Week three in the Lent Lecture series, Re-imaging Church - Community, was introduced by Kevin Taylor (left).
Rev Dr Julie Doddrell, Methodist minister, outlined how Messy Church had helped people develop a sense of belonging.Firstly looking at where people feel they belong, the group saw images of public spaces, garden chairs illustrating social space - we want to be where everyone knows our name. We need personal space, and especial intimate space to be with those closest to us. (Edited PowerPoint slide show available at the bottom of this page.)
In today's age, Consumerism is, perhaps, the new 'Golden Calf' (Exodus 32). It illustrates the equation where 'I want what I want', added to 'Satisfy me!' to make a 'Passive Consumer'. In areas such as healthcare, policing, education and public sector reform, society is encouraging passive consumerism.Do we as Christian Consumers demand what we want at church - or of God? Do we feel like returning what we've been given because it doesn't meet what we think of as our needs? At church, do we demand to be entertained? The Washington Post (5 January 2003, link not found) included this quote: 'Worship is a form of entertainment… If people are not entertained, they don’t feel they are participating'. Are we like the cartoon picture of two worshippers saying that 'The worship did nothing for me this morning'?
How does consumerism fit with co-responsibility, co-production and community? Satisfy me / I want what I want / God loves Me / It's my worship and my healing that counts.
Julie introduced Fresh Expressions by noting that there is the potential to emphasis community. In Liverpool, the Methodist Fresh Expression church with no members became a relational community - ending up baking bread for the members. Julie invited the group to suggest their ideas on what community is; one example was 'A community is where people are valued and values are shared'.
Julie went on to describe Messy Church in her area. With pictures of families, circuit stewards and children of all ages spending a couple of hours on Sunday afternoons together in a chapel, this Messy Church grew in a matter of months.Being real with one another demands honesty and openness, working at relationships and not being content with superficiality. Julie noted how 'pretending is the common cold of evangelicalism', encouraging those who are proud of their faith to put it into gentle and humble work rather than boast about themselves or their church.
Reading from Ephesians 4, Julie smiled as she said that a bag of bones is not a body. Far better to meet in prayer than to have many prayer meetings.
In the flow of life from spills (as youngsters), drills (learning and growing up), thrills, bills, ills, pills and finally wills, there is much we can be and do to share God's love. Julie left us with John 15: 'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends...'
The six groups of around eight people discussed the following questions:
- Rewrite Acts 2.42-47 in the opposite sense.
- Which version looks like your church? Being honest, what small and manageable things could you do to change?
- What does the word 'community' mean to you?
* What helps build strong and close relationships within the church community?
* What hinders those strong and close relationships?
* How can we provide opportunities for public belonging - places where people can 'be' within our churches?
* How can we provide opportunities for social belonging within our churches - places where people are known and can make friends?
* How can we listen to the needs and views of people outside the church in our neighbourhoods?
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