Emerging church, inherited problems! (Simon Sutcliffe)

Monday, 11 April, 2011

Simon SutcliffeSimon Sutcliffe finds inherited problems in the emerging church.

This is slightly tongue in cheek! But beneath it lurks an uncomfortable truth – if only I could see it properly. What a friend of mine calls the meta-narrative in the mist.

VentureFX Hanley shares a space called The Lounge with other agencies working within the city centre. It used to be a bank and is now kitted out with wood effect flooring, ambient lighting, an open kitchen, leather sofas and tub chairs. A group of us met to discuss how we might develop the space further. We looked at better lighting, better signage, a proper coffee maker, etc, but what was most pressing was to sort out two emerging (but not new) problems.

The first was to do with storage. It is great that the space is getting used more regularly and that is exactly what we want. However, where do the groups keep their stuff? All the usual questions were raised: 'Do they really need that stuff?', 'Can we not share resources and therefore not duplicate the same things in different cupboards?' and 'How can we maximise cupboard space using minimum wall space?' You know the questions.

The second was to do with the general look of the place. It is a lovely space, but without a dedicated cleaner it soon begins to look unloved. Again the same old questions were asked: 'Can we afford a cleaner?', 'Who might volunteer?' and 'Can user groups take more responsibility?' In the end we struck upon a great (yet not entirely new) idea. A Benedictine clean! St Benedict's rule offers a possible spirituality for work whereby work is a means to goodness of life. Benedict's rule is also moderate; a healthy work/life balance is essential and within that balance falls the place of prayer and worship, with monks often seen reciting the Psalter during work. So a group of us decided to pray and clean our way through The Lounge.

What is fascinating for me is how soon we come back to the problems of inherited models of church

What is fascinating (and scary) for me is how soon we come back to the problems of inherited models of church. It felt as if I was on a property committee of old whilst deciding what to do with the space that we now inhabit. I can't help but wonder if there is any escape from those things that used to frustrate me so much and led to me being where I currently am. I know this is about property, and re-read the first line of this post, but most people who are engaging in similar kinds of ministry will often speak of the same frustrations that belong to structure and organisation as well as some theological stuff too. Is this simply what it means to be in organised community with designated space? Or is there another way?

About the author: 

Methodist minister Simon Sutcliffe is a pioneer mission leader for VentureFX in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. VentureFX is the pioneer ministries scheme of the Methodist Church in Great Britain.


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