Thursday, 29 January 2015

Community building and working together

At the moment I am reading a lot. There's various blogs, reports, articles, books, daily reflections etc. They are written for a range of contexts (though church is a recurring thread), and prospectives, yet there are a couple of things that are drawing them all together - and it seems a bit more than coincidence.

The recurring themes are:
  • Discipleship - what it is and how to build it.
  • Moving from worship in rows of people listening to one person talk.
  • Importance of intergenerational relationships in building community.
  • And some sort of looking towards a less clergy (or top-down) model of church. (This is a bit more of a hard one to explain, as I do believe in any community, there needs to be leadership, but it's how that leadership is perceived and deployed that, as I read it, is the important thing here).
Now, I must admit, there is an element of 'chicken and the egg' here (oh, it was the egg, there is evidence from paleontology that eggs were around before chickens evolved), as I may be reading what 'agrees' and confirms my standpoint, but some of this did come from a book I was given to read by my supervisor, which I may not have chosen in different circumstances.

Part of what I keep coming back to, from all this stuff I am reading at the moment, is the importance of community. Community does not happen by 1 or 2 (or even a handful of people) leading a service in front of rows of people in a packed church. Do those gathered talk to one another beyond basic courtesy? How do those in the congregation interact with the scripture, the prayers, the sermon? Are they allowed to? How is what does on in worship built up through the congregations lives in the coming week (months and years)? How are the gifts of those gathered discovered, developed and deployed in God's service? In some ways, I a starting to wonder if my role is to work my way out of a job (or parts thereof) as I enable others to do stuff? (Or am I just getting that confirmed?).

In many ways, now I am involved in Messy Church at Airside Kirk, I see that happening in the community that is building up. It's families worshipping God together, and the leaders of Messy aren't the minister and I - it's proper team work. I suppose, it's collaborative leadership in action (121 will be pleased!). Those who come know who the leaders are, as we're showing crafts, or setting up games, or welcoming them, or doing the talk, or leading the music, but there's no distinction between the leaders. We all muck in where needed, take in tasks which we're able to do (or gifted to do), and we all wear our ordinary clothes - jeans and a top sort of stuff. Yes, some there know who The Boss is, as they've been to church at normal Sundays or through her school work, but some don't. And it doesn't matter, because we're doing this as a community, serving the community and, God willing, through building up our relationships with those who come, showing Christ's love working through us. Bottom line is, there's no perception of 'rank' by those who come. (Yes, I know there shouldn't be rank, and that ministers are not above anyone else, but people don't always react that way).

Perhaps, looking longer term (which is a dangerous thing to do, I know), my role is more one of facilitation, getting the congregation(s) I serve to grow and mature in their Christian faith, but with us all working together, sharing together, growing together. Then, if I am called somewhere else or am away for a prolonged period, things will still happen, the church will (and does and should) go on without me.

Maybe part of my call is to work my way out of a job? Or, at least some of the jobs ministers seem to take on, but they don't need to do and, through doing too much themselves, the priesthood of all believers is not reflected. The calling and gifts of all the Christian community are not found, not grown, not nurtured.

And, as for people sitting in rows and listening, I did wonder how that could be 'worked around' in a large congregation. Well, Airside is one. Though sitting in rows for the 'ordinary' (oh, believe me, I don't think there is such a thing there!) Sunday service makes better use of the space, I have introduced the congregation talking to one another on a couple of occasions (once in a children's address and once as the intro to a sermon) and it worked! I wasn't sure how it would go down, but took the risk. Not sure I could do it all the time, in the Sunday morning service, but certainly something I will use from time to time and in smaller contexts too.

I know all of this will feed in (in a scarily short period of time - run around the room with arms in air going arrrrrggggghhhhhh!) to figuring out where I am called to minister. No, I've no idea, but with God's grace and guidance I pray to go where he wants me to go.

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