where to start?

IMG_1615Living on the Peninsula can be fun and vibrant.
Homes are being built so quickly that every day I go on a prayer walk I see something new.
This is not because I have poor observation skills but due to the fact that new things are appearing every day.
In my walk today I counted 20 buildings that are now being built or are inhabited that were not present when I moved here 18 months ago.
In the next 18 months there will be at least another 20 and possibly the starting of a new tube station, designed by the amazing Calatrava.

In this setting I am attempting to work with others to build ‘church community’.
It’s a big challenge … but I came here because I like big challenges and it is what inspires me!
I am, though, looking for people to join me in building community and church here.
This feels like a repetitive post … but people come and go here very regularly …. so it is kind of admissible to ask the same thing every three to six months when anywhere between 20 and 50% of the community could have changed.
if you have just moved to the Peninsula, or know someone who has that may be interested, then please put us in touch with each other.

One thing I notice here that I have not encountered elsewhere is that generally people don’t seem to have ‘habits’ like they have in other communities.
By this I mean in other places if I went somewhere on a set day at a set time I would expect to see some of the same people on a regular basis. Not everyone would be in those laces every week or day, much a significant number of them would be.
In those other places this was how I made contact with people, developed relationships, and eventually made friends.

This community is different … and I have wondered a lot why this might be.
In a lot of other areas new development is built in already existing communities of people so that there is a mix of ‘established’ and ‘new’ people mixing in the community. Here, on the Peninsula, we only seem to have the new … buildings being built on what was once just open factory space … where there was once no community we are trying to establish community.

My question is … as it seems we are needing to start from scratch here …. is

How do people start to build community?
What is the actual spark that gets the fire of community flourishing?

It seems to be that people growing in already established community already have that fire and they work together to keep the flame burning. I wonder whether keeping the fire burning is easier that getting the flame started in the first place. Certainly I remember from camping and ‘survival’ days that we were always told t not let the fire go out once we had it stared.

Could that illustration be relevant here today?
I’d really like to hear from others ‘out there’ who are dealing with similar issues …

what is the spark of church community?

so tonight … we dream

"Follow Your Dreams"So tonight we had that meeting about doing something with the young people who live on the Peninsula.

A couple of people had to pull out at the last minute for good reasons but three of us chatted about ideas and possibilities and the skills and interests we have. The people that could not make it have outlined what they feel they could offer.

I don’t want to get too excited too quickly … we have no money, no knowledge of what the young people here want, no location to be based in, no equipment, no real authority to do anything …. and yet we have a group of people who desire to do something positive for young people that live here, and yet we have people willing to give their time and their skills, and yet we have people who are not content to say ‘there are no facilities here’ and instead wish to have a positive impact.

That in itself is really quite exciting … more ‘watch this space time’ …

a twinkle of hope …?

cloak sunsetThe last few days have been exciting … well exciting on my scale in a world of ‘pioneering’ where things move incredibly slowwwwwwwly as you look for ways to both engage with and support the community.

My style of pioneering has been described as ‘loitering with intent’. I guess that is a fairly accurate description of how I spend a lot of my time and I try to be visible in this community in which I have been called to serve.

I believe the church was birthed to bless communities. To be able to bless community we, the church, need to be able to find a way of discovering what the community are searching for and what the community perceive that they need. To start to understand that need the church needs to be hanging around in the community to be able to listen and watch but also to be recognised. When we are in the community it is then we hear of the communities dreams and hopes.

Sadly, in a  lot of my Christian ministry experience and throughout history I have seen, and read of,  church after church skipping over the listening bit. They have assumed, some arrogantly and some lovingly, that they already know what the community needs and provide it. These churches have then got confused and hurt when the community have not engaged with whatever the church felt it was providing.

I am desperate not to make this mistake … either through good intentions or through arrogance. 

And to be clear … I am not talking here about seeing people convert to Chritianity or to give the church ‘something’ … I am talking here solely of the church blessing the community … the church giving towards community development and not expecting anything in return. I believe in that engagement some people will become interested in the wider mission of the church … and I firmly believe people will ask questions when they need to.

But back to the peninsula …. two occurrences this week that may indicate we are at the start of something new … just maybe though as they may both come to nothing.

I was stopped earlier this week outside the 02 my a local man who had seen me in a variety of places. He asked if I and the church would be interested in supporting him as he tries to develop a community project on the peninsula. Of course I said I am happy to keep talking.

Secondly, on the GMV FaceBook page some people were talking about the fact that there was no youth club here and that provision was off the peninsula in other places. The message post was getting longer and I injected a simple question …. ‘why not start one?’ …. and, to cut a story shorter, I hope some people are going to come round next week to talk about what we might be able to do. Sometimes things need to be responded to pretty quickly … and I wonder whether there is a role here for HT to support the local community desire of having some type of youth club … we shall see!

18 months of loitering, waiting, searching and looking for ways to help  …. maybe …. just maybe … we are starting to see a couple of small ways forward.

Progress … ?

The last few days have been quite exciting on the Greenwich Peninsula.
I don’t think we have cracked it yet, but this week we had some amazingly positive signs.

Following on from the encouragement of the Mindful meditation ….

agapaiLast night we had the largest ever attendance at Agapai with new faces. We had a great conversation around Jesus washing feet and how we use power and authority (based on Archbishops Justin’s book). We also had time to share our stories and pray for each other … it was a very cool time.

 

I hope this continues.
I pray this continues.
But … regardless … we will carry on!

Holy Ground …

collectionToday I am pretty proud to be a resident of GMV.
The response to our collection was amazing … we have too many bags of clothes to fit in my car, which is a pretty awesome problem to have.
People responded to the social media adverts but at least 3 sets of people walked past us and returned home to get clothes to bring to us to be given to refugees. I will deliver these clothes to GRACE this week so that that can happen.

Today showed that the people who live here want to make a difference. I think it shows that people here are concerned about the plight of their fellow humans and particularly of those that have been forced to leave their homes.

A particularly touching moment was when a man walked past and wanted to make a donation because he had once been a refugee from Bosnia and remarked how welcomed he had been made to feel when he arrived. I guess I wondered if he would till receive that welcome today in what seems to be our broken in a attitude country?!

But … today was good, today inspired people and the few of us from HTGP that were ‘out there’ in the cold have been encouraged too.

Tonight I spoke on Transfiguration and took the tack of not allowing ourselves to box God in. I felt the message tonight was that we were supposed to help spread Holy Ground and get the message of love and care ‘out there’ where the people are. For a coupe of hours today I hope that we did that.

Clothes collection

refugee-collectionOn Sunday, from 4pm until 6pm we, the local church (HTGP) are hosting a pop up drop off point to collect clothes for refugees. For a while we have wanted to do something real that will make a difference and help people who have been forced to leave their home.

We are collecting with and for a local charity called  GRACE … and of you are in the area of the Greenwich Peninsula please do come and see us with your clothes gift in the Millennium Village Oval Square.

The two pictures below show what we are collecting …

grace-women

 

grace-men

 

we hope to meet you tomorrow …

community building

building-communitiesOne of the things we called to be involved in here as HTGP is that of ‘building community’.
In a listening survey I carried out in my first 9 months here I asked 3 simple questions:

What do you like about living here?
What frustrates you here?
What is lacking in this place?

To that last question the overwhelming majority answer (46% of people) said that the place lacked community feel. The next most frequent answer, at 14%, was facilities for teenagers. Nearly half of the people ho live around me feel there is no community or community spirt of feeling here. Whether that is right or not, it is a massive ‘popular’ opinion.

When I got here I quickly became part of the Residents Association and now, somehow I am secretary! This is actually  group the campaigns well and puts on good events. Tonight I hosted a planning meeting for a large summer even, loosely called ‘The Village Summer Fete’. I’m excited about this because we are responding to the 46% by trying to deliver something that will bring community together . The plan is not to just have a one off event, but to have a forum or some method on the day itself for people of common interest to connect and maybe do something that will further develop community.

How does community grow?
I’m not sure I can answer that yet.
I wonder of we need ‘nodes’ or catalysts to ‘form’ around.
I hope The Village Summer fete might be one of those nodes or catalysts that gets something going.
I’m just think aloud really … because the Peninsula is quite a unique place … we are trying to develop community on land where people have not lived previously … in other areas of new builds this is not always the case and people are displaced or there is a community around that people either link, or not, with.
On the peninsula we do not have that option … we build together from nothing
It’s another exciting thing to be involved in.

So … if you live on the Peninsula …. or even if you don’t cos we are a pretty welcoming bunch …. put the date of Saturday 15th July in your diary and watch this space.