From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures
For the meeting of Presbytery that was held on Saturday 15 August, a series of four video interviews with parts of our Presbytery were prepared to help members of Presbytery get ready for group discussions during the meeting. The response to the videos was very positive, so it seems worthwhile indeed to put them out to the wider Presbytery through the weekly notices. This week I’d like to share the fourth video in the series, along with how it got me thinking. It is a video interview with Darren Wright, Lay Pastor with Gungahlin Uniting Church.
You can view the video through this link – https://vimeo.com/446697971/ba50b74460 A huge thank you to Amy from our Presbytery Office for organising the interview and making it available to us. Thank you as well to Darren for being part of the interview.
The interview engages conversation around the challenges our congregations might be facing if the social restrictions for COVID are extended for another 12 months or more. One of the challenges Darren identifies is: How do we continue being God’s disciples in our community during these restrictions? He notes some of the change from a focus on connection with church community to a focus on connection with the neighbourhood. For his family there has been an increase in connections with people in the homes nearby to his. This includes looking after the neighbour’s children and helping a neighbour with getting to hospital. Darren’s question is about how we resource one another for being God’s disciples in our relationships with those who live next door.
These are important questions for me as well. Its questions like this one that are the impetus for Mike Frost in his book “Surprise the World – The Five Habits of Highly Missional People”. His book is about reshaping our identities around our fundamental calling as the sent ones of God. It is about helping you to sort through the myriad everyday ways you operate as God’s ambassador in your world. It is about beginning to identify yourself as a missionary – a sent one, into the relationships that are already a part of your life.
If you are interested in pursuing the kinds of questions that Darren raises here, I encourage you to check out Frost’s book. His habits of blessing (acts of kindness toward) people and eating with them can guide you in approaching your relationships with neighbours. The habits of learning Christ and listening to the Spirit will help form you as a disciple in those relationships.
With restrictions on gathering for worship in church buildings, Darren also mentions in the interview how his family have taken the opportunity to worship at home together with dancing, storytelling and craft. He recognises that we have not trained people to be able to arrange worship in their homes like this, or with house church groups, or while on a walk with a group of friends. Rather, our familiarity with mass gatherings for worship means that often we come to worship services to receive in a context where it seems worship is done for us.
As Darren thinks about different ways to worship, he is reminded of a phrase by John Roberto about the “cracks and crevices in life”. Roberto takes the view that generally people no longer have one or two hour blocks free in their lives. This makes it increasingly difficult to find time to be part of a mass gathering for worship. So, he asks a question about using the “cracks and crevices in life” for our worship and spiritual and faith formation.
Using the cracks and crevices will mean that there will need to be a lot of different ways for people to connect with worship, faith and spiritual formation. The likelihood is that the gatherings will be smaller, accommodating the people whose daily cracks and crevices line up. There will need to be experimenting to see what works.
I’m quite taken by this description of finding worship and faith and spiritual formation in the cracks and crevices of life. It connects in with what is written above about Frost’s “Surprise the World”. The Godsend App also provides great stories and ideas for worship and formation in the midst of everyday life in small groups. It can begin with a simple powerful question, or the offer to pray in response to something of significance that they’ve shared in conversation. The App also includes very simple Bible study methods. One of the methods is called Discovery Bible Study and is designed mostly to engage with people who are coming new to faith to help put understanding into practice. After together reading an account from Scripture, the suggested questions are:
These are the kinds of questions that two people can share with each other in a café, or a small group can pause to discuss on a bush walk. They fit into the cracks and crevices of life.
If you’d like to find out more about the Godsend App, you are very welcome to join in five weekly one-hour zoom sessions on Monday evenings in November. The sessions will include a half hour video interview with the producers of the App and then half hour discussion. Further details are be available in this issue of weekly Presbytery Notices.