Uncovering what is hidden (Kim Hartshorne)

Friday, 14 June, 2013

Kim Hartshorne uncovers what is hidden.

I recently went to a 'ReSource' weekend away for people interested in finding out more about mission in very different contexts. It involved going to a location with other practitioners and discovering what is happening on the ground. Based around a project or charity rooted in a local community, it was an experiential time offering opportunity for input, reflection and questions.

It was also a very sociable time with lots of eating and drinking, joking and messing about, confession and truth telling.

Weekends are run by a partnership of ACPI (Anglican Church Planting Initiatives), the CMS Pioneer Leadership training course and the Fresh Expressions team. This particular getaway was hosted by Streetspace and the Frontier Youth Trust.

The theme behind them seems to be incarnational, indigenous mission that bubbles up in a local area out of the soil of genuine relationships - rather than something imposed from outside by people who are not locals. It really helped me to get under the skin, understand and experience what these 'new forms of church' really look and feel like – a much better use of time than reading 1,000 books!

The experience energised me and I came home with a head full of thoughts, challenges and inspirations – and a new self-awareness about where I'm struggling and why. Here are a few of the things I learned, re-learned, remembered or caught a glimpse of:

  • The real scope of the church is much larger, more varied and complex than the part we see that self identifies as the church (or the Church). Wherever relationships, mutuality, people becoming more fully human, expressing creativity, working for justice are seen; these are included in the scope/footprint/body of the church. The medium of human relationships is the fertile soil that the hidden church expands and grows in.
  • Many more people are priestly than those who are ordained and recognised as such by the church. They manifest that via relationships; affirming and enabling the expansion of humanity in another - or the working of reconciliation or justice, or the creation of beauty and creativity. They uncover an enlarged reality and often name or map it for the first time. In these cases, the development of new language and means of expression is often a part of the work they offer.
  • The parts of the body that are identified and uncovered are often unaware that they are not the whole church, and so at times they may behave like the hand that says to the body part that is unseen or unglamorous 'we do not have need of you'. Grace is needed, if you are the pancreas! By the same token, the newly minted parts may say to the old wrinkly parts, we are embarrassed by you. This isn't helpful either; each has different experience of parts of this sacramental road we all travel, and travelling together as guides and companions walking at different paces exposes the beauty we all share.
  • At one point, we saw a plaque by a river that said, 'Uncovering what is hidden'. This sums up the work of pioneers for me but it's also the remit of all humans made in God's image. It includes the church as a part of what is hidden and needs to be seen in a new way, re-imagined for a new destiny.
  • I remembered again that I am energised - as an extrovert and pioneer - by being in the thick of a crowd of similarly energised people. I need the banter, the pacey exchange of ideas and challenges, lots of jokes and messing about with those engaged in challenging situations on the edges of the map. I love being out and about, involved in direct work with people but am somewhat deadened by accounts, admin, management, insurance, form filling and box ticking. Sadly, part of being a grown up and running a safe project has to include some of this, but perhaps praying for others to share the tedious stuff would be wise.
  • I learn most from experience, from being out in the context that is being explained and taught. I smell it, taste it, imbibe it and assimilate it, and then apply what I experience to other scenarios. I learned more than I have done in the entire academic year – as well as being more challenged and excited too. It reminded me of who I am in a way that the classroom never can.
  • The real frontier of mission pushes us along the jagged edge of powerlessness, being a guest in another space, building relationships that grow into the creation of another, new space. Other names for this are a thin place, a third space, a liminal space, or the Kingdom of Heaven. We don't turn up with a solution that we invite others into, we open up spaces together that we build and create in together.
  • When I submit to this powerlessness, I am the beneficiary of the mutual discovery in powerful ways that change and transform me. Perhaps more than those I am seeking to journey with, I need this exchange of life to revive and resurrect me! It’s like a blood transfusion.
  • God is in the business of uncovering the hidden; discovering buried treasure. Often what is most precious is buried in us most deeply - we have protected it as a survival strategy when facing risk, danger or pain. This has been true for me. Encounter with others, sharing their pain, gives breakthroughs to the treasure seeker in each of us. Take the risk!
About the author: 

Kim Hartshorne is a pioneer minister with The Upper Room community, Cirencester.


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