Glo Church - update Dec13

Monday, 16 December, 2013

Gareth and Lizzy Robinson update the story of Glo Church at Offerton, near Stockport.

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Transcript

Gareth Robinson, church leader and singer/songwriter: Offerton is made up of lots of different residential areas. Offerton Estate has been treated as a Priority 2 and, increasingly in the last couple of years, a Priority 1 area by the local council and we came in the midst of them beginning to treat it as a Priority 1 area with a neighbourhood action plan because they wanted to get people off drugs, they wanted to get people out of abusive relationships, they wanted to get people into employment and we were thinking... that's the Kingdom of God, that's the kind of thing we want to bring! So we, early on, started partnering with the council, pretty much saying, 'How can we help? What can we do to make this kind of thing come about so that we can see Offerton transformed as a community?'

In terms of our mission strategy, we took it for granted that Jesus was right! He sent his disciples in to find the people of peace so we tried very hard to listen and think, 'What's already happening in the community? What's the greatest need in the community? And what can we do with these people that God has given us, who is wanting to support us in mission. So Lizzy, my wife, was working with the Children's Centre and found some great people there who were wanting a similar kind of thing to her. She started working with young mums and we found some people of peace through that.

Lizzy Robinson, church leader: Through The Garage we can work with other agencies and signpost individuals to them but also what's fantastic is we can then invite them to the drop in centre at Glo Central for a cuppa or welcome into our houses, ask them if they want to come to a party, ask them if they want to come along to church or a toddler group and through that we are making real key friendships and relationships with individuals so The Garage absolutely is about meeting that basic need for individuals in the community but if they want more, we can offer that.

Gareth Robinson: I love the principles that the labourers in the harvest field are those who have responded to the gospel; they've got saved and then they go out. So it's long-term, it's not just going to be around for a couple of year but, hopefully, for generations. It's self-sustaining, we are not always going to be looking to our mother church for help and it's indigenous. And that's key, that we're seeking to give away what it is that we've got and raising up leaders within the community.

Male interviewee: Before I met Glo my life was at rock bottom, I suffered with a number of mental illnesses and I hadn't left the house in months. Meeting Glo and coming to meet God and Jesus through them has made a massive impact on my life because I couldn't leave the house before, I was very cynical about everything and I was at a point where I was convinced I'd never be a functioning member of society again. Since meeting Glo and coming to religion through that, I volunteer with Glo and they encourage me in ways that I didn't think people were inclined to any more.

Female interviewee 1: I was a bit shy at first about coming to, like, speak to everybody but everyone made me feel really welcome and stuff so I just stuck with it.

Female interviewee 2: Before I came to church I just didn't feel like I was wanted or I didn't feel like I fit in anywhere and I just felt a bit alone but then I came to Glo and my life just completely changed. I felt like God loved me and he wanted me here. I feel like I fit in.

Gareth Robinson: We started with a team of five. We learned a lot from the Eden Project of wanting to be very incarnational, living here – not kind of parachuting in during the week and then going home to our nice houses but truly being part of the community

In terms of worship, we met as a team in our conservatory initially but it seemed that we needed what sociologists call that 'third space'. I remember saying to everybody, 'Next time we meet, nothing's going to change. So it's going to be us, it's going to be our public witness; we're going to be there – Christians – and if people come along, that's fine. They can watch and they can join in but we'll be setting the tone and they'll be joining in with us' which was my expectation and my plan and then God went and 'ruined' it all!

Suddenly, our wonderful times of worship were more focused on trying to stop the kids running around who'd been sent to church... we don't know where their parents were but the kids were sent along to church and we were running around chasing after them, trying to settle them down and this great, beautiful sense of God's presence had been completely destroyed and replaced with this wonderful sense of the people's presence and God in that. And so our journey was very much trying to work out, 'Well, what does worship look like for us now?' So we had separate team meetings as well where just those of who were Christians, called and committed to seeing God's Kingdom come through Glo, we still meet together to worship but Sundays has taken on a very different flavour.

There have been challenges working out how to incarnate the gospel in a culture which is different from the one I was brought up in, for example. We've had to do that double listening, really trying to listen to what God is saying but really also trying to listen to what the culture around us is saying. I'm really not sure that the model of church is broken, I think what might be broken is our expectations about what church does which is again why we talk about Sunday being the result of discipleship. If Sunday is the only thing, even the main thing, it can cause us to have a slightly warped view of it and certainly warped expectations about what it should do but I've begun to talk about us as a missional community that gathers to worship rather than a worshipping community that does mission. And it's only a slight difference but actually it causes our focus to be 'out there' rather than 'gathered together'. So we try to contextualise it and that is always a very interesting journey and a fascinating balancing act but if we are here for the sake of others, then it's something we're going to have to continually wrestle with.

Our favourite phrase, to be honest, as we plant church - and many people watching this are probably very familiar with if they've ever done the same kind of thing - is 'messy'. It's all 'messy' and we love the idea of having simple structure and we work towards that but it's 'messy'.

The dream I suppose is that we plant more things like this, not saying, 'We've got all the answers and everyone should do it like this' but 'Here are some of the principles that we've learnt and those that we are raising up might go off and plant.' So, two people who were on our team/are on our team are now training for ordination. They're OPM training as pioneer ministers and our prayer is that they'll go off and plant something themselves too. Who knows where? Hopefully locally, but maybe not. We are just trying to think of ways that we can encourage others to feel inspired and perhaps have a go at doing a similar kind of thing, not based on the model but based on the principles of what it is that we're trying to do here.  And thank God that we're seeing people come to faith and responding to the Gospel through it.

This story is an update to:

GLO

Comments

I understand where you are coming from now Gareth . When I first met you you told me Glo was a missional community that gathers to worship rather than a worshipping community that does mission. I didn't fully understand what you meant at the time. I realised it was a bit different , and different to what I was used to . But it still had a flavour of what I was used to , and I liked it .
My heart has always been to reach out but in my situation I've not been able to do that much . But I'm excited about what the future brings and looking forward to being more involved in Glo .
Yvonne

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