…that clear sense that something is on the move – that there is energy and direction and enthusiasm…

I get the impression that there is substantial momentum building for us as a team. There is a great vibe, a sense of common purpose amongst us and we are all enjoying the friendships we have made in the local community.

It has been wonderful to meet people we can truly call friends rather than simply neighbours or ‘connections’.

This may be just my issue” but, when I reflect back to my time at LBC I had no real friendships outside the walls of the church. It was partly my choice to invest so much of my life inside the community, but also a function of how much a church demands of your time and your heart. I am not sure I could have disciplined myself to live differently and stayed in the system. I am fairly confident that part of this re-imagining has been learning a new way to live for myself – learning how to live in the world rather than separate from it.

Indulge me by letting me quote again from Hugh Mackay’s Winter Close on the dilemma of suburbia:

“Rich is fond of saying that the thing about Winter Close is that it fosters a real sense of community. That’s a big claim and I wish I could share Rich’s confidence in making it. Now that Sydney has grown to four million, communities are hard to come by: a common complaint among Sydneysiders is that ‘we don’t know our neighbours’ – as if that’s the neighbours fault. I’ve given up saying ‘why don’t you knock on their door and introduce yourself?’ The puzzled looks I receive make it clear I have missed the point: plenty of people like not knowing their neighbours and only pretend to complain about it. Suburbia offers the wonderful cloak of anonymity for those who want the security of proximity without any of the demands of intimacy” P.10

And on a similar theme

“The contract between neighbours is based on resistance to intimacy, so a quite different kind of closeness becomes possible: easy open, comfortable, but devoid of any ultimate responsibility or any glimpses into each other’s souls. These are adjacent lives – sometimes even parallel lives – rather than shared lives. We compensate for our physical proximity by keeping our emotional distance. These are not like relationships between friends, or even between people who work closely together – I know Maddy better than I know Rich, Abel, or Mrs Spenser, or Joe Riley. Perhaps the thing suburban life offers us is the possibility of living the life of a herd without the bonds of a tribe: proximity, familiarity, trust, support… but not intimacy. When we cross that line we cease to be neighbours and become something else” P.156

Quite interesting given that Dante’s definition of hell is proximity without intimacy… Is McKay suggesting that for many people the burbs can be hell? The last thing I want is another bunch of superficial, froth and bubble relationships. I am certainly up for more earthy, honest engagement with each other (realising of course that this takes time and trust to occur)

It is also refreshing and challenging to spend more time around people who do not see the world exactly as I do, and who at times disagree strongly with me. I don’t mind a bit of debate on the big questions of life! Actually its one of my favourite pastimes and the more I get the more alive I feel. I have always been a person who feels more alive in an Alpha group (or the equivalent) than I have in a church service. One of the fun ventures I initiated in my time at LBC was the Hills Philosophy Café, a monthly forum for armchair philosophers who were keen to debate life, religion and meaning in an agenda free environment. It was a blast!

Our clear hope in coming to Brighton is that people we meet will want to know more of the way of Jesus and will want to join us in some expression of community as we live the life of discipleship together. The challenge for me is that I can no more make this happen than I can make the sun get up in the morning. I can do my part by living what I understand to be the life of Jesus around here, but I can’t make anyone sign up for that life.

I believe this is where prayer becomes a huge priority and I would not rate it as a strong area for us as a team. I am puzzled as to where to go with it. There are various constraints that make regular prayer together very difficult and yet reality is that we will always make time for what we value.

I’d be interested to hear how others make prayer happen, that is more than tokenism and more that rigid obligation. I would love to have a group of people to meet with 2 or 3 times a week to pray for our community, but I’m not sure who they would be or how to implement it

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