Saturday, 18 November 2017

"I dream of a church..."

In Hodge Hill we've started our journey of listening carefully to the faith and joy, hopes and fears, of our congregation members that I described in my last blog post.

One of the insights I've learnt from my community organising friends is that we find our common interest - the connection we discover between us - not just by listening, but by sharing something of our own passions - the things that bring us life and joy, the things that are giving us grief - and inviting our conversation-partner to do likewise. I often find myself a bit cautious about this kind of mutuality in a church context, as I'm also conscious of the unavoidable power imbalances in such conversations - of the power I have as a "leader" - and I don't want to overly pre-determine or prematurely limit the conversations we're currently having. I reckon my community organising friends will push back at me on this. And they might well have a point. Perhaps one reason for my reserve is that I'm avoiding putting in the hard work reflecting, articulating, owning up to my own faith and joys, hopes and fears, in all of this.

So as part of this process, I thought I'd give that a go here.

What's at the heart of my faith? What gives me most joy?

The answers to these two questions are intertwined for me. Faith without joy is dead, I think. The joys now are glimpses, for me, of where faith is pointing. And the joys are not beyond the struggles, but found in the midst of them.

Here's some of them...

Seeking 'shalom'...
- in people's lives (and in my own) - confidence, wholeness, connection, sharing, growing
- with my neighbours - growing community, spaces for encounter, connections, parties, stories
- with the earth - re-connecting, getting our hands dirty, living more simply
- in the wider world - prophetic challenge, systemic change, movement-building
- with God - habits of prayer, contemplation and wonder

- hearing people's stories into speech and growth
- growing shared 'community' stories
- inhabiting and developing the 'big story' - the source of life, a covenant of love, prophetic challenge, redemption of failure / brokenness, glimpses of kingdom / resurrection / shalom

Eating together...
- growing, and cooking and eating together
- giving and receiving
- no one hungry, all fed
- fun and laughter and stories and thankfulness and tears and hugs and forgiveness and silence and...
- strangers becoming friends
- and repeat...

What are my dreams for Hodge Hill?

- a thriving ecology of thriving and sustainable community spaces: of welcome, support, connection and participation
- deepening connections across differences and barriers
- a growing network of connectors and leaders
- an environment of possibility: for friendship, invitation, mutual hospitality, spirituality, creativity, and more...

What are my dreams for church in Hodge Hill?

- alert: 'we are open and expectant to see signs of God's kingdom in our midst'
- inclusive: 'all are welcome'
- receptive: 'where stories, struggles and dreams are heard'
- participative: 'where all play a part, make a contribution'
- honest: 'where struggle, brokenness and failure can be acknowledged and embraced'
- supportive: 'where people find companionship and support from each other to keep going, and explore and grow'
- embedded: 'we are "out there" in the midst of growing community locally'
- accessible: 'people can "walk into church" wherever they are locally'
- prayerful: 'we long to draw our whole lives into our prayers, and for prayer to run through our whole lives'
- storied: 'we inhabit more and more deeply a story we discover is more and more shared'

What might that (need to) look like?

- dispersed - "happening" in multiple places and spaces
- connected - there are ways of joining dispersed "happenings" (and the people involved in them) together
- communicative - people know where/when/how to find the dispersed "happenings"
- consistent - in shared values, not necessarily in form, language, etc; in "calendaring the story" (lectionary?); each space has an internally consistent "feel" (so "you know what you're getting here")
- leadership (people, and stories) - makes spaces to "hear to speech" and invite to participate / lead; listens to and connects people; shapes the culture / atmosphere with the shared values; sustains a sense of the connectedness between spaces; co-ordinates the calendar / storying and oversees the communication

I'm sure there's more. I'm looking forward to the conversations to come - as I'm pretty confident they will challenge, expand, and change everything that I've written here.

I dream of a church that joins in with God's laughing
as she rocks in her rapture enjoying her art:
she's glad of her world, in its risking and growing:
'tis the child she has borne and holds close to her heart.

I dream of a church that joins in with God's weeping
as she crouches, weighed down by the sorrow she sees:
she cries for the hostile, the cold and no hoping,
for she bears in herself our despair and disease.

I dream of a church that joins in with God's dancing
as she moves like the wind and the wave and the fire:
a church that can pick up its skirts, pirouetting,
with the steps that can signal God's deepest desire.

I dream of a church that joins in with God's loving
as she bends to embrace the unlovely and lost,
a church that can free, by its sharing and daring,
the imprisoned and poor, and then shoulder the cost.

God, make us a church that joins in with your living,
as you cherish and challenge, rein in and release,
a church that is winsome, impassioned, inspiring:
lioness of your justice, and lamb of your peace.
Kate Compston 
Words © 1994 Hope Publishing Company