God believes in creative experimentation: TANGO

Monday, 1 June, 2009

This story illustrates the principles of God believes in creative experimentation in the Guide.

TANGO (Together As Neighbours Giving Out), a café and recycling centre for a Merseyside community, was set up by the local Anglican church in 2000 to bring care and 'give and take' back into the local community. A purely social service, it nevertheless provides opportunity for Christian witness through action and conversation.

We show God's love first,

says chairperson, Avril Chisnall.

We realised that God's love is out there all the time; that people have experienced that and all have a story to tell.

Avril and her team invited TANGO customers to a monthly gathering in a pub on Sunday morning (toast and tea all round). Invitations to this were placed on the tables at TANGO and personal invites were given to those Avril and her team knew might be interested.

'We weren't radical enough. We began to follow the same pattern. We should have been in tune with them more and let them set the agenda...'

Over time a few came to what, Avril realised, had become too much like a 'regular church'.

We weren't radical enough,

she says.

We began to follow the same pattern. We should have been in tune with them more and let them set the agenda, putting God's values into that'.

A positive outcome of that time was the baptism of a 'dysfunctional family' (two in the pub and one in church), every member of which now helps out with TANGO's thrice weekly midday café and shop. Good food at a very reasonable cost and quality second-hand goods are set out in a market-type environment for those living on a tight budget.

However, the Sunday morning pub sessions were abandoned, partly because the team realised that a lack of public transport on Sundays was preventing people from coming.

A new gathering, Buddies' Breakfast, was started in the late summer of 2006. From nine until ten o'clock on the first Tuesday in the month, breakfast is served at the old church hall which is home to TANGO. The team put out invitations by card and word of mouth to those they feel might be interested. 

'Church people often want quick results. Just serve people, give them what it is they need and wait until the thing blossoms.'

The invitation is to 'partner and support' the new work that TANGO as a community project wants to develop and to encourage a real sense of belonging.

In God's kingdom every person is valued and has a part to play,

Avril believes.

It's being together, serving them, having a laugh and a chat, establishing friendships that prove we can be trusted.

A flow of people has passed through Buddies' Breakfast, which is usually attended by 60 to 70 TANGO volunteer staff and customers.

We have been honest with those customers who have come, and have said that God is the motivator behind all that we do,

says Avril.

Church people often want quick results. Just serve people, give them what it is they need and wait until the thing blossoms. This time we are looking for a sense of belonging and partnership and have already seen two or three people move into the Tuesday weekly cell from which Buddies' Breakfast was born.

Avril also advises,

Keep flexible; if something's run its course, be brave enough to finish it, then wait and see what God starts to do next with the work he's asked you to get involved in.

This is a learning point from: