Community Hub in Nine Elms Vauxhall

In an earlier post I published a draft template for a new parish church (or Christian community hub). It makes for a very different conversation with Local Authority representatives or councillors if you ask for 13,000 square feet of space instead of pitching in with some general idea of supporting the local community. So I added space standards.\r\n\r\nFor a zoomable version click …here \r\n\r\nBANE-HUB-001

A New Parish Church?

We hear a lot about new models of church planting, and the benefits of ‘network’ churches formed around networks of people. Establishing a new parish church along traditional lines is generally out of favour, because of the initial set up cost – the Church of England no longer has the resources available to it in the 19th century – and the running costs to future generations.\r\n\r\nBut if I could get hold of sponsors/investors or some discounted D1 community space I would go for it, a new parish ministry built around a sustainable multi-use facility. Why? Because for all it’s faults a good parish church works beyond networks and responds to the the particular grain of its surroundings. This offers great opportunities for effective service.\r\n\r\nAnd who else would do it?\r\n\r\nSomething like this. (For zoomable image click here …)\r\n\r\nBANE - PROPOSAL FOR A NEW CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY.ai

Emerging Communities Group

The Emerging Communities Group has come out of my work to build community and support mission in Battersea and Nine Elms, the largest redevelopment site in London. With over 30,000 new residents and 25,000 new workers moving to the area in less than ten years, how can these new communities flourish? And what about existing inner city communities, and churches? We’re looking for members, sponsors and collaborators … (zoomable version here …)\r\n\r\nEMERGIN COMMUNITIES DIAGRAM.ai

The key skills of a priest-missioner

A couple of years ago a friend applied for a post in a new urban village in east London. The role was headlined as a priest-missioner, working to establish a new church community in the area.\r\n\r\nBut the headline title of Priest-Missioner was only part of the requirement. The relationship with the Diocese was not typical, the relationships with key stakeholders were complex. And on top of this there was no church building and no permanent place to live.\r\n\r\nSo it was complicated, and I think the key skill required was not primarily in theology or mission, but in … administration.\r\n\r\nMy diagram of the post looked like this (the full version can be seen here…)\r\n\r\ntottenham hale BLOG IMAGE

Starting the church

I’ve heard debates about when the Church began.\r\n\r\nWas it when Jesus breathed on the disciples in a room in Jerusalem and said receive the Holy Spirit?\r\n\r\nOr was it on the day of Pentecost, when Jesus breathed on the disciples in a room in Jerusalem in a more dramatic way and 3,000 people became followers?\r\n\r\nI’ve never heard anyone say that Peter’s first pronouncement to his fellow disciples was the start of the church, but in some ways it had all the hallmarks of a functioning church.\r\n\r\nPeter’s first recorded discourse concerns the appointment of a new member of the ‘senior leadership team’, the Apostles. He stands and recounts the disappointment of Judas, framing it in scriptural terms, and drawing the conclusion that led to Matthias being appointed as the 12th Apostle.\r\n\r\nOne observation we can make is that by this time, between Jesus leaving and the Spirit coming, there was a strong sense of Assignment and Designation.\r\n\r\nPeter says that Judas had an ‘Assigned place’ in the ministry of Jesus, and his replacement has to be someone ‘Designated…as a witness to the resurrection’.\r\n\r\nThe Administration of the Designated calling of individuals to an Assignment to serve the community…\r\n\r\n… sounds like a church to me.

Parable of the Bowls … or ‘What it’s like going to church for the first time’

My neighbour Bill (it’s appropriate to change his name) was on my case. He wanted me to play bowls at the local club in the park. He’d been once with his wife Jackie (not her real name, of course) and loved it.

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Bill would talk to me about joining him at the club, perhaps with our wives to make up a foursome, as we made our way home from the tennis courts, past the bowls club, in the early evenings of the summer. Whenever he raised the prospect I pointed into the club and jeered. Not at any club member in particular. Just jeering in general.

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To be honest, the bowls club gave me the heebie-jeebies. From what I’d seen all the members dress the same, white shoes, white trousers, white shirts, white caps, and – important to someone like me fending off the passing of years – white hair. And imagine being trapped in a small enclosure of hedges and railings with people I didn’t know and had nothing in common with.

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But the pressure was mounting. The summer was ending.

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It was now or never said Bill.

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We finally gave in.

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The evening came several weeks ago when the four us ambled up to the bowls club, my wife and I and our evangelists by our side. My steps were getting slower as we got closer. My whole body was crying out for an emergency to take place in the children’s play area so I would have to stop and administer comfort and solace to the parents of a poor child as we waited for the ambulance. But God didn’t answer that prayer (I knew it! Never when you need it).

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We arrived at the gate. It was not inviting. Because of the eight foot high yew hedge there was no way to see who or what was going on in the club. The gate in the hedge gave a foreboding screech as we entered and there, suddenly, was a startling freeze-frame tableau. About twenty elderly (sorry, sprightly) people immediately turned towards us and froze – some of them in mid-bowling action, one foot forward, bowl ready, but perfectly still. Twenty cap peaks pointing at us as if to accuse us of being … NEW PEOPLE!!

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Suddenly it was all action (albeit at a jolly snails pace). One member took the shopping trolley (yep, they’d stolen one from Asda) past the nice little club house to find sixteen bowls in the portakabin (“sorry they don’t quite match; we don’t have many visitors. Make do and mend …”). We were taken to our allotted place,  slot, or aisle (not sure what it’s called) and off we went.

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I confess, the bowls was fun. It’s not decent to be competitive with neighbours, but that didn’t stop us making up our own scoring system and keeping score. And bowls has an attractive nerdy quality to it.

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During a couple of ends a senior member came and gave us encouraging comments. At one point the club secretary came and suggested we might like to look over the membership forms in the club house. There was lots of cheerful banter from the ‘folk’ next to us.

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We wrapped it up halfway through the evening because Bill and Jackie wanted to get back home to see “The Great British Bake-off” and we wanted to go to the pub first. I refused to share in pushing the trolley back, but from my bench I could hear the cheerful banter as my three competitors said their goodbyes, and resisted the invitations to drink at the nice little bar in the clubhouse (“…it’s cheaper than The Victoria!”).

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Thank goodness that was over.

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Although getting there felt like walking to the dentist, at least we were walking through a park in a truly beautiful summers evening. The event itself was pleasant enough, we escaped without commitment, our friends are still friends, and we pasted the experience into the scrap book of things to talk about in the winter when the nights draw in.

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But for me, and bowls, I won’t be going back.

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