In coming to Brighton we have always been very keen for the Christian community we are shaping to be open and inclusive.
By that, I mean everyone is welcome and everyone is accepted – wherever they are at.
Now follow me on this, because sometimes when our beliefs and values are tested we discover that we have some growing to do…
Currently we have 3 different community meetings on a 4 week cycle.
1. Focus – closed ‘missionary team’ meeting. Only those who are committed to being missionaries in Brighton and are on the journey with us are invited to that meeting.
2. Primary Communities – open ‘everyone welcome’ meeting. These are our primary church communities – the forums where we ‘do church’ together in a gathering sense.
3. Big Gigs – another open everybody welcome meeting. I am sensing these could be as a simple as a barbecue, a party, a backyard blitz.
Now here’s what I discovered last week.
We had our second ‘prim comm’ gathering and some new folks (a local Christian family) came along for the first time. I didn’t know they were coming, but another family in the group invited them along – understanding us to be an open community.
Fair enough? Absolutely…
But, what I discovered was that my first reaction was one of ‘hey I didn’t expect this’. I felt some discomfort at new people in the group. (They were great people!)
Now logically that doesn’t make sense if we are genuine about being an ‘open community’, but there was an obvious dissonance between what I said I valued and what I felt.
I took a few days to reflect on it and ask the questions of myself – why did I feel like I did and in a chat with Bruce royal scandal a divx online (no longer blogging – but on an exciting journey) some things became clearer.
What I started to realise is that while we are speaking about PC’s as our primary gathering experience (ala what we used to know as ‘church service’) I was unconsciously seeing the group as more of a ‘home group’ or a ‘small group’ in the more traditional language where there was some level of openness but only as the group allowed it.
In my previous experience all of the home groups I have been part of have been relatively closed groups. We have spoken of the need for trust to develop, of the change that occurs every time a new face appears, shared journey etc. (You probably know the drill!)
But here we are now with PC’s – not home groups – not closed groups, but my brain and emotions are still wired for these beasts. I didn’t think that was the case, but the dissonance between my words and my feelings showed that last week.
This is a new part of the journey again – new learning – how not to be a ‘home group’ but to be a ‘primary community’ where all people are welcome. While it is a new experience, I’m looking forward to learning how to function and grow in this environment.
It occurred to me the other day that in the home group setting we often see the group as the place where we can share our deepest stuff – or we try to make it that. And sometimes I have seen that happen and sometimes even had stuff to say (most often I don’t!).
But it does create some serious tension also. I have been part of groups where some have been concerned that the sharing isn’t deep enough – and asked people to open up more. Or maybe people have been kept out of the group because it will ‘upset the level of trust’. I have always felt uneasy with pushing people into ‘intimate trust relationships’. It occurs to me that maybe our PC’s can be these places, but don’t need to be.
Maybe the best place to do the ‘stuff dump’ is one to one with a trusted friend or two – either in the prim community or not. Of course we do need safe places.
But – If we allow it to develop naturally then maybe we will see lives opened and shared – if we try to give it a shove then maybe it will always feel contrived rather than normal.
I’m sitting well with this now and have enjoyed the learning experience as we have been coming to grips with the fact that we are creating something new. I sense I will need to ‘practise this’ more regularly to become more comfortable with it.
It doesn’t mean close relationships aren’t valuable – but it does say if we are going to value openness in our communities then we need to put our money where our mouth is!
Anyone else had similar experiences on the journey?…