and is the coming together of a very long creative process.

The song is a cover of Shawn Colvin's, 'I Don't Know Why' recorded and produced by Ben Robbins and is available on itunes from 29 July 2012.

Enjoy the emotional twists and turns of a four minute epic . . . . . !

More usual Zac's news and on the road going's on follow soon including Ireland, Germany and a visit from Fresh Expressions. Well done Steve and Rosalie - if the first week's response is anything to go by it'll go deservedly well.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sean's On The Road Speaking Dates In September

Sean Stillman (Zac's Place & God's Squad) takes to the road in September for a series of dates to enthuse about mission to the margins. It provides an opportunity for anyone seriously engaged in or wanting to be engaged in mission on the fringes to hear from an experienced practitioner who's found his home amid the chaotic street community, bikers, artists and many living in a cycle of destructive patterns of behaviour. It won't be anything flash - just a bloke on his bike, the sermon on the mount and 25 years worth of stories from the margins.
READING Mon 10 Sep
All Nations Christian Centre, Berkeley Ave, Reading, RG1 6JE
Melbourn Baptist Church,  Melbourn, SG8 6DB
DERBY Weds 12 Sep
Ozzy Road Church, Derby, DE1 2GU
01332 349468 
LEEDS Thur 13 Sep
Harehills Lane Baptist Church, Leeds, LS8 4HF. 
0113 2628080
STOKE Fri 14 Sep
Wesley Hall Church, ST1 6HR
01782  281818
All events run from 7.30 - 9.30pm. 
Admission is free but donations will be accepted.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Paying Tribute ....

Baz had been involved at Zac's Place since our early gatherings as 'Zac's Place - Church In A Pub?' at Ellingtons around 12 years ago. Since being based at George Street, his fingerprints were all over the place as he helped with many practical jobs around the venue. Security guy, key holder and all round Mr Reliable, Baz leaves a big hole in the community of Zac's Place since his sudden death.

For Baz's family, the road looks like a hard one ahead at the moment - but together we continue to make a difference for those we love and for those we share the road with and those we pick up along the way - that's the way Baz lived, if you knew him, that's why you knew him  - don't let that fire go out folks. 

The following video was put together by another of us at Zac's Place, Liz.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ribbons Of Grace

Something from the archives here - filmed in the lead up to the 2000 Olympics - but the sentiment still stands as the olympic flame begins it's journey in Britain - even more so, as for many of us at Zac's Place, we try to get our head's around the sudden death of one of our number this week.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Zac's Place - Some History

How did Zac's Place start? ... here's an extract from our website

Some of The Earlier History ...

As a result of an established and ongoing ministry within the biking and arts communities, a need became apparent to provide a forum for Christian community and discipleship among them. Questions were being raised, amid priestly roles being fullfilled, among groups of people somewhat removed from many church expressions - we wanted to find a way to make a deeper connection and therefore create an opportunity to see change in peoples lives. After discussion among a few interested folk, other missional minded church leaders and drawing from Sean's experience within God's Squad, (whose history dates back to the Jesus Movement era of the late 60's), Zac's Place - "Church in a Pub?" began to gather each sunday night in the Autumn of 1998. The question mark was important as we didn't know what, if anything, it would develop into.

It needs to be understood, this wasn't just taking what happens in many churches on any given Sunday and dumping it in a bar. That would have been a futile exercise. It was building up from the grass roots, using language and images that related, without compromising the message and growng into a community of people wanting to follow Jesus and serve others. It would be fair to say that many encouraged the venture, but it was not without it's critics and to some extent, that remains.

Live music and the natural communal atmosphere of a bar helped us create a forum for building relationships with the many and varied folk that came. Sean's punchy and topical talks, based on the bible, managed to connect with some of of the most hard nosed cynics.

Over a seven year period, pretty much every Sunday night, using four* different bars in Swansea city centre, a mixed bag of bikers, musicians, students, rough sleepers, walking wounded spiritual refugees and truth seekers gathered. People found Jesus in community, in the brokeness of fragile lives, where the common ground was level ground; poverty of spirit. Some folk were encouraged in their recovery from addictions and we worked alongside local and national agencies, others whose faith had been battered by negative church experience had their wounds tended whilst others found a level of communication they could relate and respond to to see their christian faith develop. Some people are still around, for some it was an important staging post others were travellers passing through.

It was also a time of immense creativity, so much so we worked with HTV Wales on a mini series of 5 programmes featuring live music, poetry, interviews and reflection from Sean. We ran stages of live music, by invitation of promoters, in Swansea city centre and also at a festival in Singleton Park and have occasionally taken Zac's Place out on the road for events.

Eventually we had a dilemna. Many of those attracted to us had significant issues of addiction that they were wrestling with. The pub, whilst the best place to meet people is not the best place for everything. The search began for a sacred space of our own.

In 2003 we bought an old Gospel Hall, in Swansea city centre, which had shut it's doors the previous year. Over the next few years Zac's Place became known as "A Church For Ragamuffins" continuing on the same principles that it started with; an open door and a warm welcome to all. Bible teaching, discipleship and serving the poor and vulnerable continue to be the main stays of activity. It continues to be a mission church very much at home on the margins.

Finding Us In The Past ....

* You may have found us hanging out in smokey bars at at the Subteranea Bar, The Green Dragon, Ellington's at the Duke of York and The Office

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Zac's Place - A Safe Haven

Newsletter Extract .....

"Swansea has a great many services for homeless and vulnerable people. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to access statutory and voluntary services. Some are excluded because of their past or current behaviour, social or financial reasons but some exclude themselves, choosing not to accept such help or support. It is on these occasions that the care offered by Zac’s Place comes into its own.

Every weekday morning at 8 am the doors to Zac’s Place open to provide an essential outreach service to those who are sleeping rough with tea, housing advice and respite from the weather. At least twice a year Zac’s Place accommodates the so called “Homeless Health Days” run in conjunction with Swansea School of Medicine when homeless people can have a health check, flu vaccinations and foot care. Every Thursday evening is the coffee bar providing an opportunity to sit in the warm, have a hot drink and enjoy the fellowship of others.

For some people Zac’s Place is the only safe haven in their lives. Here they find help, the love and support of others and, importantly, acceptance of who they are and the life that they are leading. It may not seem much, but for many, it is a lifeline."

Janet Keauffling, Nurse for the Homeless and Vulnerable Adults - based at Cyrenians Community Centre, High Street, Swansea.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring 2012 Newsletter Available

The Spring 2012 edition of our Exousia Trust Newsletter, 'Keep The Faith' is available for download at this link below.


Some previous newsletters are available for download on the media page of the website HERE
Thank you for your ongoing interest and support.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

BBC Documentary - Swansea: Living On The Streets - PART 2

The second part of the series of programmes is available on BBC iPlayer for the next fourteen days. In it there's some familiar faces and also you get to see a glimpse of where Zac's Place fits in along with the other agencies working alongside those in housing crisis - Caer Las, The Wallich and Cyrenians. You can find the programme HERE

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

BBC Documentary - Swansea: Living On The Streets

Some familiar faces and places feature on a current BBC 1 Wales, factual series "Swansea: Living On The Street".
(Photo: BBC Website) Filmed over the past few months, the makers built up relationships with those on the streets and those providing support, these programmes should be well worth watching. I was really impressed with the attitude of the programme makers and I do hope that the programmes stimulate some thoughtful discussion, shatters some stereotypical attitudes and encourages a pro-active response. All the programmes will be available, (UK Only), on BBC iPlayer and you can find all the links HERE

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Never Mind Innocence, It's About Incompetance.

Whitney Houston singing a rather ragged version of 'Yes Jesus Loves Me' at a party just hours before her death, brought back to memory a similarly tragic scenario at Zac's Place just a few years ago. Julie was no Hollywood star though, she was penniless and slept rough - hers was a life that had also descended into chaos and chemical dependancy. As she wrestled with her demons, not under the gaze of paperazzi, but local hacks filling space about stories of 'worthless junkies', she too recalled the words of the old sunday school song her father used to sing her to sleep to. Just a few days before she died on the streets of the city we live in, she bellowed them out, in one of our gatherings after her ravaged feet had been bathed by friends that cared deeply for her.

Julie and Whitney could not be more different, but it would appear that there was also plenty of common ground. Not least of all, an underlying recollection that no matter how messy it has all got - maybe, just maybe, this Jesus could still possibly be a friend that would stick around. Despite the heartache, the pain and the struggle somehow there was a fragment of fragile faith intact enough to hold on to the faintest hope, that there was someone who still loved them, regardless.

The day after Houston's death, Bruce Springsteen kicked off the Grammy awards, where she would have been present, with his anthemic new track 'We take care of our own'. Everything about it can seem triumphalistic, but with a deeper look into the lyric, the irony becomes apparent with typical Springsteen insight. We say we take care of our own, but when it comes down to it, we too often don't. We do when it suits us. As long as it doesn't cost us any money, time or emotions. Houston was devoured by a music industry that went onto to feed on fresh meat and will continue to have scant regard for anything other than the dollars. Julie lie dead on the city streets as pedestrians passed on by, as a result of trying to numb the pain of way too many trauma's.

The beauty and the tragedy of this simple but beautiful old hymn, "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know" is in it's origins. It began as tender words in novel I believe, written to comfort a dying child. I can't also help hearing the Saviours words encouraging us to embrace his love - not qualified by our innocence, but our fragile incompetance. We do continue indeed to be weak; but He is strong. Here indeed is the "love that has not forsaken me" that Springsteen calls for.

Jesus loves me! This I know,

For the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to Him belong;

They are weak, but He is strong.

Big Issue Article on Julie and Homelessness in Swansea.

Whitney Houston - Not the last performance, but an earlier more complete recording of Jesus Loves Me.

Bruce Springsteen - We Take Care Of Our Own

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Scandinavian TV Interview (2009) ....

One from the archives - filmed in 2009 in Finland for a Swedish language programme broadcast in Scandinavia. In conversation with my Finnish club brother, Isak, who was hosting the series at the time. It covers some of what it means to be in God's Squad CMC and how it's understood among our mates both within the church community and out on the road. (The audio gaps I assume are edited out for music copyright reason at a guess).
Original link can be found here.