2012 Project365 (Day 154)

A Jubilee Street PartyIt has a busy day. I sang at the wedding and then I raced off to town to attend a Street Party. My Mum and Dad attend Eldad Elim Church and they were involved in helping to organise a street party in the road outside the church.

It was brilliant and they reckon that they probably had about 300 people attending. Hopefully they had some people from the flats that surround the church because it is a reasonably deprived area by Guernsey standards. There was a face-painter, a man making balloon models (who was brilliant!!), hula hooping, Splat the Rat, a bouncy castle, a band and people dancing. It was a lovely atmosphere and most importantly, there was a lot of cake!!!

Written by Anna Williams in: Church,Guernsey,Project365 | Tags: , ,

Church, community and Bernard

Tonight could be interesting. I have been asked to lead our small group (which is called Bernard!!) and we are following through the book The Purpose Drive Life by RIck Warren. The topic I am leading on is “You Were Formed for God’s Family” and it is basically about the church. Kind of an interesting topic for me to attempt to address.

Now, let me be clear. I really dislike this book. I hate how shallow it is, how trite and twee and how it is a bit like ‘your-life-will-be-fine-if-you-follow-all-these-steps-to-happiness’. However I realised that it did have a few good points to make, and as I am leading the discussion tonight I can steer it a little in the direction I wish it to go.

So, I read through the chapters of the book, then I read a little of Henri Nouwen’s book Compassion and some of Alan Jamieson’s book A Churchless Faith. Finally I decided to do a word search on my blog for “church” and “community”. I knew I had blogged a lot on these subjects but I hadn’t realised quite how much.

Reading back through some of my posts I started to realise just how fundamental both church and community are to my life, and they are not necessarily part of the same thing. My craving for authentic community seems to overpower the need for church, and yet church can be part of this authenticity. I guess that my journey form a charismatic evangelical church through to not going anywhere, and finally finding my way back into formal church has been exceptionally important. My desire to be in fellowship with God’s family is vast, and yet the understanding that this needs to be meaningful and honest now takes precedence over turning up for the sake of it.

These days I feel as though I have been able to separate myself emotionally from parts of my previous journey. I am able to talk more objectively about what happened and recognise my own failings in the story. Now, I hope to be able to be more honest, authentic and generous with my feelings, with other people as well as with myself. I hope that tonight we have a productive session. One in which I can share parts of my story without it overwhelming the whole evening. I hope I am able to bring a different slant to the ideas of church and community and what that could mean for all of us.

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Fellowship Roses Sometimes you just get a day when you feel gratful for all the things you have. Today has been one of those days. Things are so different to this time last year, and having both a blog and a personal diary has meant I have been able to recognise how much things have changed for me. This time last year I was practically going into meltdown over the fact that my sister was getting married again. This year, whilst I still don’t like being alone, I am feeling way more content than I thought was possible.

This morning I was sitting in church just watching what was going on around me. The fact that I have found a church in which I feel both comfortable and welcome still surprises me. I was thinking a bit about what this really means and it seems to me that because it is an Anglican parish church their focus on community is really strong and that is a major draw for me. They have several events coming up in the next few months such as a kids club, being part of the local community fete-type thing, an afternoon tea in aid of the hospice as well as a major building project to make the building more suitable for the needs of the church community. It also struck me that the monthly prayer diary which was given out today for July included praying for the other churches in the area, as well as local schools, the organisers of worship, kids club, and anyone getting married. They also had on the list local shopkeepers and the people who run the local post office. A church truly at the centre of the local community.

Things can truly change in a year and the last 12 months have been pretty momentous for me in so many ways. Not least, my friends have stuck by me through my wailing and ranting and the majority have waited patiently for me to pull myself together. This blog has also been really important to me and has enabled me to express my feelings honestly and openly and get feedback. So, a big thank you to everyone who has helped me through… I am sure it will take a down-turn sometime but, for now, life is good.

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Last year my Uncle Nick went off on sabbatical and went swanning off to South America for a while. On his return he wrote a reflection on his sabbatical called “Whatever happened to Solentiname? The role of intentional communities in the mission of the church”. Finally I got around to reading it. It had been looking at me from the coffee table every time I sat down to watch TV. It’s all good stuff, but there was one bit which really struck me…

“In our day there is a renewed interest in some sort of monastic order, whether to restore depth of worship, simplicity of lifestyle or effectiveness in mission. This is anything but new, and speaks of an urgency to recover something that has been lost: namely community. In ‘The Millenium Matrix’ Rex Miller writes: ‘As long as the church remains fragmented, hurried, pressed and driven, it will never be able to see much beyond ever-pressing urgencies. If, however, we restore the priority of relationships and community over projects, agendas, budgets and mission statements, then not only will we survive the transition into a digital world order, but the new environment will provide a potent soil for growth and expression of the body of Christ.’”

43 Community is a funny thing. When you most don’t want it you are stuck in the middle of it and when you really want it you are alone. After leaving Newfrontiers I was desperate for real community; community that made a difference to my life. Community that supported and moved me on. Community that was both challenging and nurturing and yet gave me the space to be me. At that point in time I found my community online, firstly through The Ship of Fools and latterly through blogging. These online communities provided me with the space to ask questions and get answers, to mull things over, to rant, rave, cry and share in the joy of good things. Anyone who says that online communities cannot be powerful for the individual are clearly not part of such a community. The quote above really resonates with me. The need for relationships over agendas is so vital. It is the inter-personal which makes the difference to make life and I fully believe that the church needs to get to grips with this. Is having a large building so vital to community? Well possibly it could provide facilities, but it cannot replace quality relationships. Places like Greenbelt can contribute to this understanding of community, they provide an openness and understanding that is seldom found in churches, and maybe they encourage people to pursue this sense of community on their return home.

The strange thing is that over time my real-life and online communities have started to merge. The boundaries have become a little more blurry as I have met online people in real life. The queer community has sustained me all the way through, and the friendships have extended and endured throughout my wanderings and my journey. Henri Nouwen wrote, ”No one person can fulfill all your needs, but the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God’ faithful love.”

Being part of a community which fulfills this need is amazing. Whether that be in real life or in cyberspace I am not really that fussed, but I know that I am fortunate to have people around me who continue to demonstrate to me God’s faithful, complete and enduring love.

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I am what I am

I had an interesting conversation with a friend last week about my blog. He thinks I am too honest, and maybe I am at times, but this discussion started me thinking a lot about why I blog at all. So, here are my list of reasons.

1) As I live on my own I don’t have anyone to ‘download’ to when I come home. Sometimes my blog is cathartic, it gives me the opportunity to share what has been bugging me and to get it out of my system.

2) It gives me space to work things through, to process issues and to open them up for comments. I love getting comments on what I am writing, as they help me to reframe my thought processes and to develop my thinking.

3) It is good to be heard. As a woman who was part of a Newfrontiers church for such a long time this is something of a novelty.

4) I love to be able to share my pictures, and all the good things that have been happening to me.

5) I also like to be able to share when I am feeling shit. The support, love, and compassion that comes from people when I am having a hard time is invaluable.

6) It keeps my friends up to date with what has been going on in my life.

7) It often opens up discussions with people. Sometimes it can be hard to say things face to face to someone, but a blog post gets the conversation started.

8) I am an exhibitionist at heart!

Blogging and a number of other internet places have given me the opportunity to form an additional community. More and more these communities, both real life and the online communities are crossing over as I meet people in real life I have only known online before. I love the fact that the internet has extended my horizons, it has meant that I have developed friendships with people I might never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise.

As for the comment that I am too honest. I really hope that I have never offended anyone by what I have said on my blog. I hope that people realise and recognise that this is ‘my stuff’ and in the main it is me working through my thought processes. Anyway, I truly believe that honesty is what gives my blog credibility and therefore I will keep rambling as I have never rambled before 🙂

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