The Order of the Black Sheep - Jun13

Tuesday, 4 June, 2013

Mark Broomhead updates the story of the Order of the Black Sheep in Chesterfield.

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Mark Broomhead: The Order of the Black Sheep's still coming along really nicely, we've got a great community of people who are meeting on a fortnightly basis now, which is really exciting. People are taking more of a leadership role as well, we've got a committee of people that we've called our Bishops' Mission Order Council rather than PCC, so we're turning very Anglican on you I'm afraid, but things are coming together really nicely.

In the week we've fund that, due to funding reasons, we've not been able to employ someone to run the café and with volunteers it's been a bit hit and miss, so at the moment we've shut down temporarily while we kind of work out what we're doing. We're taking the opportunity to decorate, we're hoping to put some disabled features in as well like a stairlift and things like that so that more people can have access to what we're doing. We've had some particular success with a group of adults with learning difficulties who are coming in and there's other community groups who are wanting to use the building too, so we want to be able to have more of that sort of thing happening so there's more deliberate things happening in the week, rather than just being open just for the sake of it really. So as more deliberate things happen we're going to bring things back together again and hopefully be open through the week a lot more.

The Order of the Black Sheep began as a monthly service as well as the stuff that's going on here through the week and then we moved… after time people were saying they wanted more of it, because I mean if you miss a monthly service then you don't see anyone for two months and it's not really a good way to build community. So it was felt that to go fortnightly was a really good idea, so we have and that's been going really well, we've seen growth through that. So, me thinking, I thought weekly, fortnightly, let's go weekly. So I put that to our newly established leadership team and while we actually thought and talked about it, it was thought that something about it being fortnightly and people with difficult family circumstances or the way that life is now I guess, it being fortnightly allows people to be able to interact and maybe going weekly would have taken something away so we thought what shall we do.

So I was quite keen that if people did want to come more often there'd be other things to do, but I was also aware that the way that our services are on a Sunday perhaps doesn't attract or… it's not perhaps suitable for the way that everybody works. It's quite presentational, it's good if you just want to sit back and think and then talk about stuff afterwards, but I thought well maybe we could do something that was a lot more interactive, a lot more based on the people who were attending.

Now where we're positioned in Chesterfield is right on the edge of the Peak District which is really good and there's quite a big community of people who inhabit the Peak District over the weekends, doing mountain biking and walking and all kinds of rock climbing and canoeing and that sort of thing. And a few of the people that we work with are kind of involved on those communities. So we started thinking about what could we do to interact. And I was at dinner at my brother-in-law's actually and he talked to me about geocaching that a lot of his friends do, which is when – a lot of people may have come across it but I hadn't – basically people hide little caches of things in the countryside or wherever actually and then it's published on the internet, the grid references using a mobile phone or a GPS system so that you can go and find them and then… they range from being tiny things to quite big things and you can have different things within that. And that got me to thinking, maybe we… we talk about the Christian life being a journey quite often and talk about hidden treasure and all those kind of things, you know, all the kind of clichés I guess, but I wondered if we could kind of break up a service in a way, the different focuses of a service, different readings, prayers, and actually hide them in the countryside – in our context. So what we've been thinking of is something called Geochurche.

So the way that it's going to work is we're going to publish the grid references on the internet, We're going to have a gathering so that everyone is actually together and we'll give a time and a place for that using the grid reference. But people are going to have an opportunity before that to go and find these other caches and hopefully be part of their spiritual journeying experience really. And they'll be placed in such a way that maybe not everybody will be able to find them all and maybe not everyone will want to do the whole of the journey, you can just take what part you want. And I think an important part of the service that we'll have will be people reflecting on that and sharing the journey they've had, sharing their adventures and alongside that sharing the journey they've had through the week in themselves and where they are and what part of the wilderness in their own human journey they're on.

So it's going to be hi-tech in the way that you find the things but it's going to be very lo-tech sitting round the fire with a banjo or whatever and quite informal but we'll see what happens! Hopefully it'll be something quite exciting, it's almost the complete polar opposite of what we do here on a Sunday usually but we're quite excited about it.

I think in a way it's very similar to a traditional church model in that people have different services and you'll get some people who'll want to come to all the services. They'll come to the family service and the sung eucharist and they'll go to everything and really want to stick everything into it. Other people will only find they can interact with certain parts of it. And I think it will work a lot like that. I think there'll be members of stuff already who want to do this and there'll be people who just want to interact with that bit. And maybe new communities will grow out of it as people come together and find similar interests, share things and find people that are there to support and love them and hopefully something really tangible will grow out of that.

It's about enabling other people to get involved really and it's something that isn't highly dependent on me, it's something that is just something you can hang things on and other people can use quite easily and we have people who are really interested in the outdoors and they'll be really interested in finding the places to hide them and people who are interested in doing new forms of liturgy, in meditations and reflections so they'll be able to help put stuff together. So hopefully it'll be… the community will be within the preparation as well as the finding and the using.

The great thing about this is if we put a few minutes into putting the resources together it's something that we can share and can be done anywhere really. So hopefully, if it works we will let other people know and you'll be able to use it yourselves, maybe interact with the website and put your coordinates up as well and see what we can do together maybe.

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