work:space - update Jun12

Wednesday, 6 June, 2012

Paul Bradbury tells the story of work:space, church in the workplace in Poole.

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Paul Bradbury: We always started work:space off to be a missional venture. It was always about engagement with a group that people have called the spiritual but not religious, those who are exploring spirituality but are very much turned off by religion, by the institution that is represented within religion. I did a lot of listening to people who weren't going to church and many of those were praying and using contemplative techniques to try and find stillness and so we thought well, if we actually brought that into a workplace context that could be really powerful. And it's been slow and it's not been easy because what you're doing is encouraging people to come away from their desk and the relentlessness of work to be still for half an hour - so it's very counter-cultural. But what we're finding is it is common ground, it can be common ground for both Christians and non-Christians and therefore you're bringing Christians and non-Christians into a place where they're building relationship with one another, they're building community with one another, the gospel in a sense is being shared as the bible is read, conversations are being had and Christians within workplaces are meeting with non-Christians that they didn't know before.

[Come to seek some stillness, all the things you've had to think about, and then just listen to the sound of your own breathing.]

It's not just about providing something but actually bringing together small groups that are then forming community. So it's not a Christian Union because it's not just Christians coming together to pray for one another. It requires a certain degree of sacrifice I think, particularly on behalf of those who are Christians, because for many of us perhaps contemplative prayer is something that we are rediscovering as church, something therefore that many Christians aren't used to, but are exploring and seeing the life that there is within that. But they're having to do something that's not in their comfort zone, in order to build a relationship with people outside of church.

Once community has formed, we can then encourage people to take a little step further and come away on something like a retreat - we don't call it a retreat, that's a bit of a churchy word to use, so we just call it work:space plus. We hire a retreat centre and encourage people to come away for a bit longer, work:space sessions will be part of that time, but because they know people, because they've built relationship with people, they feel comfortable, they can come away and do that, it builds community further, it gives another opportunity to participate in discussing matters of faith and Christian spirituality within the workplace. It's a step further.

I'm very clear that it's possible that workplaces will become the locus for church for many people. For many people Sunday is not a time where they can go to church and besides which the idea of going to church is an alien thing. And I see no reason why a small group meeting to explore the gospels, to explore what it means to follow Jesus and make connections between the gospel and their working life and the rest of life cannot be church. If church is simply a group of disciples gathering together to encourage one another and explore their faith together, ask how can I deepen my discipleship of Jesus and how can I do that with others, if that's what church is then I see no reason why you can't do that in the workplace. And we're beginning to see that that could be possible and that there are people who are making relationships through work:space, starting to ask questions about the gospel, it seems the perfectly sensible next step to say to them well let's do that, let's do that in the workplace rather than saying well go and find your local church.

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