Feb 14, 2013
Mark Broomhead was a serious fan of Thrash Metal. His band, Seventh Angel, toured the world, sharing a record label with heavy metal acts Metallica and Slayer.
Now he is vicar of the Order of the Black Sheep, a church in Chesterfield. It's part of the Church of England, but Broomhead doesn't appear to have mellowed.
"We want it to be as uncomfortable as possible for people who'd go to an ordinary church," he says, speaking about his new ministry.
He is not alone in his endeavour. A number of underground Christian groups are at work across England, reaching out to people and subcultures that feel alienated by the traditional Church.
As media attention remains focused on the Church of England's stance on issues like women bishops and gay marriage, this very different type of Christian scene has gone largely unnoticed.
The Order of the Black Sheep meets in Chesterfield
The Order of the Black Sheep is based in a converted beauty salon. The walls are painted black to match its gothic logo, and a ram's skull perches ominously on a bookshelf.
The service itself lasts just a few minutes. A short sermon about Lent is interspersed with film clips and an electro soundtrack. The congregation sink into bean bags instead of filing into pews, and afterwards bread and wine are passed around at leisure. Informality reigns.
Two of its members explain the church's unique appeal: "I was brought up in a charismatic, happy clappy church, and I honestly wish I hadn't been," says Rees Monteiro. "There's no standing around here, listening to someone waffle on."
He shares Broomhead's taste in music too. "I'm into really heavy metal. The more dark and twisted the better."
Karl Thornley brings his children to the services.
"I'm not a very conventional person, and found the traditional Church quite difficult. I think there's a growing disconnect between the Church of England and what people can relate to."
In London, another unusual group meet in the back room of a large Victorian church in Camden. The Glorious Undead are not Anglicans, but they are an official church, part of the Elim Pentecostal network.
One of the group leaders, Andy White, explains that the church had its roots in the metal scene.
"I used to be in a hardcore band back in the day. When the church started it was very much about reaching out to metalheads, but we feel that God's widened that vision for us, so it doesn't revolve around music anymore."
His view is confirmed by Pastor Bob Beeman, who runs Sanctuary International from Nashville, TN, a ministry aimed at metal fans.
(Source: BBC News)