You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘community’ tag.

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 Step 1:  A missional expression is about living out your faith in a collective way, about loving your tribe – about knowing who your tribe is.  With this in mind, your missional expression will need a ‘vehicle’.  Most of the time this will be figurative.  However, sometimes it will turn out to be literal…

 

 

 

 

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 Step 2:  …(and even have retro cool-appeal) Once you have established what your vehicle is, you need to spend some time examining said vehicle from every angle…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Step 3:  Think it through – is it just your ‘big idea’ or can others get onboard with you?  Once you’ve thought this through it’s time to get going! 

 

 

 

 

 (So for a beach/surf based missional expression here’s how it might go next)

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 Step 4: Put Jesus at the centre.  There’s not much point otherwise.  Surf, play on the beach, be part of the tribe you belong to in this context.  And as you live authentically it may be that others who share your interest, your passion, will join you…

 

 

  

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Step 5:  Be open to others joining you who have a different way of living out the missional expression.  Not everyone will want to jump into a wetsuit and catch some waves.  But how great would it be if a differently gifted, differently impassioned person wanted to be on the beach getting the barbecue ready for when everyone gets out of the water, ready to eat?

 

 

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Step 6:  …So it’s not surprising that more people will join in time.  It’s going to be awesome!

 

 

 

 

 

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Step 7: Shared beach, shared surf, shared food, shared life, shared love.  Authentic lives lived openly with one another.  And the chance to hang out in a VW campervan? 

 

 

 

 

 

 Okay, this is a playful rendering of an idea we’ve had.  Children’s toys make everything look fun!  Who knows what will happen, but in the meantime we’re going to have some fun on the beach anyway, because it’s what we love to do and we spend far too little time doing it.

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The last 3 weeks have been so beautiful, and so full of blessing it’s hard to know how to begin to describe it.  We returned from a 10 day trip to Cornwall at the beginning of last week, and as a family I think we’re still awash with gratitude and general chilled-out vibes.  It’s not usual for us to feel the benefit of a break much beyond the time the break lasts, and I think there are several reasons for that being a little different this time.

Firstly, this holiday was in the company of my parents and also some very dear friends who we see far too little of because of geography.  Somehow, what could have been a bit of a disastrous mix (my parents and our friends didn’t know each other, we just hoped the size of the holiday home we’d rented would allieviate any ‘in your face-ness’) just really worked.  My parents are having a hard time because of my mum’s recent cancer diagnosis, and my dad in particular has become very tense and over anxious.  Our friends are in that early stage of parenthood when you are negotiating your way through life on very little sleep and facing a new parenting/management challenge every day.  Yet they all just got on so well, and actively enjoyed each other’s company – and so, of course, did we.  And there was that extra sense of delight in seeing two separate groups of people we love taking pleasure in each other.

Being in Cornwall itself was a massive blessing (we were in the same house, in a wee village called Helstone near Camelford, just last September with another wonderful family we are really close friends with – the fact we returned less than 9 months later and are currently seeing if we can organise another trip in October speaks volumes about the place).  I found real refreshment in being somewhere both unfamiliar – that ‘where are we now?’ feeling – and like an amplified, uber-version of the Britain that we know.  Plants and landscape somehow the same but not quite (greener, more abundant, both more friendly and more dramatic). 

The chance to be ‘at the seaside’ was an unalloyed delight.  This time round our daughter was thrilled beyond measure to be near any of the beaches we went too, and as someone who grew up on or near the coast in various parts of the UK  I loved seeing her share the same joy at playing on the beach, in the sea, in rock pools and so on.  I went wading into the sea with her (neither of us in swimming stuff) more times than I care to remember on this holiday, and yet neither of us really minded getting wet clothes, sand in unmentionable places and hair bouffed by the lively coastal breezes.  And there’s nothing like drying off in hot sun to compensate for wet underwear…

I also had massive fun rediscovering bodyboarding on this holiday over a couple of afternoons, something else my daughter and I have discovered together this last year.  I confess I cannot take pleasure into the getting into and out of a wetsuit, and nor can I truly take pleasure in the photos of me in a wetsuit either:

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… I think my husband and daughter look pretty good though.  One aspect of being in and part of the sea (the Atlantic Ocean no less!  sounds much fancier than my ‘native’ North Sea) is something I’ve read and heard people who surf talk about quite a lot, and there are some really good quotes too:

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(Thanks to my husband’s blog for this photo taken at The Tubestation last year)

In other words, there is a well-documented spiritual connection we seem to find with the ocean.  I’m alternately afraid of and in love with the sea, and personally I think that’s a pretty healthy state of affairs as it can be a dangerous place (and like many of my generation it’s hard to leave the spectre of ‘Jaws’ behind – I long thought it was just me but have discovered it’s a reasonably common thing!).  Yet to launch yourself across a breaking wave as you head a little further out, a little further out, to lie bobbing peacefully on a bodyboard and let the water carry you up and down, to gaze in silent respect as rolling waves crash together from opposing shores of a bay and merge to make a foaming mass of water is to find yourself in a place of wonder and of peace.  The other aspect of playing with a bodyboard that I liked a lot was just that – it was play, and it was completely acceptable to play wholeheartedly.  I am coming to believe, from my position as amongst other things a playworker and playwork trainer, that play can also be a time of spiritual connection.  Sometimes the Godness of the world he’s made is just there to be seen and experienced and rejoiced in.  Playing in the sea was, for me, an experience of the Godness of his world.

Pretty much the highlight of the whole week, if we had to pick one, would be a week ago, when we spent Sunday in Polzeath, first going to church at The Tubestation, which you will learn more about from my husband’s blog so I won’t repeat it here but I do urge you to check it out, then hanging out for a bit there afterwards and being given a fantastic and completely unwarranted gift by our friends of a beautiful piece of art.  We spent much of the rest of the day just playing on the beach at Polzeath, then each of us got to surf or bodyboard as we chose, and all of this was sandwiched with the eating of lovely icecream and yummy chips.  It was a perfect day.  If there was one day that left us seriously trying to figure out how to make a move to Cornwall so we could become part of the community in Polzeath and get involved in The Tubestation, then that was it. 

And now, back home in Edinburgh, back at work, back amidst the worries and mess of normal everyday life, it seems like a dream that we’re still somehow carrying with us.  Life is good today.  Tomorrow my mum begins her treatment for the cancer they found a few weeks ago, and my prayer above all else is that life will somehow continue to be good, even through that, for all of us.

So this last week saw me take what I feel is a pretty momentous step, and which I’m both delighted with and terrified about.

I qualified as a community education worker 8 years ago, and that role has both defined me and expressed what is important to me ever since.  It took me a long time to ‘find’ the profession too, I’d had my fair share of years in the wilderness wondering what I was supposed to be doing with my time here on earth, and I suppose it was no small coincidence that all the various little jobs, volunteering roles and areas of interests were what eventually channelled me into doing a postgrad professional qualification to enable me to practice as a community educator.  I have also been so blessed to have the chance to work for an amazing organisation for most of my post-qualification years.

So why, then, have I just quit my job?!

Since becoming a mum, in fact since becoming pregnant 5 years ago I’ve had a sort of split in my mind.  I wanted to continue to do the work I loved, that I could see also did so much good, but I wanted to not have the mad juggling act of parenthood combined with busy working life.  Financially we were in no position for me to stop working, and to be honest when our daughter was a baby I was glad to reclaim my self, to have a space where I was independent again (as much as any employee can be anyway).  As the years have gone by we have intermittently re-examined that position to see if our finances offered flexibility for other choices to be made, but until now that has been a pretty laughable proposition.

But this last 6 months or so have brought together a number of jigsaw pieces.  I’ve rediscovered a passion for art practice, and have had some creative juices stirred which could do with an outlet.  Our daughter is about to begin school and that presented new organisational challenges which we were struggling to reconcile (whilst being aware that everyone else manages these things somehow!).  As my mum is facing a longish period of ill-health and I’m feeling the distance between us, it would be great to have a bit more time and flexibility to head up to my parents to help out now and again.  And finally, once our daughter heads off to school we’ll free up enough money (from nursery fees no longer being paid) to make a career break for me a realistic idea.

We worked all this out about 3 weeks ago, spent a couple of weeks mulling it over, praying it through, and finally, last Monday I handed in my notice.  I’m not leaving immediately, I’ll be there for the rest of the summer but already my mind is shifting to new projects for the autumn, my eye is being cast calculatedly around the house as I assess areas to tackle when I have time.  I’m reimagining my mornings, getting up very slightly later, walking our daughter to school rain or shine (I’m getting rid of my car too, won’t need it) and getting to know other parents in the area as we gather at the school gates.  I’ve been busy looking at art and craft workshops I’d like to do, pondering possibilities and just listening to what excites my soul as I consider opportunities.

I also had a small crisis moment, induced at last week’s small group in our home.  So tell me, what do I say now when I get asked what I do?  I hate ‘housewife’, it sounds empty and demeaning.  (is that just me?  would I feel different if I hadn’t been a working parent?)  Apparently I’m going to be on a ‘career break’, but since I never regarded myself as having a career that doesn’t seem right either!  And although I have an art degree and I’m planning on (in a gentle and not particularly purposeful way) taking time to do more art, I baulk at calling myself an artist – artists are people other than me, I feel.

Can I still be a community educator even if I don’t have anyone to ‘educate’?!

I wonder how long it’ll take me to reconcile this?  I’m sure I’m not the first person, the first woman to feel like this, and I certainly won’t be the last so any insight and guidance will be much appreciated.

I came across this today in my sick-bed internet wanderings (This is my third mini-post today, can you tell I’m getting bored of being unwell?!).  I had heard of Galgael before, and although I’m still exploring what they are about, I’m really drawn to the work they do, the life they lead in Govan.  This little Youtube clip gives a flavour.

There’s a real model of community, of shared life and the sharing of hope, the restoration of dignity and the practical sharing of skills.  We need visionary people, like Colin MacLeod,the man who started up Galgael, so much in our world, and we also need generous-hearted people like those who joined with him to share and to realise the vision.

There definitely is an art to joy, since it is not always a natural state for us. (BTW I’m over myself and my doom and gloom last week,  apologies for the self-pitying – pretty certain it was illness related)

So it’s exciting and challenging to be part of The Art of Joy this spring.  A group of us, friends and fellow small-groupers from MBC, dreamed what felt like a big dream and we now find ourselves galloping towards lots of great activities which suddenly need organising and thinking through.  I am newly appreciative of the diversity of our small group, the skills and talents that there are which are all required to make such an undertaking happen.  There don’t seem to be quite enough minutes to deal with everything, but collectively it feels like we’re making progress. 

There’s going to be a lot happening, an art exhibition going up this weekend with an official opening before the end of March, a therapeutic art workshop, knitter natter for anyone who likes or wants to try out knitting or crochet, a fantastic closing event featuring two great bands and a stand up comedian… and that’s only what we’ve got planned so far!  We’re aiming to bring a bit of joy and light using the arts and the fantastic creative gifts of people in Edinburgh and beyond.  Most of all I’m looking forward to meeting new people, getting alongside people in a creative way and exploring how the arts have the power to make connections which are often unexpected, and almost always intriguing.

Check out The Art of Joy’s website to get an overview of what’s happening and find out how you can get involved. 

I’m wondering if we could do some guerilla joy-bringing too.  How would the people of Edinburgh receive it?  How do I receive it?  Do we welcome unexpected joy with open arms?  With suspicion? With pessimism?  Do we welcome joy with gratitude and expectation of further unanticipated wonder to come?  A masterclass in joy-giving and joy-receiving might be no bad thing in our world.

Well today (like many days in my life, it seems) I’m sick.  I think I’ve caught the bug my daughter was so poorly with last week.  After feeling a bit odd at various points yesterday and managing to dismiss them as the outworkings of a busy weekend and not enough sleep, I spent last night feeling increasingly yuck and then trying and failing to get myself functioning this morning. 

As is the way with these things, I find it’s often when I need the most sleep that I get the least.  So during my sleepless hours last night when I awoke feeling unwell I found myself ruminating on the kind of random tangents that the 2ams are so well known for.

One of the random tangents came from a conversation we’d had with a minister friend of ours who was round with his fantastic family on Saturday afternoon.  We’d been joking about my increasing interest in the idea of communal living and how this works itself out in communities we’ve come across.  After considering the areas we’d find most challenging about communal living (pretty much all of it) our friend said that they had approached it from the other direction and basically let people know they had an open house for anyone, whenever.  I wondered if this was an expectation of their role in the church he leads, but apparently not – so many of his congregation had never been inside the church manse until he took up post.  Marla has also spoken in various places on her (fantastic) blog about having doors open to whoever needs them.

As I lay tossing and turning in bed, head and body aching, mind whirring, I began to wonder how I would find communal living, or living with ‘open doors’ when, like today, I was unwell.

Would it be great to know that if I needed something there would likely be someone around to help me out?  Or would I struggle with feeling my space was restricted, that Iwould need to make conversation when I just wanted to lie or sit quietly?  And in terms of reciprocity would I be willing to go into someone else’s house when they were sick and be there for them? I would, but being the over-empathiser that I am, I tend to imagine others share the same feelings as me and wouldn’t welcome my presence.

I am full of admiration for those who open their homes to the world, and can see that actually the physical act of letting someone in the door is not always the big deal.  It’s the opening and sharing of lives which follows which is the real challenge, the real joy and the real act of servanthood and love.

I haven’t made any resolutions this year.  But this area is something I am challenged by and challenged into doing and not merely thinking about.  I intend to work on it this year.  I suspect it will be a lifelong project

Today I learned something new and encouraging from an article in The Guardian (in contrast to the distress it caused me yesterday).  On Wednesdays the paper has a Society section which basically looks at social issues, tending to relate to the public and voluntary sectors.  I usually only manage to read through it briefly, but starting from today I no longer work on Wednesdays so I have the prospect of possibly getting to read a whole newspaper on the day it came out.  So today, while my poorly daughter is watching ‘Madagascar’ I found time to read the main story in this section, which had caught my eye because it relates to social enterprise.

The story covers social enterprises and cooperatives in Spain, looking particularly at an exciting new development in the Basque region of Spain for the world’s first ‘social Silicon Valley’, a business park for social enterprise.  The most encouraging part of the article for me was the idea that “out of the ashes of this economic collapse will come more equitable ways of doing business”.  Fernandez Isiord, one of the innovators behind the project, is quoted as saying that

First, we have to democratise companies, then we have to build the organisation on principles and values so they become part of the community and part of the solution to tackling social problems.

The bit that I love the most comes right at the end though.  He goes on to say that if you trace the root of the word “companies” to it’s Latin root you find that it derives from a phrase meaning “to share the bread”.  How cool is that as a business model?!

If you’re interested in social enterprise, SocietyGuardian has more here.

Happy New Year!

As 2008 ended and we eased into 2009 my family were enjoying the company of some old and very good friends in a wee Aberdeenshire village.  We see far too little of them, but feel blessed in the knowledge that whenever we all do get together we seem to somehow manage to pick up where we left off.  Our friends were never ones for superficial chat when something of real significance could be said, and our time with them over Hogmanay and New Year’s Day was no different.  So many great conversations squeezed into so little time!  However, there was one particular strand of conversation that really struck home with me, as it echoed and expanded upon something I’ve been thinking about and somehow hadn’t manage to articulate. 

We were chatting about being settled versus the draw to new experiences.  I have to say I’m a sucker for a new experience (so long as it doesn’t involve bungee jumping), and novelty, fresh and short lived, is very attractive.  But I’ve been reflecting upon what this then costs, on how this renders things temporary and unstable. 

Our friend Mike had obviously done some thinking on this too, and managed to articulate his thinking much better than I could.  He contrasted the difference between ‘depth’ and ‘breadth’ in human experience.  A person of ‘deep’ experience will invest themselves fully and at length into what ever they feel called to do – or perhaps what they simply find themselves doing.  This long investment results, naturally, in a richness of knowledge and understanding beyond what might in the normal order of things be achieved.  This means, crudely, that they have a great deal of experience in a very narrow realm.  A person of ‘broad’ experience will instead have explored many areas, for example they may have had several careers or lived in many widely differing locations, but this will of course limit the amount of deep experience they might have – so they have a more ‘surface’ experience but across a much greater scope.

I’ve just read that back and I promise you Mike said it much better at the time!

This led me back to a train of thought I’d been on for a while.  What does it mean for my relationships with others?  We’ve got a small circle of really good friends, most of whom we’ve known now for many years, and we know that these are friends who we will grow old with as we walk through life and faith together.  Despite the fact that geography separates us from most of them, there seems to be a tacit understanding that these friendships are for keeps.  There is accountability, encouragement, shared joy and shared pain.  These have, with the passage of time, and the commitment that such relationships need, become friendships of depth.

Closer to home I look at the people who I walk alongside as fellow followers of Christ.  I am challenged to commit to relationships of depth there too.  To see those around me as people whom I should serve not just here and now, but (with the caveat of God calling me to something different) with commitment and an intention to serve and love for a lifetime. 

But the draw to new experience, and this year, to find a new challenge is still very strong, and finding the balance between the two is hard.  Can I have depth and breadth, I wonder?

I’ve been doing some more thinking about living and loving in a small group.  Our church has long had house groups or bible study groups, but the last couple of years has upped the ante in this area and our large and growing church really encourages everyone to ‘do life’ with others in a small group setting.  I suppose I see it as a kind of micro-church, one that can fit around a table and let everyone share in the same conversation. 

We’ve had a small group in our home for the last couple of years, which we host and lead – but my husband does the real leading (I think I’m more of a backseat driver). We’ve been doing some reflecting on what it means, or what it might mean, to be a small group leader, and thinking about how well we do this and how we might do better.  Then I found this list and thought it was helpful as a yardstick.  Would be interested to hear what others think too though.  What should a small group leader do?

10 GREAT WAYS TO CARE FOR YOUR GROUP MEMBERS

10. Pray for your group members each morning.
9. Meet a group member for coffee.
8. Invite the group over for dinner.
7. Send a note of encouragement.
6. Ask questions.
5. Celebrate with them, literally…birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
4. Notice when they’re absent.
3. Make ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ the most important part of your interactions.
2. Call them out…challenge them in areas where they need to change.
1. Get them serving others.

It’s perhaps notable that it doesn’t say anything about bible study, theological understanding or being a gifted speaker.  It does, however, offer a strong model of leading by serving, amongst other things.  It’s not rocket science, to coin a phrase, but it is practical.

Okay, it’s unlikely that any group of people is actually going to be perfect in a literal way.  But I genuinely believe that, warts and all (not that any of them are particularly warty), the small group of fellow believers and followers of Jesus who gather in our home are a pretty perfect little collective.

I find myself thinking about what it means to live in meaningful community more and more.  I came across this post about that very thing, and about how we do this in troubled times, and it says it so simply and so well I would like to commend it to you.

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