April 23, 2012
Should the followers of Jesus consider leaving the building and join others in creating resilient local communities?
You missed it! You missed Inhabit…Presence Practice & Place at the Seattle School of Seattle April 20 & 21. It was a gathering primarily of creative practitioners. A lot of younger people and some older, who care very much about the communities where they are planted, shared the innovative ways God is using their lives to help change their neighborhoods.
For example, Springwater is a new expression of church in Southeast Portland where a group of younger folks and a few more mature friends have all re-located in the same neighborhood. Their focus is not about running programs for those inside a building but creating stronger local communities of mutual care for times like these. For example, twice a year Springwater works with the local elementary school to put on “bicycle repair days.”
Zoe is a group of Christians who have settled in downtown Tacoma to be something of God’s shalom of God. They have been instrumental in starting 8 businesses to provide jobs and strengthen the local economy. Last September they sponsored their second block party with 1,500 people coming to the party. But the block party wasn’t just about celebration it was about bringing people together to create new forms of mutual care for life in these tough times.
Paul and Liz Sparks who are pastors of this community have joined with Tim Sorerens to birth the Parish Collective.
Their site reads…“If the gospel of Jesus has public implications, and not just private/interior ones, then our liturgical lives should reflect that. And if our church life is meant to be first-and-foremost local, then we should expect our particular locality to also have a big part in our liturgical life. Together, the local is the primary public arena for our life, worship, and liturgical rhythms…. Sometimes that’s as tiny as gratitude for a housemate doing more chores than usual, as staggering as a neighbor turning from addiction, as mystical as springtime birdsongs chirping God’s praise, and as concrete as a new crosswalk making it safer for kids to get to school.”
Tim and Paul have been touring congregations all over the region who are creating community gardens and ways to work with leaders in their community to help neighbors to help themselves. Dwight Friesen, a professor at Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, announced the launch of a new certificate program in Missional Innovation to provide a place for people of faith to join with others in their community to create new networks of mutual care for life in these turbulent times.
I came away from this stimulating conversation with a new sense of hope. Then I remembered most of the churches I have had the opportunity to work with in North America typically host an annual missions conference but don’t sponsor a single ministry into their own communities. I would be very interested in your ideas of how to help our congregations give a rip about their neighbors and start joining others in empowering their local communities. Any ideas?