Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In conversation, in the pub

I had my first outing to a local pub the other evening. It was very quiet and I'd arranged to meet someone there for a chat. This is pastoral care, this is conversation, this is just being church, this is just being. For those who might be worrying, I had fruit juice. Actually, as I told my conversation partner, I decided when I was 18 that it was okay not to like beer and to tell other people I didn't like it! So I drink what I like and I like fruit juice.

Back to the story.

The place we went was not busy. Maybe because it was Monday night, maybe because it as cold, or maybe it just isn't busy on Mondays! So we met and we sat and we talked. We talked about all sorts of things. Nothing we talked about was a secret, it didn't need to be said behind the closed doors of an office or study. It was just two people doing life together.

I'm not about to suggest that we convene a small group and all turn up with Bibles next week, but why don't we meet and have conversations more often than we do? Why is it that we find it so hard to spend time together when one of the hallmarks of community is time spent together?

We had a great meal with friends from church the other Friday. I laughed so much at one particular story that I thought I was going to turn inside out! Isn't it time we invited our neighbours and friends into our lives more often? To share our stories with them and hear their stories from them. No evangelistic agenda, just doing life. Could we possibly reimagine church more in the contexts of these relationship than in the context of filling a building once a week?

A few weeks ago someone said to me that they thought the problem with our building is that it was designed to be closed most of the time! Reimagining it to be open most of the time might be a good place to start, but it's not the only shift in imagination we need. More needs to change. Stud walls and paint, extensions and new buildings won't make us more engaged with our community.

If we can't see what God is doing in the space we share with the missing, it's unlikely that we'll fix that without a new imagination. I wonder if there's room for a housegroup for people who don't like housegroups and that doesn't meet in a house?

I think I'm rambling again!

1 comment:

Ricky said...

When I was young I read most of C.S. Lewis’s literature avidly. He describes people who like other people as normal; the implication is that “love” demonstrated is not abnormal, but it is how we are made to be.

In a memorable lecture he gave, he describes society as inter-locking rings of cliques. Each person belongs to his own clique, but nevertheless has a clique that he aspires to join, and in his own clique, has defensive barriers against people from lower cliques joining. (In my experience, this is a pretty accurate picture of society.) It is not that friendship groups in themselves are bad – they provide an opportunity for members with similar hobbies and interests to share and deepen their understanding - but it is the behaviour of members in a friendship group to others outside that forms these exclusive cliques.

Perhaps the church has something to learn from this lecture. I wish that I had not give away the book, but that is life. I hope the receiver enjoyed it as much!